The Twenty Dollar Swim

Gratuitous mid-lake selfie from yet another day of nearly-zero-dollar “motor”boating, earlier this week.

It was mid July, and I had just finished a sweaty run on the trails which criscross my older sister’s farm in Canada. I was overheated and heading straight for their swimming pool when she saw me walking across the lawn.

“Oh yeah, please do use the pool! You’ll help get my cost per use down because it’s still way up there in crazy territory”, she joked.

Moments like these are why I love being part of this family. The self-deprecating Spock-like humour where we can make fun of our own flaws and indulgences, while simultaneously enjoying them just as much.

But it also sparked an interesting conversation, because I knew they had been running this pool since the early 2000s, raised their two now-adult water loving boys in the house, and hosted gatherings for family and friends throughout every summer. And it wasn’t an exorbitant pool. Surely this was one of the more affordable indulgences, right?

“Has the cost per swim really been that high?”, I asked.

“Every jump into that pool has cost almost twenty bucks, if you average it out.” she replied.

“Wow, how could that be true?!” I mused.

So I did some rough calculations like those you see in the box below, which you can totally skip right over* if you just want the final answer.

The pool originally cost $30,000

But that money could have been invested instead, which would have compounded at 7% for these 18 years.

$30k compounded at 7% (30×1.07^18) is an amazing $101,300!

Electricity at 10 kwh/day x $0.20 at for 100 days per season is $200 per season or $3600 total
Chlorine and other chemicals: $600 per season add to $10,800
Maintenance like vacuums, nets, a new liner: $800 per season $14,400

We’re already at $130,000

Not even counting the hundreds of hours that went into scooping out bugs, spiders, mice, and even raccoons, and potentially higher home insurance premiums and water bills (in my region a 25,000 gallon pool costs $125 in water to fill – once!)

And how many swims were enjoyed in the pool? If every family member swam every day for every season, you’d still only end up at 18 years x 100 days x 4 people = 7200 swims.

$130 grand divided by 7200 is $18.oo


So the final number is about 18 bucks per person per swim, just as my sister claimed.

Looking forward to a refreshing dip with Mom and Dad and the kids? That’s $72 bucks that you ended up burning, by the time all the chips fell.

I know this is a strange way to think about a swimming pool. But this is a Mr. Money Mustache article, and this site is all about different ways to think about your life decisions.

Most people just say something like, “Well, we’ve already got it so we might as well enjoy it, right?”

The problem is that they also apply this to other purchases, even those they haven’t made yet. The richer our tastes become, the more likely we are to buy ourselves little upgrades “just because it would be nice”, or “just in case”,  or because Joe Jones next door or a magazine article mentioned the idea.

“Okay Mr. Money Mustache, What Are You Taking Away From Me This Time?”

Don’t worry, I’m not necessarily going to strip you of your dreams of that swimming pool, or anything else. But I do want you to start thinking about these costs in a much more visceral and explicit way, so you can really make sure you are not fooling yourself. For example, let’s step through a few more common blunders. Note that these are real numbers that I can back up with a spreadsheet, but I’m just presenting the end results here so as to keep you awake:

  • “We had a great time visiting the Smiths in their ski house last weekend – LET’S GET ONE OURSELVES!” – sure, as long as you are ready to devote your financial life to the activity and the activity is worth $890.00 per night you actually spend there. But if this number sounds like anything other than chump change, you and your friends might want to just share an Airbnb for your ski weekends, or even better, take up local mountain biking instead of far-away skiing.
  • “I like these two houses equally, but one of them has a much bigger yard which is better for Junior to play in. They’re the same price and the bigger yard is just ten miles down the road!” – okay, but make sure that Junior’s time in the extra yard space is worth $150 per hour.
  • “I’m thinking of springing for the $9000 long-range battery in my upcoming Tesla Model 3 order” – this one strikes straight at my own heart, because I crave a long range Model 3 myself. But even for a serious roadtripper, this works out to $125 per hour of charging time that you manage to avoid. Aren’t you willing to take a few minutes occasionally to walk around and admire your beautiful car if you get paid $125 per hour after tax for it? If you are, standard range will do.
  • “I live in an area with snowy winters, so I need all-wheel-drive” since we already learned that all-wheel-drive does not make you safer, the only time it actually helps you is when it prevents you from being stuck. But this could work out to between $50 and $500 per time the AWD actually gets you out of a bind. Aren’t you willing to shovel your driveway a bit more thoroughly (or work from home on the worst days) for $500 a pop?
  • “We’d love to have an extra bedroom as a way of accommodating Grandma’s Annual Visit” Sure, but if you spend $90,000 extra on a slightly larger house and use that guest room 20 nights per year, it’s about $210 per night that you use it. 
  • “I live in Chicago and we just love to spend weekends on the Boat.” Even if you go all-in and give up all your weekend activities on the land to maximize your time down at the marina, those nights in that little wedge-shaped cabin bed will average out to about $500 per night. Or more if you opt for a bigger boat or more time with the motor on.
  • “We love to explore and be free for a few months each year, so we’re getting an RV and towing the car…” But a three month, 15,000 mile RV trip works out to about $200 per night that you sleep in that vehicle – why not pick up a fairly new Prius and a good tent and hit the road, and treat yourself to beautiful rental accommodation whenever you want it along the way?

