Seek Not to Be Entertained

I was enjoying a walk downtown with my son recently, when I noticed something wasn’t quite right. A man was emerging from the background of other pedestrians, trying to make eye contact. We kept walking.

“Excuse Me! Gentlemen! How much are you paying for your Cable TV right now?”

I could now see that he was carrying handful of glossy flyers for one of the monthly television subscription outfits – Dish network or Comcast or whatever. The same stuff that floods my front mailbox  in far greater quantity than my ability to use it as kindling to start the woodstove on winter evenings.

“Nothing”, we both said almost in unison, “We don’t have TV.”

“No TV? What about Netflix? Hulu? TiVo? Google or Amazon? We can beat ’em – first month is FREE!”

“Nope – none of it. Sorry, we gotta go but good luck with your work today!”

The solicitor was left slightly speechless. To be fair, my last line was a slight lie just for the sake of getting out of the sales pitch. We do rent movies from Google Play occasionally, but this mildly stressful street scene made me realize two things:

  1. Fuck, when are these slimy cable TV companies going to let up on their relentless burying of our world in their misleading “first month free” marketing campaigns? The level of promotion is always inversely proportional to the underlying usefulness of the product.
  2. Man, am I really that much of a weirdo, not subscribing to any of these things that everyone else seems to use? Am I depriving my son of  a normal upbringing?

But this bit of introspection goes along very well with a few other things I’ve noticed over the course of this summer. I think of them as a contrast between Mr. Money Mustache and “normal” people, and I have been pondering them for a while, deciding if I should consider becoming more normal myself.

Should You Strive to be Normal?

Normal people seem to be on a constant quest for action and activity. They’ll plan three lunches with friends for next week, and a weekend of drinking and motorboat riding. Every night they’ll watch TV, and on special occasions they will go out for movies, concerts or dash off to the next state to catch a football game or an eclipse. A really successful normal person is almost never at home.

I can definitely relate to the desire for activity. I’m incapable of spending more than an hour on the couch or sitting at the beach. During vacations, I have to find physical work projects to keep myself happily occupied. I’ve discovered that even one day of zero productivity is bad for me: if I stop doing things, I stop wanting to do things, and pretty soon I’m just lazing around on the couch or taking 11 am naps. For me, inactivity leads to a depressive boredom.

Perhaps this is why normal people strive to keep themselves so busy. If you had a choice between “depressed naps on the couch all day” and “busy day including shopping, a lunch date, front-row Denver Broncos seats and then catching the late show at the movie theater”, you might choose the second option.

And even if you don’t have the time or the cash for a big expensive day like that, you might choose “A few hours of highly engaging strategy video games” or “Game of Thrones binge with my boyfriend” over the depressing alternative of Nothing.

Mr. Money Mustache’s Shocking Abnormality

As part of a great shared day of leisure, a friend and I recently dug out and cleared the sewer line at MMM-HQ. To relax afterwards, we upgraded the front door with a fancy wi-fi enabled door lock.

Only after carefully studying normal people have I realized my own abnormality. I haven’t had TV service since 1999, and I only catch the most highly-recommended movies from friends about once a month. I love books, but only get through about one of those per month as well – there always seems to be something more pressing than sitting down on the couch to read.

I never understood the joy of watching other people play sports, can’t stand tourist attractions, don’t sit on the beach unless there’s a really big sand castle that needs to be made, don’t care about what the celebrities and politicians are doing, and while I definitely get into live music, it still only happens about once every few months in practice.

Even wholesome outdoor recreation can be hard for me: I enjoy a good hike, but I’d rather hike around as part of volunteering to build a new trail or put up a yurt on a friend’s mountain property. I tried a day of wakeboarding with friends just recently and while it was a thrill to get up on that wave and swim around in the lake, my brain was calling me back to more productive (and less beer-soaked) pursuits the next day.

Instead of all this, I seem to get satisfaction only from making stuff. Or maybe a better description would be solving problems and making improvements.

If I’m visiting your house, we’ll have a boring day if we play board games, but a great one if we rake the leaves and dig some trenches for an irrigation system. Even emptying out your closets so we can organize your stuff and maybe build in a few new shelves would rank higher than passive pursuits.

If you leave me alone for a day (unfortunately quite rare in my current family life), I’ll have a joyful time rotating between carpentry, weight training, writing, playing around with instruments in the music studio, making lists and executing tasks from them.

Ok – Fine for You, Weirdo, but what does this have to do with Me?

It’s already well-known that Mr. Money Mustache has unusual habits. They wouldn’t work for everyone. But you’ll note a few things that most of them have in common:

  • they don’t cost much to do (and some of them even generate money)
  • most of them tend to increase your physical health
  • they’re also good for your mental health and sense of life satisfaction

So, if you already have plenty of money, you should go right on ahead and continue with the more expensive entertainment options. But if you have any use for more money, it could pay very well to at least consider some of the free or profitable things.

If your health and body are already exactly where you want them, it makes sense that you might continue your convenience-based habits like driving around in a car and hiring people to do the dirty work around your house.

Walking that 30 minutes a day on your lunch break is giving you exactly the physical results you want, right?

Or maybe not.

And if that’s the case, it would seem logical to re-evaluate that leisure time.

And perhaps you already get plenty of mental work done: your to-do list is always completely checked off, tax return is always early, and you understand all your financial accounts perfectly and where the money is going. Easy! And if so, it makes sense that you’d take a break and  relax with the TV news, or perhaps the Game of Thrones or the Xbox.

If not, it would only seem logical to shut off this stream of interruptions and open up space for something else.

But Mr. Money Mustache, I Enjoy These Things! Don’t take them away from me!

This is probably the root of the problem, and the difference between an average life and a life of deep, radiant satisfaction.

It doesn’t matter what you enjoy. It matters what’s good for you.

I enjoy pumpkin cheesecake and key lime pie, but I only eat them a few times a year. I also like salads, but let’s be honest, they are not on the same level as Pumpkin Cheesecake. My heart is beating faster just thinking about it right now. But I eat big salads twice a day.

Yet the salads deliver much, much more happiness, because they allow me to continue to run around and explore the world, climbing trees and jumping off rooftops, while the cheesecake would have me in stretch pants and an extra-wide golf cart seat.

It seems obvious when you put it in terms of food. But the same tradeoff applies with all sources of recreation and entertainment. You don’t have to be as compulsive as me, but you do have to make some changes to your habits, if you expect your life to change.

Now with all this puritan advice properly laid down, we can all relax and realize that there are no absolutes – life is a balance. There is plenty of room in life for both productive and unproductive activities. The problem is that most people have the balance tilted too far towards the latter.

So if your life needs a boost, try giving up something you “enjoy”, and replacing it with something that improves your life.

  • Shawna September 20, 2017, 10:47 am

    Mr. Money Moustache,

    While I enjoyed your blog post today, I have to wonder (as I do now as a new-ish parent). What about your family and kid? What are you doing each day to contribute to #TeamMoneyMoustacheFamily ? While you prefer not partaking in things what about educating your kid in how to behave in restaurants or at Bronco games or attending the theatre? What about if one of your family members wants to watch a show with you or lie on the beach? How do you handle these demands from your family, extended family, etc.?
    As well does this mean you’ve eliminated all you “lay about” family/friends from your life? How did you find non-lay about friends?
    I’m not trying to be critical, I just want to understand how you made this switch and how you maintain this switch within the structure of a family. Thanks!!

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 20, 2017, 1:06 pm

      Good question Shawna.. The quick answer is that when it comes to Dad work, my own preferences generally come last. I’ll gladly do board games, video games, movie theaters or anything else as part of his upbringing and helping him gain experiences.

      For friends and extended family, I try to stick more to what I actually like doing. Since they’re all adults, it’s not my job to raise or accommodate them in the same way it is for my boy. Everyone should find the people that they work with best.

      • Stockbeard September 20, 2017, 10:32 pm

        Thanks for the reply. I struggled while reading the article for the exact same reasons as Shawna. Everything you described as your fun activities sounded awesome to me. With a software engineering background like you, I think improving stuff is almost part of my genes. I had an awesome Saturday last week making bath bombs with the kids.

        Sadly I’m worried that my wife and kids always think I do those because they’re cheaper, and that tends to drag on them (and me). The reality is that I’ve consistently found pricier forms of entertainment to be much less fun for me. Good examples would be a day at Disneyland or an afternoon at the mall (yes, my wife thinks this is an acceptable afternoon activity)

        • Cindy in the South September 21, 2017, 7:50 am

          I went to Disney World on my honeymoon. Both my husband at the time, and I HATED it. This was back in 1986. Long lines, crowded, manmade crap, etc. We both loved Cypress Gardens with the beautiful landscape.

        • Emmy September 21, 2017, 10:02 am

          As a kid I went to Disneyland, as a teen and then again in my 20s I went to Disney World (the 2nd time was a trip we’d ‘won’). I’d rather dig a sewage trench than do either again. In the early 90s Epcot was sort of interesting, but things there have probably changed.

          • lurker September 25, 2017, 3:24 pm

            Disney sux!!!!!!!! ugh

    • NewportCat September 21, 2017, 7:56 am

      I have slightly different struggle on which I would welcome some of the shared MMM community brilliance. Been following the blog for awhile with serious life benefits gained… but I just welcomed our 3rd child this week and am trying to find a new rhythm. I’m taking full FMLA as a FIRE trial run, though I am a couple years away from making this permanent. Anyway, I’m trying to help the wife who is the one really suffering from torture-level sleep deprivation, but there is only so much I can actually do with the baby, so I often embark on a project of some kind, which leads to a “you’re not helping conversation.” Life with 3 young ones is wonderful and rewarding in so many ways, but taxing in many others. It’s tough to sit around watching a baby sleep, but laundry, dishes, school bike runs, and diaper changes only occupy so much time. Who has some coaching on striking that balance of being a supportive husband but not stressfully watching the hours tick by with nothing productibve to show for them?? Got to be some tricks and life hacks out there!

      • Julie September 21, 2017, 12:43 pm

        Hey there, as a mom in this same situation currently I can offer some advice. My husband tries so hard, but nursing is limiting. #1 you work with the baby on taking a bottle as soon as that is possible (we are working on this and failing right now, haha). That will give Mom some rest and she will be happier about you working on something else #2 older kids are all you right now – take them with you on projects #3 take the baby with you on projects while she sleeps. Mom would have to do that, right? #4 chill out on the projects until the sleep deprivation phase is over. We are getting past it here at around 8 weeks. Hopefully you are through it soon!!

      • Anne September 21, 2017, 2:00 pm

        Send that mama out of the house by herself to do something for herself ASAP. It’s critical that she can leave you in charge of the baby for a few hours.

        I have a suspicion that your “productive” projects leave you unavailable at the witching hours. Have you created a list of productive projects and then discussed them together? It might be helpful if the wife chooses their priority and also lets you know when to put the tools away.

      • Jimbo September 21, 2017, 6:23 pm

        What worked for us was me being in charge of getting the baby up and putting him or her back to sleep. All mama had to do was nurse. That helped me bond with the kids and vice versa.

      • Eliza September 21, 2017, 9:28 pm

        Hey, I found the slow down with a new baby really hard. Spending hours sitting around during sleeps and feeds while getting nothing done was mentally difficult and I thought it would never end. In retrospect, that phase passed pretty quickly and both my husband and I got into a good rhythm. We’re expecting our second in a couple of months and my plan is to just enjoy the time with the new baby and toddler and let go of the need to do something useful for a while. Hope that helps.

        • lurker September 27, 2017, 5:39 pm

          hanging out with your little kids is massively “useful” IMHO

      • StephanieF September 22, 2017, 8:02 am

        I am you. Also, I am a mother. Young kids are hell. Cute, cuddly, mental and physical torture. Real advice, redefine “productive.” If you aren’t currently being attended by other family members, that “productive work” should look incredibly like June Cleaver. I washed, folded, and put away all the laundry (again! Because reflux!). I shopped, chopped, and cooked a healthy stir-fry that my big kids didn’t eat much of (yay! I’m developing resilience to novel food tastes and textures!). I kept the baby from dying while the milk maker got some time to recycle resources from incubating a baby (sleep!).

        If your baby is <3 months old, pregnancy is a serious injury that needs to be healed. Historically, the only women that didn't get this recovery time were either slaves or village outcasts. So unless you've got a bunch of aunties and grandmas around, your the village Dad. You've got to make sure the historically female gendered work around the house is done, because your wife can't. (Sanely).

        And that sucks because it's hard (even for me) to take female work seriously. But it isn't just "chores" –like really for everyone's sense of self respect there needs to be a supply of clothes free of old milk smell for everyone to wear. And yes, it drives me crazy to not have time to "do": write or build or paint, because I was busy "watching the baby babble" or "cleaning up." I read this article about meaningful work and how Hospital Janitors feeling just as much meaning and satisfaction in their job as Doctors because of the way the Janitors or Doctors described their job. When they saw their job as having a concrete impact on other people's happines, they were happy, when they saw their job as a series of tasks that needed to be done and they had become proficient at it, they felt mediocre satisfcation. So reframe those "June Cleaver" tasks into "Badass Fertility God" tasks, because it really does help. And by Fertility God I mean Demeter-like. Although if Pinterest is to believed a man who has his crap together in getting dishes and laundry done could also be pretending to be Eros.

        • Alice October 2, 2017, 7:36 am

          Thank you for saying all this, better than I could. My husband took 3 weeks of paternity leave and spent the entire time working on his truck and complaining about having to “do chores” like put glasses into the dishwasher. There was a complication with the baby’s birth that meant that I wasn’t supposed to walk around much at all for an extended period of time afterwards. On top of that, our baby didn’t really tolerate being put down– she was happy and calm if she was in someone’s arms, but not otherwise. I spent those three weeks sitting and sleeping on the couch and feeling so frustrated and unhappy because I was hungry or thirsty or wanted to go to the bathroom, and it was so complicated to do anything without help. I didn’t know how to tell him that I needed him to just be present in the room, to ask if there was anything I needed, to offer to take the baby out of my arms so that I could take a shower or just lie down by myself for 20 minutes. Or– not to even DO anything, but to be hanging out and being sociable. After he returned to work, my sister came to visit for a week, and the experience with her vs. with him was night and day.

          Sometimes the drive to do your own projects, even productive ones, is an incredibly selfish and insensitive thing to do. Sometimes your “project” needs to be “being available in case I’m needed,” or “being present and affectionate and in a decent mood about it.” Just because you are somewhere in the building doing your own thing does not mean that you are being there for the people in your life when they need you.

          (For what it’s worth, things have gotten a lot better with my husband, but– his devotion to that project was the darkness in the newborn period. I was fine with the lack of sleep and actually really happy with the baby and with most of life, but him and the project thing: argh.)

      • mindy October 4, 2017, 12:19 pm

        Congratulations! Some quick suggestions about productive things to do while your wife cares for the baby:
        1) Prepare healthy food / snacks for you wife and other children.
        2) When she is sitting or laying with the baby, ask if she would like you to bring anything: food, water, book, pillow.
        3) Optimize the design of your baby- and kid-raising processes. Are the diapers in the best possible location(s)? Is your bottle-washing / storage setup as efficient as it could be? Would a new app help streamline grocery shopping and meal prep?
        4) Go for regular walks / bike rides with your family
        5) Teach one of your older children a new skill – maybe one that will be helpful around the house
        6) Source baby stuff – any equipment or clothing that needs to be replaced and can be purchased second-hand for the coming months?
        7) Be the A/V club – third babies don’t get photographed enough

      • Georgia October 9, 2017, 7:28 am

        Here’s a great article about this very same problem. It’s called the Mental Load, and it is really illuminating…
        Happy reading, and best of luck to you, sir!

  • EMML September 20, 2017, 10:48 am

    Nice. Getting off my ass as we speak. ;-p

  • Mr Crazy Kicks September 20, 2017, 10:49 am

    Yeah, I can’t get into watching other people play sports. Especially when it means hanging out inside watching TV on a beautiful Sunday.