We could go on and on with these examples, but the real thing to understand is that making commitments usually comes with a bigger cost than you expect. There are a shitload of dollars at stake, but also a substantial portion of your focus and mental energy which will go into furnishing, maintaining, insuring, and cleaning these pleasant weekend distractions.

“But How Can I do It Better While Keeping My Life Fun?”

As a Mustachian, you have way more options open to you than you realize. But to take advantage of them, you need to stop doing what other people are doing, and live differently.

At the most frugal level, you can just cut yourself off cold turkey. From now on, just start doing all leisure within biking distance of home, and preparing all of your own food – no exceptions. You can still organize and host parties, however.

If you’re in a stressful debt situation right now and want to be out of it, you should just do this right now as a mental reset and watch the incredible results on your wealth. Most people who hit this reset button end up between $20,000 and $100,000 further ahead within just the first year, with many happy stories to share about it, so if you’re in need of a quick life boost, do this instead of dilly-dallying around with my rich person suggestions below.

But if you’re a debt free person with higher income and just want to accelerate your path to financial freedom, you can still dabble in the spendier life and keep up with your peers, by simply shuffling the luxury deck a little bit differently. A few principles that can still cut your budget by 75%:

  • Prioritize the healthy stuff first: It’s the weekend and you are ready to celebrate. But first, what’s on your to-do list? Are you fully caught up on your workouts, grocery shopping, and various nonsense with the incoming mail? If not, budget a full day for that rather than packing up the car for a road trip. How’s your yard looking? Have you fixed that door that doesn’t latch correctly? And OH YEAH let’s do one giant batch of your favorite dish and freeze it in portions so you’ll have easy lunches and dinners for many days to come. Well, look at that, your whole weekend is booked after all and you’ll feel better for it.
  • Muscle over Motor: If you like being on the slopes, learn to mountain bike. If you like being on the water, try a big, cushy sea kayak complete with cupholders for your sunrise coffee or sunset beer. Invite your fit and funloving friends and start exploring waterways everywhere. Or if you want a night out on the town, choose somewhere close and grab your bike rather than somewhere far and looking for your car keys or your Uber app.
  • Rent Instead of Buying: With Airbnb or even plain old hotels, you can still have weekend getaways when you truly deserve and can afford them, and yet the cost per use is much lower. The numbers will still look big, and that’s a good thing because you will be reminded that it is always expensive to leave your already-perfectly-good-home and go out to do even fancier things. When you’re living large, it’s best to joyfully acknowledge it rather than pretending it’s normal.
  • Make Special Arrangements: If you like cottages, make yourself useful to a friend who owns a cottage, by always being the one to bring the food or the wine, or donating your time to help with the maintenance or renovations. I helped build a cottage for my inlaws in Canada a few years back, and have enjoyed the fruits of our combined labor ever since – at no cost to the MMM family. Similarly, if you like boats, volunteer as part of the crew on a real yacht. If you like houses, specialize in building or renovating them, or hosting paying guests in the unused portions. If you like cars, become a car expert rather than just a car consumer.

The Final Word:

If you’re already eating and sleeping well, chances are that you already have all the basic ingredients for a happy life.  So as you go on to start adding some spices to the dish as all of us do, just be sure you look at the price tag. The advantage you’ll gain will last a lifetime.

Epilogue: Just this year, after her boys had grown up and flown from the nest and all the fun had been had, my sister filled in the pool and is in the process of replacing it with trees , a super-cool natural pond, and other landscaping instead. A bold move that few people would be rational enough to take – live long and prosper, Sister.

Extra Credit: Here are a few of the cost-per-use calculations I made for this article. Share some of your own in the comments!

Mountain house: $24,000 per year mortgage and/or capital cost, furnishings, utilities and maintenance divided by 30 nights per year. Plus $90 in car costs per roundtrip drive for a weekend.

Bigger yard: 1 hour per week of activities that really could not have been done in a smaller yard or an outdoor park, compared to 100 miles of extra driving ($50) and 3.5 hours of your time ($100) spent doing that driving.

Tesla Battery Upgrade: The only time you use the longer range is on roadtrips over 230 miles. If you do a 600-mile trip once every month, you have to make two extra 30-minute charging stops per month. Figure the $9000 battery costs you about $1500 in extra capital cost and depreciation per year, or $125 per month. However, if you are a Tesla fan like me and you want the company to make more profit to continue their mission, you may still opt for the extra options since you have nothing better to do with that money anyway.

All wheel drive car: if the car costs $5000 more up-front plus an extra $200 per year in fuel and maintenance, you could estimate it as about $500 per year more expensive to own. Then, how many times do you truly get stuck in a front-wheel drive car with really good dedicated snow tires on winter rims? (because snow tires always come before buying AWD!)

Grandma’s bedroom: a $30k more expensive house might consume about 2% of that extra cost in maintenance and taxes annually ($300), plus 5% annually in financing/capital costs ($1800), for a total of $2100 per year. Strangely enough, this extra bedroom works out to be one of the cheaper indulgences in this list, especially if you can use that room as an office too, or rent it out occasionally.

Boat: It costs about $15,000 per year to own, dock, store, transport, maintain, depreciate, and fuel a 26-foot motorboat with a little sleeper cabin in the front. If you spend each of the sixteen weekends of Chicago’s warm seasons exclusively in the boat, you’ve still done only about 32 days there, which yields the surprisingly high cost of almost $500 per night.

RV: Even a relatively small $50,000 RV depreciates about $0.50 per mile and burns fuel and oil and tires at another fifty cents. And that’s before you even pay for supplies, maintenance and nightly parking fees! Large RV travel is even dumber, financially speaking – note that the fanciest tour-bus-sized RVs you see cost about $500,000! The physics are simply against you if you are trying to travel in your own personal rolling building. Although stationary living in a not-too-expensive RV or trailer can be a highly Mustachian choice.

* I let you skip that one just so you would keep reading and see my point. But now that you see it, hopefully you also see that you do need to look at the numbers in life and figure this stuff for yourself, because it’s a way bigger deal than you might think!

  • Young FIRE Knight July 25, 2018, 1:13 pm

    This is a great point about owning things with large fixed/recurring costs. I’ve always thought I would want an RV in the future to go on frequent road trips, but perhaps the cost per night is too high and would not make it worth it. I do think, when FI it would give me more chances to go on trips which would make the cost per night lower, but then you also have to consider the costs of a vacant house and such into the calculations as well. Very interesting!

    • Michael July 25, 2018, 7:57 pm

      Go on a long road trip with your RV and rent your house out while you are away. Or align your road trip when your lease on your apartment expires. There’s no need to pay for a residence you aren’t using.

    • Fil July 26, 2018, 1:53 am

      @YoungFIREKnight : I’m an RVer (WeekEnder). I don’t smoke, don’t gamble, don’t drink much, don’t buy many expensive stuff. But I enjoy my RV and I accept the fact that it cost me about 5000$ a year, all cost included. I bought it used, cash, for a good price (it’s a 1997 bought in 2017, my previous one was a 1993 bought in 2014 that I sold for a very small profit). I like the freedom it provides, I like to travel with my cottage. It’s the perfect lake cottage on hot summer days, it’s the perfect mountain cottage when we feel like hiking… You get the point! I tried the tent thing and personally hated it. I like to have my fridge, kitchen, toilet and dry roof. Yes, I’m a little fancy.

      Would I go do a day hike if I had to pay for 2 or 3 meals in a restaurant and book an hotel/AirBnB for the night? Probably not. But now, since my RV is in the driveway anyway, we are always ready for an adventure!