    For me an awesome day consists of splitting firewood, working in the garden, taking care of our chickens, or tearing up some trails on the bike. I just designed and built my own greenhouse, and am about go out to plant a few more rows of winter crops in it. I was tempted to do a earthship, but a hoophouse was much more practical.

    Do you grow any of your own food? I’m surprised I haven’t seen any of that, figure it would be right up your alley :)

    • Cubert September 20, 2017, 11:03 am

      Of course he doesn’t, dude. What fun would it be to not have to fetch groceries with your bike and trailer???

      • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance September 20, 2017, 12:35 pm

        I love the idea of growing our own food! In fact, I’ve tried growing sweet potatoes and avocados a couple of times but keep failing for some reason.

        My MIL has been growing green onions in our tiny backyard, and we’ve been enjoying the outcome a great deal. Green onions are super cheap at Asian grocery stores. But it feels different when we eat what we grow at home.

        My husband and I have even talked about buying a house with a huge backyard so that our parents can garden in the future. As for me, I’m not ready to grow ALL of our own food at this point. But maybe I’ll change my mind in the future when I have more free time. :D

        • Only Dude in the Family September 20, 2017, 2:35 pm

          So first to comment on the gardening…for the past three years I’ve been moderately successfully growing a few things (cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini) but each year I learn a ton about how NOT to garden, and as a result spending quite a bit in prep for the next season. Example…this is the first year that the local deer have decided they are desperate enough to eat my tomato plants. So this is the first year I had to invest in fencing. Some day I hope to mustachify and spend less money on supplies than I save in purchased veggies.

          Now, as for dropping cable, I’m proud to say that my family has officially survived its first week of cutting the cord (both TV and phone). I didn’t want to go cold turkey and put a tarp over the TV, but I purchased a $60 roof antenna and 75 feet of coax cable, and now I get all the network stations free and in glorious HD. As an added benefit it takes far less time to scroll through the Tivo’s guide to see there’s nothing on TV anyways. The phone part was the real struggle…my wife is a freelance writer and does a lot of phone interviews. She was worried about the sound quality using her iPhone 5S. A few days in using the Apple earbuds, and she’s accepted her fate. And just like that, I’m saving $1075 per year.

          • batljunk September 21, 2017, 5:31 am

            Hey Only Dude–right there with you. I’ve been working to ween myself off of TV and cable in particular for the past 3 years, but we discovered as you have, that cutting the cable was easy and saved $130/mo. The transition was easier with our antenna for free broadcast TV. As Apple users, we have found that Apple TV is a good solution for us so that when we need to watch something, we just buy it. Total cost over the year so far is about $100 in purchases versus $1170 in cable bills. And…I rediscovered how much I like to read.
            MMM-enjoyed the post and yes, the cable companies are beginning to get desperate, and comcast, don’t even get me started!

            • QQQBall October 25, 2017, 11:07 am

              I went w/o TV for 20 years from 1995-ish. I bought a deal at Costco a little over 2 years ago. Pulling the plug today. That $1,080 in my pocket. When I canceled it last time, I read something that said “1 hour a day for a year and you can become an expert at anything.” I took that to heart and pulled the plug.

          • insourcelife September 21, 2017, 8:00 am

            A cell phone never sounds as good as a regular phone. We use OBi200 by Obihai and it works extremely well. The call quality is much much better than a cell phone and using it with Google Voice gives us free calling and a bunch of other awesome features, like call forwarding to multiple phones. If you have internet and a regular telephone (corded or cordless) this might be the answer. Unlike other similar devices there are no monthly fees. We’ve been using it for years and it’s been as reliable as a landline and great for work conference calls.

            • Garrett September 22, 2017, 9:06 am

              Insourcelife: I disagree. I often find home phones to sound really crappy compared to high quality cellphones.

            • insourcelife September 24, 2017, 2:57 pm

              Garrett, to clarify I was talking about a regular phone that works over the internet. I’m using an old school Vtech cordless phone with Obihai VOIP and it sounds better than anything I’ve ever used including cell and landline. It works great for conference calls which is important for my line of work.

      • Mr Crazy Kicks September 20, 2017, 12:41 pm

        Bike and trailer would be perfect for collecting neighbors yard waste to recycle into compost.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher September 20, 2017, 10:51 am

    Yeah, I think it’s all about finding what you’re willing to compromise on. I’ve never paid for cable, although I do indulge in a cheapo Hulu subscription. And you know what? I’m guilty of lazing in front of the TV many nights. I think we need to vary productive vs. non-productive entertainment avenues to be fulfilled. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with being lazy every now and then, but it should only be a short punctuation in our otherwise busy and content lives.

    To save money, we stopped buying movies altogether and just borrow them from friends or rent from the library. The same goes for books, too. There’s so much more satisfaction in doing physical things–and they usually don’t cost much anyway.

    • Mr. Freaky Frugal September 20, 2017, 2:30 pm

      Mrs. Freaky Frugal and I are way worse on cable.

      We actually subscribe to Cable TV and not the cheapest package either. Gasp! I’ve tried to convince Mrs. FF to switch to Hulu/Netflix, but it just hasn’t worked. She likes to watch TV while she’s doing other stuff. And truth-be-told I like watch stupid DIY and HGTV Tiny Home and Flip or Flop episodes.

      We’re FIREd so we can afford it and Mrs. FF (she runs in the Boston Marathon) and I both get a decent amount of exercise, but it’s still embarrassing especially since I call myself Freaky Frugal.

      • Lily He-Prudhomme September 20, 2017, 5:04 pm

        You two are already FIRE’D! Do whatever that brings you joy! My big beef with the cable company is their cost too – I just don’t see how it should cost so much. My hubby’s in laws package costs $300! I was blown away. A ton of it goes to marketing and paying the person willing to peddle you a subscription.

        • Beetsandlilacs September 20, 2017, 6:18 pm

          $300 a month to watch TV is crazy! Sometimes when I stay at a hotel I get all excited about getting to watch TV and then I usually quickly realize that there are few things worth watching.
          We do have an antenna that we use to watch free TV occasionally. My husband made it himself after watching a YouTube video. We always joke about hooking up a TV that can only be powered by someone riding a stationary bike.

    • the Budget Epicurean September 20, 2017, 6:27 pm

      Couldn’t agree more! It’s all about balance. Haven’t had cable ever in my life, all through college and adulthood just used Netflix/ Amazon / YouTube. I’m more of a book reader, but free ones from the library, never ever purchased off the bestseller list.
      Physically doing or making something just feels so good! You have this sense of accomplishment; like yeah, I cleaned those gutters, and now I don’t have to worry about hurricane rains! I made those granola bars and now I get to enjoy them all week.
      I’m a big fan of in-sourcing and manual labor. Just spent the past hour trimming our 2 dogs hair and nails, anti-ticking, brushing hair and teeth. All for basically free, plus bonding time bc they love it!

  • MyFiIntheSky September 20, 2017, 10:52 am

    I don’t think you’re a weirdo at all. I’m exactly the same. The best couple of weekends for me in recent memory were spent completely tearing apart the engine on my wife’s 10-year-old Toyota Tacoma to replace a broken knock sensor. And those weekends beat out lots of other fun activities for me (including a free weekend in Palm Springs). I spent probably 30 hours on the truck project all together, because I don’t know what I’m doing, and the car forums didn’t have the right information, but it was awesome.

    The only thing I’d disagree with you on is reading. To me, reading can be just as invigorating as physical work–it’s still stretching my mind and teaching me new skills or points of view. That being said, there’s nothing like some good old fashioned physical labor!

    • Mark September 27, 2017, 10:06 am

      I agree about reading being invigorating, but only if it’s the right kind of reading. Classic literature is light years better than most of the stuff on the NYTimes best seller list.

  • Aaron September 20, 2017, 10:54 am

    I think our entertainment culture goes together with our work-life too. Many of us are brought up to do the work that someone puts in front us, leave when the bell rings and “do as we’re told”. We like that our entertainment choices are all laid out for us too – with really minimal effort in what / how to exercise our play-time.

  • Steve September 20, 2017, 10:55 am

    Being normal is boring. That’s not to saying that being abnormal is inherently “better” – but, I’d say it’s a good start!

    • Lily He-Prudhomme September 20, 2017, 12:38 pm

      I try to avoid using the word normal vs abnormal myself. It comes off a bit…uppity like *ooh I’m a cheap snowflake for hoarding money* when I say it.

      Because who am I to judge? But I like to say “alternative.” We’re alternative creatures. ;)

    • Dividend Growth Investor September 20, 2017, 3:32 pm

      I think that many things considered “normal” are not really normal. Eg. sitting on a chair for 60 hours/week, in front of a computer. The human body was not designed for that…

  • Chris Durheim September 20, 2017, 10:55 am

    We’ve never had cable in our household and even did away with our antenna a couple years ago. We used to watch a lot more back when we had an antenna – too easy to just turn it on to see if anything good was on. Eventually we realized that most TV is garbage and now we’re much more deliberate about what we watch.

    I’m not averse to a bit of chill time in front of the TV so long as it’s not our go-to for downtime. We do have a few free network shows that we stream on our laptop from the network websites and we get DVDs from the library but everything we watch is an intentional choice.

    When we do get in a situation where cable or regular TV are available, I’m amazed at how many commercials there are and how terrible and repetitive most of the content is. Happy to have cut back but we’re not completely TV celibate yet :)

    • Amonymous January 29, 2018, 11:52 pm

      Yes! The keyword is “deliberate”! :)

  • Mr. Tako September 20, 2017, 10:56 am

    Well said! I’ve always thought that proper hobbies should make money, not cost you money.

    Watching TV is a great hobby if you want to be poor, be fat, and die early.

  • Tim September 20, 2017, 10:56 am

    Goddam you are an asymptote of efficiency. Just when I think we can relax and let the automated savings do their work, you throw this in our face and say, “No rest for the weary.”

  • Dividend Growth Investor September 20, 2017, 10:57 am

    Living live true to yourself is really what freedom is all about.

    TV, TV shows only serve to trick your brain into passive consumerism, which is good for sales and shareholder profits. This is what inspires the keeping up with the Joneses mentality where consumers work to death, in order to accumulate useless… stuff.

    Usual cable TV is not so good. However, there are worthwhile educational programs on Public Television that are interesting for the frugal mind.

  • Cubert September 20, 2017, 11:00 am

    I used to waste a ton of time. In my teens and twenties, spent too much time on video games and movies, sports watching, etc. Nowadays, I can’t seem to sit still. Like you, MMM, I’ve gotta be busy doing something productive. Drives my wife nuts. On weekends she’s telling me, “relax, babe!” … But I’ve got clothes to fold, lawn work to do, and maybe a bike repair project on my list.
    Where I slack a bit is with teevee. We spend about 45 minutes a night decompressing with Netflix after the kids are in bed. Ideally we’d be reading, but something about enjoying shared content together makes for a more bonding experience. Maybe?

    • AJ Gretz September 20, 2017, 6:36 pm

      I’m with you on this. It’s good for our marriage to hang out and watch an hour or TV a couple nights a week. With three kids under 5, watching a whole movie together in one sitting feels like a decadent extravagance.

      • Mrs. Adventure Rich September 20, 2017, 7:50 pm

        We are similar, but I think we tend to still use Netflix as a crutch at time (an excuse to be lazy when we could be doing something productive). I like the challenge from MMM to replace things we enjoy with something that improves our life every so often. I think that could be helpful for us on evenings when we watch a show by default when we could do something better.

        • Cubert October 1, 2017, 4:45 am

          We were (gasp) out to dinner last night with friends and one of them shared that she thinks Netflix is terrible for offering too many choices, i.e., too many distractions from READING. I have to give her credit. She shut down her Facebook account last month because she realized how distractions like that, and like Netflix, are keeping her from the more productive activity of picking up a book.

  • The Wealthy Accountant September 20, 2017, 11:07 am

    As for your questions: Cable companies will never stop trying to sell their wares to the misinformed. That is why so many people are broke; you know, without money. (I lie (fib) a bit when they put a full-court press on me too, so don’t feel bad about it.)

    2.) you might be a weirdo, Pete, but it wasn’t TV that made you that way. (I’m smiling when I write.) Also, NO! you are not depriving your son of anything. If you gave him cable you would be depriving him!

    3.) I watched the eclipse because I’m a geek. (Do you want to apologize now? Didn’t think so.)

    4.) I disagree wealthy people should “go ahead” with expensive entertainment options. What got you to FI is what you should stick with. “Expensive entertainment” is mind rot at best and should be avoided.

    5.) You had me until you brought up cheesecake. We now need to rethink our relationship.

    Joking aside, a great post, Pete. Also, congratulations on the awesome and successful business school.

    • Bill September 20, 2017, 12:16 pm

      If only DirectTV would quit their relentless campaign to get me on board. They are now owned by AT&T, my phone provider, so they solicit me endlessly. At least twice a week by mail, with some kind of new disguise to it each time, always saying AT&T customer on the envelope.

      • Fluffy Porkupine September 21, 2017, 11:20 am

        Just use the paper as fill for stuffing.

        It took me less than a year to accumulate enough junk mail (we’re not going to go into how my apartment complex didn’t have recycling) to fill a couch sleeve or two since I wanted more seating.

    • Bill September 20, 2017, 12:25 pm

      Also, how does a geek like MMM miss the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a total eclipse in his home country/practically in his back yard? Note: it’s a great learning opportunity and nothing like a partial eclipse.

      • Mr. Money Mustache September 20, 2017, 5:15 pm

        I DID watch it in my own back yard – took a good 20 minute break from work and looked up through some appropriate-level welding eyewear with some good friends. It was amazing as the 95 degree searing sun dropped to a comfortable eerily-dark light level right at mid-day.

        But I chose not to make a 200 mile roundtrip through FEMA-disaster-level interstate traffic to get that last 4% of totalness in the eclipse.

        I acknowledge the coolness of the sun being blocked, but it wasn’t worth sacrificing two days of everything else I love in life, to stand there in the slightly darker shadow for a few minutes.

        • Reepekg September 20, 2017, 5:46 pm

          You’re wrong. I too thought 96% is just as good, but my wife made arrangements to see totality at her friend’s house in a nearby city. I tagged along like meh.

          It is the difference between pretty much a sunny day and oh man this is one of those nearly spiritual, bask in the infinite glory of the universe kind of experiences.

          • Johan September 20, 2017, 9:27 pm

            Astronomy is one of my hobbies and I will agree with Reepekg that the difference between a partial vs. total solar eclipse is humongous. I see nothing wrong with people making a trip since a total eclipse only occurs probably once in your lifetime. Heck I took vacation time and made a road trip out of it with a group of friends. It’s the perfect combination of being in nature and embracing science which is quite mustachian :-)

            • Mr. Money Mustache September 21, 2017, 8:00 am

              Right, but you guys have a different view on crowds and traffic and time lost to travel than me. To understand my perspective, ask yourself, “Would you sacrifice everyone you know to a violent slaughter, in order to see that last 4% of the eclipse?” – that’s roughly my feeling on subjecting myself to unnecessary driving :-)

              More seriously though, I did absorb the experience through some incredible 4k videos on YouTube. I agree that it was special. And there’s now great virtual reality footage out there that we can all enjoy for free, for years to come.

              But you know what’s objectively even MORE special? When the Earth SPINS, with YOU ON IT, so that your side is facing away from the sun. The sky becomes SO BLACK that you can see out into the cosmos – billions of stars that are light years away. Planets too.

              This happens every night, and brings an even bigger cooling effect than an eclipse. We are just accustomed to it so we don’t realize how big a deal it is. But if you master the art of the Nighttime Walk (and you live in a place without too much light pollution), you can bask in this glory on a regular basis.

            • The Wealthy Accountant September 21, 2017, 9:54 am

              Nailed it.