      All I’m saying is it might worth it even with high-ish cost per night. Depends how much you enjoy it!

      That being said, of course I personally wouldn’t buy a brand new RV or even one that hasn’t reach bottom depreciation. I bought one that I knew I could sale for the same price few years later. I made sure that my budget was ok with the annual cost and it wasn’t a set back in my FI goal. Truth be told, I waited to be FI to buy my first 3800$ motorhome.

      RVing can be expensive as in MMM’s exemple (and could be much more with a new high end motorhome…), or it could be very low cost. I heard the same could be true for children, but I guess that’s an other story for an other time!

      FI or not, I do agree recurring costs are dangerous, especially if it’s linked to a contract and a monthly payment.

      Buy assets so the cash flow pays for liabilities!

      On other topics, since it’s a place to share personal thoughts :
      – In my area (Montreal, Qc), pools are neutral in term of property value, maybe even on the negative side. I destroyed mine the year after I bought my house, it needed repairs and it was too much time and money consuming for not much use! On the plus side, and I’m surprise no one mentioned it yet, you can’t have a midnight naked swim with your spouse in a public pool. That’s something to consider lol!
      – I will never buy a non-AWD car in Quebec. Florida, sure, but here there’s way too much snow and ice… If you want to have a good laugh, search “Montreal ice accident” on YouTube. Buses don’t have accident? What about two of them! And a police car! And a snow plow!


  • Travis July 25, 2018, 1:26 pm

    Most of your points are excellent and spot on; a vacation home or pool never gets close to “penciling”. But I must respectfully disagree with your AWD argument. For one thing, it is not a $5,000 upgrade; its more like $2,000. So the cost for this AWD “upgrade” could certainly be worth it, for many people in many areas.

  • Sean Mullin July 25, 2018, 1:29 pm

    One more for your list.
    Plane: 1977 Cessna 182 … about $350 an hour to operate.
    But everyone knows owning a plane is a bad idea. So go ahead and feel good about not owning a plane.

  • Amanda July 25, 2018, 1:42 pm

    Wow! I’ve never worked the math on a pool but wouldn’t have guessed that high! We have an HOA with a pool. I complain about fees but it’s so much better than paying for a pool.
    I did the math on keeping our cheap boat and sold it this spring. It was $40 monthly storage plus winterization and insurance. We only used it a few times a season so we can rent a new boat for a day at the same price.

  • Yitood July 25, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Love your posts always. There is one calculation missing in this article if I may boldly suggest. The cost of instilling a comfort with and love of water for her boys, without a pool at home. This is, after all, how most people do it, so I’m curious how it works out. Is it more, or is it less? Weekly trips to the pool for 15 years, paying admission or a membership fee? My local pool is $6 per person or an annual membership. Vacations with water activities and safety built in? Summer camp with lake activities? Job as a lifeguard (cost or class and driving to work, minus the earnings)? Maybe a pool at home ISN’T the best way to do it. What is?

    Also, as a real estate agent, I am totally biased, and so I believe there are some cases where owning the cottage/property you want bring your return on investment so its not a complete loss. Perhaps you might only return at 4% vs. that 7% number. I was actually surprised, knowing you have also invested in real estate. Perhaps that cottage is best when you stay there for a week or two to do work on it to add value to it?

    -Yours In The Out Of Doors (YITOOD)

  • Nick July 25, 2018, 1:53 pm

    Great examples of how things can add up that 99% of the population don’t think about:

    I feel ya on the Tesla front. I recently dabbled with the idea of taking a job further from home, it would have made for a 2 hour roundtrip commute (in no traffic) but it would have increased my salary by 50%. Having owned a Leaf (purchased used for cheap) for the last two years, I never really want to go back to an ICE vehicle. I found myself thinking “well I would need a longer range EV, the Model 3 wouldnt get to me until 1.5-2 years. the Bolt is 40k for a narrow uncomfortable seat.” May as well look into getting a used Model S for 50k.”… Instead I just stayed at my current job :)

    The RV thing is nuts around where I live. I moved to my current neighborhood two years and some neighbors were talking about “camping” turns out they either owned “campers” or planned on buying them. 40k for an artic wolf… not to mention the truck to pull them and the sunk cost of that useless vehicle (most people i know who own RVs, or even pickups for that matter, do not have a vocation that requires such a vehicle) … a popup camper might be a nice compromise option for larger families that have a minivan anyways. Trailer hitches can be bought and installed for under $200.