            • Denverite September 21, 2017, 11:20 am

              Yeah, going to Wyoming was definitely a crapshow. However, we made plans to go to Nebraska instead, completely easy peasy from Denver, maybe a slight increase in volume. Home that same day, no problems. Yeah, you tube has nothing on the real experience. My family was “meh” before the experience and completely charged up and excited afterwards. Definitely an experience we will all remember!

            • Joseph September 21, 2017, 1:25 pm

              There is the normal person choice of driving 200 miles on an interstate the day of an eclipse and the mustachian choice of driving a few days earlier and camping out on some National Forest land for free with just your family.

              You do make a great point about just appreciating the night sky as well!

            • Michael Washer September 22, 2017, 2:33 pm

              Another great post. From the title, I expected it to go in a slightly different direction. As admirable as being productive as possible 24/7 is, this is a trait that is not for everyone. Downtime with family and friends is a critical component of most people’s lives. The direction I thought the post was going in was to rail against passive entertainment. Watching people play sports, be active, cook dinner is a pathetic substitute for actually doing those things. Ditto watching TV vs playing board games. Going to the local pond or stream with your kids and catching fish/frogs/crawdads is 100% non-productive, but I reckon it’s still a very worthwhile endeavor….especially if the alternative is mind-meltingly facile TV. Likewise playing sports, boardgames, making stuff from lego, learning/playing a musical instrument, reading good books. I guess my point is that I disagree that entertainment is bad. For me, it’s a question of whether that entertainment is active or passive.
              I also have to disagree on the eclipse. It’s something you have to experience to understand. A youtube clip only shows the visual aspect. You have to be there to capture the full multisensory experience of a totality. We were at Glendo state park in WY. The wind had been howling all morning, but dropped to nothing during the eclipse, the temperature dropped 20 degrees, the dogs with us all lay down like it was night, the 360 degree sunset. There were a number of weird sensory distortions, like it getting dark without shadows lengthening. A unique and amazing experience. We just avoided the traffic by not jumping in the car as soon as the totality was over. Agree on the stargazing…enhanced 100 fold by buying a telescope for $50 from craigslist.

          • Frugal Hiker September 21, 2017, 7:18 am

            I agree, a partial eclipse is nothing compared to a total eclipse. It was amazing to see the light fade to a weird dimness as totality approached, the temperature dropped, and then like someone flipped it switch the sun was gone. Seeing the corona, a solar flare naked eye, and a 360 degree sunset was the most amazing thing i’ve seen in my entire life.

            I spent years planning to see totality no matter what, we ended up driving from Maryland to Oregon for the eclipse because of the forecast, and I would do it again without a second thought. We’re frugal and try to limit driving, but this was special. To avoid traffic after the eclipse, we took back roads and drove through the middle of nowhere Wyoming, discovering some amazing stops along the way, and never sat in a backup.

            Every single person I know that saw totality is already planning to see the 2024 eclipse, it is an incredible experience like nothing else.

        • The Wealthy Accountant September 21, 2017, 7:35 am

          You are right, MMM. The traffic was horrendous getting out of there on the interstates. We took side roads where traffic was normal and traveled the speed limit. It was an awesome sight, totality. There is a difference. You are right about one thing: life is a choice. It took time out of my life to see totality. I was willing to pay that price and you chose a different course. That is what FI is all about. Making choices that empower us personally.

        • MH September 21, 2017, 10:56 am

          Honestly, I found most of the eclipse boring. It was interesting to watch the light change – almost like I was wearing sunglasses when I wasn’t – but that was it.

          Totality was an entirely different story. The sky was like night, there was 360-degree sunset all around, I could see the eclipsed sun in relation to Venus — getting a sense of where I am with the universe, of us planets rotating around. We had incredibly light cirrus clouds in front of the eclipse that weren’t all that noticeable — but the ice crystals caused a “fire rainbow” effect at the corona, where the ring had an assortment of rainbow colors.

          Those 2.5 minutes were a lot different from staring at a partially-covered white dot through a solar filter.

          The eclipse was an opportunity for me to connect with nature (which I love to do in general) during an awesome natural event. We overuse the word “awesome”. It truly filled me with awe.

          And we didn’t have to deal with a lick of traffic. Barely saw any cars on the road at all.

        • Garrett September 22, 2017, 9:37 am

          I will 100% agree with Reepekg. The difference between 96% and Totality is night and day. I made the trip to see the total solar eclipse, and it was mindblowing.

          This is one of those times that I strongly do NOT agree with you, Pete. You really ought to see that final 4%. It’s really unbelievable to experience.

      • Doug September 21, 2017, 9:01 pm

        I’m another eclipse chaser, eager to join this discussion here. Because of how I managed my money sensibly like a mustachian over the years, I can afford to do things I want to do, and that includes chasing eclipses. I left Southwestern Ontario behind last month and travelled to Kentucky to enjoy this awesome natural event, as well as some sightseeing, and have no regrets! I’m already looking forward to April 2024, where the path of totality will be much closer to home.

        MMM is quite right about how night time, when you can see stars, planets, nebulae, the Milky Way, the odd comet, meteor, and northern lights at higher latitudes is also quite awesome and under appreciated. I remember being outside on many nights in Northern Ontario enjoying spectacular shows of the northern lights, while most people were indoors watching rubbish on the TV.

  • Bill Bolton September 20, 2017, 11:18 am

    Great article!

    It’s interesting to read the “what does this have to do with Me?” We’re fortunate to be in the counterfactual scenarios you listed where health, financials, and intellectual stimulation from work are all optimized. We’ve been trying to maintain a house and property the last few years, and it’s been a losing struggle! We’ve spent nights and weekends doing home maintenance and repair that doesn’t even keep up with the normal wear and tear. The trade-off was tending the house or seeing friends and family.

    Now that we’re expecting a little one, something has to give. Given the fullness of our lives already, we needed to find a way to take something off of our plate. For us, that would likely have meant outsourcing home maintenance. Instead, we’ve decided to become renters for while!

  • Matthew in Michigan September 20, 2017, 11:28 am

    Oh man, great post! Just what I needed to hear, I was beginning to feel like I was weird for not wanting to waste time sitting around watching television and going to football games…you know, cuz that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.. Kind of reads like some old school MMM ;)

    • Julia in Michigan September 20, 2017, 6:16 pm

      Hi Matthew! I’m in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and have a hard time finding other mustachians around here. Where are you located and do you have any suggestions with regard to connecting?

      • Matthew in Michigan September 21, 2017, 11:04 am

        Hi Julia, I’m roughly 2 hours directly south of you. I have had a hard time in my community as well. There are meetups held in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Detroit area frequently. I haven”t made it to any of them, just too far for me to drive. I did post one for my area but had minimal response. You can find out about them on the forum under meetups. It’s also a good resource for when you need a pick me up, assurance that you are doing the right thing. I have that problem a bit being that I haven’t found anyone local that I can really relate to. Hope that helps!

  • Kenneth Gregory September 20, 2017, 11:28 am

    No TV for me since I was 16.

    • lurker September 27, 2017, 5:41 pm


      • Eldred November 25, 2017, 8:35 am

        But how old is he now? He might only be 18…

  • Mr Defined Sight September 20, 2017, 11:31 am

    You aren’t missing much in regards to television. I do keep it around for sports but other than that, mostly garbage. What you are teaching your son is far more beneficial than anything that can be learned on the tube. It’s crazy how fast the young ones can become addicted to the tv screens. We’ve had to make some adjustments with our youngster.

  • William Bloomfield September 20, 2017, 11:31 am

    Great post. This line in particular: “It doesn’t matter what you ENJOY. It matters what’s GOOD FOR YOU. ”

    I read a great book on Aristotle a few years ago that explained Aristotle’s thinking on this very point. The book was Aristotle for Everybody by Mortimer Adler.