    Totally with you on AWD, what a fear-tactic marketing scam

    We looked into the numbers of getting a vacation rental and it just didn’t make any sense – they rarely cash flow. I’ll gladly buy up some sub-$100k multifamily propertiesthat cash flow $200+ per month instead.

    The big yard / further commute isn’t always black and white though. We took on a slightly further commute (actually only further for me, it was closer to my wife’s job) I added 15 min each way to my commute for us to move from a very busy street surrounded by inconsiderate renters, a giant 2600 sq ft drafty house with a tiny yard tucked back into a steep hillside to a 1350 sq ft house with a 1/2 acre yard, a flat quiet street with neighbors have kids the same age as ours. Now, instead of our kids living and dying by the TV, iPad or video games, they can get out and play with friends for most of the day. Do I spend more time in the car – sure. Does my family enjoy our living space much more now – yep. The latter more than cancels our the former

  • isip July 25, 2018, 2:06 pm

    Excellent post!

    Breaking down costs per use is a fantastic way to examine the value of our purchases. Most people just copy others.

    As for the pool, we live in Tucson, AZ. Our family of five use the pool 9 months out of the year. We bought the house with the pool so our calculations are a bit different. I estimate that our cost per pool dip is about 12 cents, not factoring in parties or other special events. Now, when it comes time to replaster the pool, the price per dip will jump, but for now it is good. Today is 110F.

    Love the point about Tesla, it is the hardest way for me not to make a bad money choice right now in my life. Keeping the Prius for now until I can get a gently used 3, S, or X in the $20K range. I may be waiting a long time.

    So, I am avoiding boats, 3rd row suv’s and minivans, larger homes, 2nd homes, fancy vacations, and trying to eat 95% of meals at home.

    Thanks for the good read MMM.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 25, 2018, 3:12 pm

      Twelve cents! Isip, I’d consider owning a pool if I lived in Tucson as well, but I don’t see how that can even pay for your electricity and chlorine, let alone all the other costs of the pool.

      Let’s see your calculations, since that’s the theme of this article!

      • Isip August 3, 2018, 11:40 am

        Hi Pete,

        Thanks for the invite to check my math. My initial calculations were quickly done on scratch paper.

        First, my wife reminded me that our swim season is actually 8 months, not 9.

        Next, as a Mustachian, I do my own pool care/minor repairs instead of hiring a company. Go YouTube! This has saved me a ton of $$ and increased my badassity!!

        Finally, before reviewing numbers, I have a couple disclosures:
        *I am not counting my own labor/time costs. Maybe I should, if I did it obviously raise the cost.

        *I am not counting the cost of the pool nor its solar hot water system since they came with the house when we bought it 3 yrs ago. Is this fair? When we were house hunting, pools were a negligible part of home price. Rather, square footage, beds, baths, and location were the key price drivers.

        *We do not have an electricity bill, we have a PV solar system that covers 100% . I purchased the PV system and yes, perhaps I should include this in the calc but for simplicity I have not.

        So, here are the numbers:
        Tucson swim season = 8 months or 34.76 weeks. Our pool’s solar heating system extends the season.

        Nuclear family member dips/year for 2 adults & 3 young kids.
        *Summer = 11 weeks x 6 days x 2 dips/day x 5 people = 660 dips
        *Non summer = 22.76 weeks x 6 days x 1 dip x 5 people = 682 dips
        Total nuclear family dips = 1,342

        Other family and friend dips/year
        *Pool parties/yr = 5 parties x 23 guests = 115 dips
        * Friends and other family = 59 dips
        Total other dips = 174

        Grand Total yearly dips = 1,342 + 174 = 1,516

        My annual pool costs:
        * Bucket of chlorine tabs from Amazon = $106 (50 lbs)
        * Bleach used for shock = $26 (8 bottles of 13% bleach)
        * Parts purchased per year = $40 (testing chemicals, pool vacuum parts, chlorine dispenser).
        * Water = $50
        Total cost per year = $222

        Cost per dip
        Total pool cost per year $222 / Total annual dips 1,516 = 14.6 center per dip

        So, it was not quite the 12 cents I estimated but close!

        Not buying the pool, doing my own pool care, having 3 kids, and having an extra long 8 month pool season make the difference in my case.

        Like I said before, when the time comes for major repairs, like re-plastering, maybe I will fill it in. But since we live in the dessert, and use it a ton, maybe we will keep it.

  • Andrew July 25, 2018, 2:07 pm

    I’ve been interested in natural pools for a while now: http://www.organicpools.co.uk/ for example. Seems like the cost should be lower.

  • mrs. sunshineshed July 25, 2018, 2:08 pm

    This is a really great way to evaluate things that I hadn’t really considered before. We purchased a vintage camper for that we’re in the process of fancying it up. With my basic math skills, I’m estimating the cost per use over 5 years (not including gas) after renovations to be about $75 per night. I feel pretty comfortable with that number because of the enjoyment we get from our trips. We had a newer camper that we recently sold to make space for this new-old one that had a horrible cost per trip number. We travel mostly locally since there’s a lifetime of stuff to see in the PNW with a bigger trip once a year or every other year. Without the camper, we likely wouldn’t travel much as we’ve got pets and a nervous flyer in the family. To me, this is money well spent.

    On the flip side, my husband really would love to get a hot tub. I don’t know that we’d use it often enough to justify the cost. Maybe a new bath tub with jets would be a more feasible and reasonable option?

  • Marty J July 25, 2018, 2:22 pm

    I really enjoy the MMM blog, but this entry goes too far. Accounting for the inflationary and interest compounding over decades is a meaningless concept. Bought a pack of gum for a buck 50 years ago? Today that dollar would be worth $30. So, did the gum really cost me $30? Next year, will it have cost me even more?

    No, retroactive arithmetic is not a good indicator of present value. Live in the present, and always judge each expenditure on the same metric — is it more valuable to me now to have this thing, or to have the money?

    • Marcia July 26, 2018, 10:45 am

      Did you miss the point? I mean, quite literally, the point of MMM is to show the way to early retirement, via not spending money and allowing it to grow.

      Would I have enjoyed driving a minivan for the last 12 years instead of a Matrix? Probably.

      But the minivan would have been $15,000 more than the Matrix. Turn that into today’s dollars via investing? At 7%, approximately $33,000.

      The amount of gas used over 133,000 miles? Approximately $7500.

      So, we are easily at >$40,000 with a single decision. And this can be applied to every dollar spent.

    • Adventure B July 26, 2018, 7:24 pm

      Marty J, one of the fundamental Mustachian ideas is to consider the long term financial consequences of our behaviors, and the tradeoffs between money and happiness that are associated with those behaviors. The scope of this article is a few orders of magnitude larger than chewing gum, but you raise an interesting point. Suppose I like gum and I divert some of my savings to a gum budget. At 7%, a single pack of gum for a buck will set my index funds back $30 in 50 years. But I probably buy one pack of gum per week for a buck. That $52 sets my index funds back by $1,532 in 50 years. No biggie because I love gum! But if I integrate that effect over 50 years, the total is $22,620. That is a year of spending money. Maybe I love love love gum so much that I would rather chew chew chew for 50 years and forgo that accumulation of money over the rest of my life. But I would rather know the consequences of my behaviors, even the little ones.

      • Marcia Yudkin July 31, 2018, 8:36 am

        I would love to see a post where Mr. Money Mustache applied the same calculations (which I don’t have the nitpicky patience for) to options for making money.

        For example, if I have the choice to spend an extra three hours a week on a money making project that will continue to bring in money on into the future instead of doing something else that is simply enjoyable, how does that decision compound over time?

        • WanderingWhitehursts August 13, 2018, 8:28 pm

          That’s an excellent thought. Knowing my children will, in a short few years, be able to earn their own money outside of the home, it would seem that at a very young age, even the $10 per week earned and invested for walking dogs could have a huge long term impact.
          For example, a young person saving $40/mo from age 8 to 18 dog walking would have nearly an additional $100,000 larger nest egg by age 50 assuming 8% return on savings. Better still, the skills learned in entrepreneurship will likely pay even better dividends throughout adulthood.

          There is, I suppose, good reason MMM has trained himself to enjoy (or strangely naturally enjoys) cleaning out gutters and other labor for leisure. Money earned (or saved) now compounds for the future. Skills learned now are valuable for earning (or avoiding expenses) in the future. Healthy activity benefits the mind and body. Along with this is the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment and achievement, no matter how small. And I’m sure something in there about character building too.
          Wow, with all these wonderful reasons to get up and get after life to improve both my present and future self, it’s shameful how very little I live up to this.