    Adler explained Aristotle’s thought regarding practical reasoning, where man discerns what he should do with his life. Aristotle begins by considering that men usually act with some purpose, and that purpose is to obtain something which appears desirable or good. Aristotle argues that in order to live well, man should pursue those things that are actually good for him, as opposed to those which merely appear good but are actually bad for him. Aristotle recognizes that men do not desire what is bad for them. But they frequently mistake bad things for good and vice versa. To use an MMM example, many regularly desire a brand new automobile, which appears good, but is actually a gigantic sinkhole for our money. Rather, what is actually good for most (those who need exercise and could use more money for other goods) is to walk or get a bike.

    In determining what is good for man, Aristotle considers the nature of man and the corresponding needs of man. Man is a biological, philosophical, and social animal. Accordingly, he has biological needs (to eat, drink, sleep, etc.), the need for knowledge, and the need to interact with other men. Where man has a need, those things that fulfill his need are good for him. Those things that do not fulfill a need, are apparent goods, or wants. Man has various needs, but even when pursuing goods to fulfill these needs, he should be careful to pursue them in the right amount, in the right order, and in the right relation to one another. The good life is obtained by developing the habit of choosing the good, which is called moral virtue.

    So it would appear that Aristotle concurs with MMM, or perhaps vice versa. We should form habits of choosing the good (such a habit he calls virtue), and not spend our days chasing apparent goods, also known as wants.

  • Richie September 20, 2017, 11:34 am

    I find that those who still like to watch the occasional sporting event on TV can greatly reduce the damage done by keeping some free weights *in the TV room* (adjustable dumbells work best for me). You can get in a few dozen mini-workouts during commercial breaks (throw in some squats and push-ups and you are golden).

    • Jonathan M Szostak September 21, 2017, 8:38 am

      I let myself watch sporting events as long as I am walking or running on my treadmill, or if I’m feeling lazy I’ll do food prep work.

  • Katie September 20, 2017, 11:37 am

    Everything except board games with friends. I love me some trivial pursuit. and scrabble. and bridge.

  • Amanda September 20, 2017, 11:38 am

    Totally agree. We have TV and cable unfortunately because of my husband and kids. I’ll occasionally watch a movie but otherwise don’t care for it. Last week we didn’t have internet or cable while moving and it was glorious not telling the kids constantly to turn YouTube off. We went on a kid-free, mostly travel hacked trip to an all inclusive at a beach this summer and I was bored out of my mind. After 4 days of ass sitting I was going stir crazy and feeling like a lazy slob. Our trip hiking in ME last year and staying in a tiny cabin was much more enjoyable.

  • Dave Perrins September 20, 2017, 11:49 am

    Great article, as usual.

    I’m not brilliant at this stuff, but one thing that has taken me on the right direction is that instead of watching a sports game, I listen to it on the radio while doing something productive instead. I find just as much enjoyment in it, and you get to keep up with the game. Double win.

  • threewolfmoon September 20, 2017, 11:52 am

    You’re definitely invited over to my house for a visit – I need some new irrigation lines run to my garden, and my closet could use some organizing, and I’m sure in a month or so I’ll have some leaves to rake! I guess I should stop entertaining myself reading your blog and get going on those projects…

  • Chris September 20, 2017, 11:52 am

    What do you put in your big salad? Just curious, I need to eat more of it and would like to enjoy it :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 20, 2017, 1:21 pm

      I am kind of a Salad Maximalist so I like a lot of stuff: mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, grated carrot, cilantro, then topped with some feta cheese and copious olive oil/balsamic/soy/garlic dressing. Grilled chicken on top of all that if there’s some left over in the fridge.

      • Erin September 20, 2017, 2:10 pm

        The 3-2-1 salad dressing recipe found on this blog is my favorite. I make it all the time!
        BTW, if you’re ever short on projects, I live in Longmont and have a permit to build a front porch/mud room. Hubby and I do all our own remodel work but could use extra hands since we both work full time…you would always be welcome.

      • RH September 21, 2017, 1:02 pm

        Beans my friend…beans. They are the magically food that elevates any salad with protein and fiber for cheap. One can of 75 cent beans lasts me for 2 salads. Plus, there are lots of different flavored beans for variety.

    • dan September 21, 2017, 8:10 am

      Are you seriously asking what’s in the BIG salad??? That’s easy…”Big lettuce, big carrots…tomatoes like volleyballs.”

  • SteveB September 20, 2017, 11:56 am

    Wow! Right on. Makes me think that it’s in Mankind’s DNA to want to be productive. Probably a God/design thing. This past year I have stringently monitored my TV watching habits and how that effects my attitude and productivity. Normally what gets me on the couch to watch TV is me feeling tired or just wanting to escape and relax. Breaking news: TV has done nothing for me to regain energy. I am always feeling healthiest and most rested when I am maintaining an active lifestyle, while challenging my brain and eating healthy. TV is just a distractor from these things, along with the Tombstone pizza.

  • Money Miser September 20, 2017, 11:58 am

    I think we all aspire to be as productive as MMM, but sadly not many of us are. I try to be super productive when I get home from work, and for an hour or two I might succeed. Soon enough, the tempting lure of my PS4 or some other braindead activity takes its hold. This is something I really wish I could overcome, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on WHY it’s so difficult.

    I simply don’t have the energy or desire to be productive 24/7 like you. I aspire for it, but in practice it’s next to impossible for me.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 20, 2017, 1:15 pm

      I think part of the secret is not having a Playstation 4 in the first place. The way my life has ended up, I have the choice between “painful boredom” and “rewarding productivity”. Other than phone/internet distractions (which aren’t all that addictive because they are so close to painful boredom themselves), I’m left doing good stuff.

      • Money Miser September 20, 2017, 3:29 pm

        That’s very true, if you limit your choices between doing absolutely nothing and doing something productive, I guess productive wins every time.

        I think the issue is most people (myself included) fill their “nothingness” with convenient, yet unproductive activities like playing the PS4, browsing the internet or watching TV. I did notice ever since I got a new game this month, my productivity has dropped significantly in the evenings.

        This sounds like a good MMM monthly challenge to me! Give up all unproductive activities for one month and choose only between nothingness and productiveness. I’d be intrigued to see how people handle it.

        • Mr. Money Mustache September 20, 2017, 5:18 pm

          One month? Dude, just sell your PS4 and cancel TV permanently. There’s no need to ever go back!

        • mp September 21, 2017, 3:22 am

          Don’t be too hard on yourself, I’m assuming you’re working hard, possibly in a job you don’t like a whole lot, that is tiring and energy zapping and frankly it’s hard not to want to veg out in the downtime you have. This becomes a whole different proposition when you have more control over your time and what you do, you then have the energy to engage in more productive activities, and the unproductive stuff naturally falls away.

          • Andreas September 21, 2017, 11:19 am

            Sure, after full workday, then pick up kids and make dinner, then play, then bedtime for the children. When it is all done it is nine. Then time to shower and prepare next day. Being more productive after that is nothing I need or want.

            Different story on weekends and vacation. And thats what I am aiming for. Independence. That is why I read MMM.

        • insourcelife September 21, 2017, 8:36 am

          Reading these comments on MMM’s blog – productive or unproductive?

          • Lauren September 23, 2017, 7:53 pm

            Well played.

    • Chris September 22, 2017, 5:41 am

      Start with evaluating your diet. I know it sounds “fru-fru”, but that can make a big difference in how much energy you have. Make that part of your goal. Focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. Meat should be a secondary effort to throw in some protein here and there, not the primary part of the meal. A huge salad with random beans and vegetables combined with a sweet potato is an easy “starter meal” for someone trying to improve their diet.
      Also, try making a smoothie when you get home. The boost of energy will be better and longer lasting than a cup of coffee.

    • Zack October 5, 2017, 11:14 am

      I have been struggling with the same issue of getting distracted. I have gotten rid of gaming systems and TV, but my phone remains a battle for me. I believe the issue is more habit than anything. Don’t blame being tired.

      Also, I should add that you don’t need energy to be productive because sleeping and resting is also productive. Preventing yourself from playing PS4 will allow yourself to recharge quicker so that you will be motivated to do other productive things. Playing games and watching TV keeps you without energy. I used to believe that watching TV was a good way to relax, but doing nothing or sleeping recharges you much quicker so that you will desire doing productive work.

  • Andy September 20, 2017, 12:01 pm

    Ugh, the face punch that I needed, but it stings nonetheless. Time to stop making excuses for the things I know I need to accomplish, but have been neglecting in favor of games and YouTube…

  • Jessica Deratany September 20, 2017, 12:01 pm

    I like to alternate to get the best of both worlds, we get a few services then drop them if they are starting to interfere with our life. I do feel strongly it is important to be able to disconnect for extended periods of time to live in the here and now.

  • Mr FOB September 20, 2017, 12:02 pm

    Might be that cheesecake is more sophisticated on your side of the pond, but here, no thanks. Hand me over the salade please.

    • Glen September 23, 2017, 4:00 pm

      I am not a huge cheescake lover, but I can confirm that on this side of the pond cheesecake kicks salad’s ass.

  • Marcia September 20, 2017, 12:03 pm

    Good stuff in here, as long as you recognize that your list includes “stuff you like to do”, but my list includes “stuff I like to do” and it’s different.

    Playing music in a studio vs. reading a book or playing a board game. Both can be enjoyable, productive pursuits. Board games keep your brain sharp and let you bond with your family.

    Riding your bike around town vs. going for a hike (which is both exercise and meditation).

  • Gwen September 20, 2017, 12:03 pm

    Hey now that it’s cooling off I have a beautiful attic that could use finishing if you find yourself in need of another big project! I’ll show you pictures at the Chautauqua! Speaking of which, I heard there’s a second, less visited waterfall outside Otavalo that looks fun!

    • The Roamer September 20, 2017, 6:31 pm

      Hey Gwen, Share with me where this waterfall is in otavalo. I am going to be in Ecuador for a month in December and I wouldn’t mind getting some inside info on places to see.

      MMM – also any tips or recommendations on Ecuador would be greatly appreciated.

      As for the post. Yes. I do need to be more productive and at night times I should read more then watch tv. I do find it interesting that you can’t sit still for very long. I assume you don’t meditate at all. You kind of seemed like someone who would.

      Sometimes I just need some alone quite time to let my thoughts swirl. I think people constantly wanting to be entertained and avoid the boredom is because if they sit alone, quietly for too long then they have to really deal with stuff that is bothering them, whether it’s tasks or emotions. Distraction over dealing with reality….

      good read and I need to be more productive but also work hard not to fill all my “free” time so that I can have quiet time too.

      • Stephen September 27, 2017, 8:03 am

        I’m neither of the people you mentioned but have spent time in Ecuador and loved it. Where will you be?

        Don’t know what specific waterfall Gwen is talking about, but they are all over in Ecuador. We drove from Papallacta down to the rain forest on one day of our trip and passed over 100 different waterfalls and rivers on the way there.

        Ecuador was such a fun place to visit. I’m not the most well traveled so it’s possible (and I hope) that there are dozens of better places out there, but it is the most fun I’ve ever had on vacation.

  • Mustard seed money September 20, 2017, 12:03 pm

    This was beyond good. Our society is so centered on entertainment and instant gratification. I think much could be learned from focusing more on what is beneficial for us as opposed to what feels best in the moment. I loved your pie vs salad analogy. It hit the nail right on the head for me. Thanks for the great read and the reminder to seek self-betterment, not simply pure enjoyment.

  • Paula September 20, 2017, 12:06 pm

    I am married to a pretty cerebral guy who tends to take off in mind even when he’s seated right next to me, and I’ve found over the years that to get to spend time with him, watching something on TV is the best way to get to do something with him. Otherwise, he’s just not present, which is really frustrating. Granted, we tend to watch documentaries, garden shows, history, etc., and not the normal pap that is served up.

    We are makers and doers as well. I have been unemployed for three years and have spent a scandalous amount of time wasting time. This summer I found that I was bored and depressed and fixed it by making up a huge list of things to get done and then knocking them out and I feel much better for it. So you’re right about it being a great antidote for boredom and depression.

    I find I need to wean myself off solitaire again, though….

  • Genevieve September 20, 2017, 12:12 pm

    You always inspire. Almost makes me want to call myself a Moustachian :) Pete literally swept the sidewalks and built bike racks from found objects while hosting 80 folks in the MMM headquarters last week.

    For the doers out there, and folks who have travel on the mind and the flexibility to pursue it – I can recommend an online platform that links up doers with hosting homesteads. Through Workaway (dot info) I am spending two weeks laboring on a permaculture farm this fall. I consider this “fun” but man do I get blanks looks from friends and neighbors when I tell them I’ll be giving up my comfortable living quarters (and giving them away even) in exchange for the opportunity to harvest grapes in the winter in Colorado.

    Carry On Mr Money Mustache! And thanks for always leading by example and sharing your ways.

  • phred September 20, 2017, 12:13 pm

    Hard to give up football when you live in a college town and want a date for Saturday.

    Gave up TV years ago. By not keeping up with the crisis du jour, I frequently have too much time on my hands. I know, expand my maker hobbies! (or start some)

  • Drew September 20, 2017, 12:15 pm

    I laughed when I read the first part about the TV salesman. I had the same experience 2 weeks ago while making a stock-up run to Sam’s Club. The lady gave me this odd frown, looked at my two boys in the cart and asked “but what about your kids? Don’t they NEED something to keep their interests up?” Well sure, that’s why we bike to parks, play random games of kickball, baseball, and football in the backyard, and find new ways to do yard work together. They don’t NEED anything from TV.

    Her face was all messed up as I walked away smiling, saying “have a nice day!” I’m not sure why, but it felt absolutely freeing and my first experience of this type since we started our road to retirement in March.

    Love this article too! Funny how what used to be abnormal seems pretty normal to me now. Bike to the library? Don’t rent movies? No cable?!? Here’s to a continued pursuit of an abnormal life!

  • Big Daddy September 20, 2017, 12:16 pm

    My big thing is football. If I could get college games and NFL on the interwebs, I would cut the chord. The news and everything else is nonsense.

  • Lydia September 20, 2017, 12:17 pm

    Weirdos unite! My husband and I don’t enjoy doing “normal” things like sports, shopping, or drinking. In our free time we’re making things, fixing things, or learning things.
    My husband is Mr Money Mustache through and through – he does his own car maintenance, house maintenance, and his life dream is to own land where he can build a bomb shelter.
    I love writing, reading, video games and board games, mostly because they’re mentally stimulating and I love fantasy/sci-fi. I love being transported to different worlds. I also love traveling – an expensive hobby, which is why I’m pursuing a career in the tech industry, which pays a lot better than any industry today.
    Thank you MMM for being so inspiring and showing us “weirdos” that it’s good and healthy to be “weird”!

  • Mr. 1500 September 20, 2017, 12:19 pm

    Being bored/sitting around/having no meaningful activity is torture for me as well. This is why I seek out people like Madalyn to build cool shit with, regardless of whether I need the money. I’m paid in satisfaction.

    And the best quote about the torture of boredom comes from Voltaire’s Candide:

    “I should like to know which is worse: to be ravished a hundred times by pirates, and have a buttock cut off, and run the gauntlet of the Bulgarians, and be flogged and hanged in an auto-da-fe, and be dissected, and have to row in a galley — in short, to undergo all the miseries we have each of us suffered — or simply to sit here and do nothing?’
    That is a hard question,’ said Candide.”

  • Janson September 20, 2017, 12:19 pm

    I think it really comes down to preference and balance. MMM is abnormal, but so is everyone else because we all have different tastes. He says that certain things that meet his criteria are things that he doesn’t like. I personally can’t think of anything more fun than playing board games with my friends around a table stacked with beers. Movies are one of my passions, to the point where I’ll write a page of notes and analysis after watching one. In my opinion both of these check two out of the three boxes that he mentioned and I get enough physical benefits from my other activities that I’m not too worried about not getting a workout or eating healthy while doing them.

    It’s not some hipster ideal of “I don’t have a television and I only do things that are objectively productive and therefore I’m living the lifestyle correctly”. The thing that struck me was the description of that feeling of “I should be doing something productive”. That’s the balance point. Once you start feeling that it’s time to get off your butt and paint house or install a door or learn a new language.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance September 20, 2017, 12:19 pm

    I was so excited to see your new post! I can totally relate to your experience with the promoter. It happens to me every once in a while. On the one hand, I feel bad for saying no because they’re just trying to do their job. On the other hand, I find their persistence a bit irritating, and I have absolutely no interest in the product or service that they offers.

    Mr. FAF and I also do lots of weird things to save money such as using toilet paper as napkins and not washing the outside of our car. I’m sure we weird a lot of people out. But those are not bad things, and they help us save LOTS of money. :D

  • TsuDhoNimh September 20, 2017, 12:23 pm

    It’s much easier to be frugal and save money if you have a good budget and know what you spend. The same is true for the time cost of entertainment. Once you start comparing the time it takes to do something productive and something relaxing, it amazes me how much you can get done with the time you used to spend watching TV or playing videogames.

    For example, a typical videogame takes from 20-60 hours to finish. Let’s say you play just five videogames all year to the end or to your point of exhaustion. That’s about 200 hours a year. If you think that sounds reasonable, compare that to a more creative leisure activity such as learning a musical instrument. In about 200 hours, you could practice an instrument four times a week for a year. I bet you’d get pretty good with that level of practice!

    • William Bloomfield September 20, 2017, 1:06 pm

      I can attest that you would get pretty good. I began playing the banjo in law school as a way to add some balance to my studies. I set the goal of practicing an hour a day. A year later, I was pretty good. And when you’re regularly seeing improvement, it encourages you to continue. So I kept at it and began playing even more each day and kept getting better.

      I’m currently spending about a half an hour each evening playing piano using online piano lessons–and loving it! More details here: http://sacredartseries.blogspot.com/2017/09/recommendation-online-piano-lessons.html

  • WageSlave September 20, 2017, 12:23 pm

    MMM, sounds like you need a job. ;)

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    • nicoleandmaggie September 20, 2017, 2:57 pm

      It is true that work is one way to be productive.

  • Mr. TYMP September 20, 2017, 12:26 pm

    Ahh sedentary entertainment, lazy people’s favorite pastime. I have recently found a new love for board/card games. Ever since the demise of four player couch co-op video games, it is way more fun to sit around a table (drinking excellent local craft brews) and use our brains. Current favorites are Anomia, Codenames, and of course CAH.

    That said, I do agree that getting messy with friends tends to pass the time quicker, which must mean it’s more fun. Since we have an almost-three year old now, I find challenging other parents on the playground to monkey bar contests immensely rewarding. Nine times out of ten I lose, but the adrenaline and effort release a fair amount of dopamine, so I keep doing it.

  • Frugal Bazooka September 20, 2017, 12:29 pm

    Many moons ago I was taught the economic concept of enlightened self interest – the idea that humans would naturally engage in activities that promoted various positive outcomes: health (eating right and exercising), education (studying hard and graduating) and wealth (working hard and saving/investing) – that not only benefited the individual, but also indirectly benefited society. While these types of logical pursuits made total sense and explained the world in a way that my younger self could fully understand, imagine my shock when I soon realized that many of our fellow humans DO NOT engage in positive economic activity or human behavior. In fact humans do all kinds of self destructive things that are completely illogical. So I kept asking the question and analyzed observable data – why are humans, esp older humans who should know better – engaging in anti-economic, non-enlightened self interest? The answer that keeps rearing it’s head is that the cost of poor behavior is so low in 2017, that there really is no major incentives to guide lost souls towards positive behavior. In other words, if you don’t exercise and stay healthy the doctor gives you a pill to correct your poor health. A small percentage of humans are intrinsically motivated and incentivized to succeed, but a lot of us need external motivations and incentives (raising my hand) and they seem to, unfortunately these days, be going the other way. In other words we are economically and culturally de-incentivized to succeed. In fact, on occasion I get the feeling that some in the media believe that working hard, saving, investing and the ensuing financial success is actually a negative attribute. How in the hell did that happen?

    I don’t believe that it’s abnormal to constantly engage in productive behavior. All that’s really changed is the definition of productive behavior. In today’s world sitting around a monitor smoking weed and playing video games seems to be judged as equally productive as lifting weights or working a second job. To each their own, but please don’t ask me to one day subsidize someone else’s poor choices.

    • Janne September 21, 2017, 1:09 am

      Here in Finland, a group of enthusiastic people just started the Upright Project (http://www.uprightproject.com/#what). The goal is to make companies think of their net impact, that is, the benefit to society as whole. This seems very related to your concerns. Instead of focusing only on a business’ money generation capability, we should also look at their impact to health, environment, education and social issues. If companies were actively promoting actually beneficial products, perhaps people wouldn’t have so much difficulty in doing what is best for themselves. I think we should have these activies in all the countries of the world.

      • lurker September 27, 2017, 5:42 pm

        Rock frigging on!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lily He-Prudhomme September 20, 2017, 12:35 pm

    Ahh yes excellent point! Life is about balance. And I like to balance my money, therefore dealing with some inconveniences (such as living car free) is well worth it.
    If I ever got hit up by a cable salesman, I would give the same answer. It would be a small lie since we have Netflix but we get it for free anyways.

  • Lars September 20, 2017, 12:37 pm

    No cable since 2010. Will never go back.. and killed Netflix about a year ago.

  • Laura September 20, 2017, 12:39 pm

    And to add to this, does anyone else find it odd that the new normal is to pay for subscriptions for everything? It used to just be cable TV and gym memberships, but now it is movies (Netflix), music (Spotify), magazines (Texture), and computer programs (Microsoft and Adobe Creative Suite). Really? I can’t just buy Word and use it until my computer dies? Drives me crazy and I will do anything I can to avoid it.

    • Emmy September 20, 2017, 2:00 pm

      Open Office! You don’t even have to buy it! : )

    • Janne September 21, 2017, 1:17 am

      I feel the subscription-based model is much more sensible for many things. With Spotify, you don’t need to know in advance what specific album you would like to buy. Instead, you can sample around and find whatever you like. You’re not stuck in only the limited selection that you have obtained, but can actually expand your horizons much more easily. For Netflix and HBO, I feel the main thing is the series. I would hate to have to buy each episode individually and the threshold for trying a new series (or movie) would be much higher that with the subscription model.

      • Wade September 25, 2017, 12:10 pm

        I agree with this. I was thinking back over my music collecting. 45s, vinyl, cassettes, CDs, MP3 purchased albums. Ripping, organizing, converting, copying, backing up.

        My entire MP3 collection is just a relic now. We pay for a family music subscription. $15/month. Kids no longer needing pre-purchased cards, purchasing single songs or albums. All music is ours until we decide to stop paying.

        Onward and upward.

    • Jason September 21, 2017, 8:00 am

      > Really? I can’t just buy Word and use it until my computer dies?

      Time to learn Free and Open Source software ;) It’s a learning curve, but it’s worth it.

      > does anyone else find it odd that the new normal is to pay for subscriptions for everything?

      Not odd at all. It makes the gatekeepers **much** richer if you pay forever, and keeps the actual creators under the thumb of those gatekeepers forever as well. Fantastic business model. :/

  • Robert Corey September 20, 2017, 12:39 pm

    I think that it is important to be mindful that activities are neither inherently good or bad. It is possible to consume activities that are generally considered “good” such as exercise or creation in a way that has a negative effect on your overall happiness. For example, I put the act of creating software on the pedestal of 100% good. Using that belief as a foundation, I ignored that my long stretches of programming were causing me to isolate myself from my relationships, and develop physical problems. The motivation of performing an activity is as important as the activity itself, however it’s true that some activities lend themselves towards negative motivations and should generally be avoided.

  • Florent September 20, 2017, 12:40 pm

    The last part is about long term goals vs. desires. Desires allow to get pleasure in the short term, but often impede you to apply your system to reach your long term goals. But in the end, only long term application of a system to reach a goal brings you satisfaction and fulfillment. The desires derail the system.


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