  • AGuero July 25, 2018, 2:35 pm

    Your sister filling in her pool reminds me of a topic I just heard about on Freakonomics – Behavioral Economics and how humans deal with sunk costs. They spoke about how traditional economic theory assumes humans are rational and thus if they make a purchase they no longer need, they would “discard” it as a sunk cost. In reality, we don’t. We order the desert and eat it even if we later realize we are stuffed because we already paid money for it. Good for her for cutting her losses.

  • Shawn Laidlaw July 25, 2018, 2:38 pm

    This is great. I live in a small little lot in Mexico and my neighbors have been buying up every bit of land they can. It is their 3rd home – one in Texas and one in Colorado – and they will spend a month or two per year there. They have recently purchased the adjacent home and are planning to turn it into a master suite, apparently with a pool on the roof. They also have two washing machines (one on each level) in a development where water is trucked in and very few have one of their own. They have a brand new super-sized top-notched truck sitting in one of their two storage units they purchased, and two Side-by-side ATVs in the other. This is all in the desert.

    It just seems a bit much to me. Why can’t we just embrace being uncomfortable a little bit!?


  • Baron July 25, 2018, 3:05 pm

    A pool seems like a bad investment, especially in Canada with our short summers.

    Not to get too technical, but its important to bear in mind that some cash flows are expenses while others are capital expenditures. A capital expenditure will increase an asset’s value, or it can be a net new asset. A pool is a strange one because some people don’t want a house with a pool. So I feel like its not the best example. It can reduce a property’s value. But in some cases it can increase a property’s value, depending on what value someone places on it. The money spent on operating the pool (cleaning, electricity) is just operating expenses.

  • kz July 25, 2018, 3:10 pm

    In my teens, I was saddled with all the pool maintenance tasks and learned that its effort was not worth that time suck for 90 days of conveniently located swimming. In my 20’s, I was the only person in my office who did not pay for a beach share every summer – I could not grasp the redundancy of paying for a place to live 7 days/week plus paying for another place to live for 2 days/week for 3 months that also involved hours of traffic-choked travel and crowds at the beach destination. In my 30’s, I diversified my assets to include real estate, and learned that home maintenance is just another part-time job with occasional big ticket purchases that are necessary and boost your comfort, but they’re never fun (HVAC, roof, landscaping, etc.). In my 40’s, I got into bicycling and public transit and divorced my car. Now in my 50’s, I have friends who have all the trappings of middle age – boats & RVs and vacation homes/cabins/cottages, so I just cultivate my relationships with them and share their toys. Less really is more. For parents with >1 child, having a pool can make your home the social hub, and it’s priceless to know where your kids are and be perceived/known as the safe/fun place to visit (you can apply this same peace of mind to home theater, game rooms, etc. other social gathering spots in your home). Let’s not forget the extrinsic value of these things because if it brings you great joy, relaxation, social connection, etc. there’s value in that.

  • The Curious Frugal July 25, 2018, 3:16 pm

    I have never seen anyone calculate the cost of a backyard dip in the pool before – very interesting :) My husband and I feel differently on the idea of owning a cottage. I really really do not want a cottage. I love being out at the lake, nature, blah blah, but don’t want the upkeep of a second place. I don’t always think we’re keeping up with the one small home we live in. On the other hand, sometimes I get tripped up with the idea of having an ever-so-slightly bigger house (ours is less than 850SF) for family visits, especially as parents get older. But we did do the calculations on a house with an extra bedroom, or renovating and putting in an extra room just for visitors. We’d basically have to have them live with us to make it worth it (financially). We could rent them a nice place to stay for the week when they visit, and it would be much cheaper.

  • Andrei Smith July 25, 2018, 3:52 pm

    “However, if you are a Tesla fan like me and you want the company to make more profit to continue their mission, you may still opt for the extra options since you have nothing better to do with that money anyway.”

    Well… let’s not forget that we could always give more to charity.

  • KR July 25, 2018, 3:53 pm

    I just used this argument to dissuade my father from spending the 1k the dealership quoted him from fixing the AC in his Mercedes (I know). We have very few weeks of summer left. He’s blind and is driven by his caretaker to the store a couple times a week, but she can use my mother’s car instead. The only other person who drives his car is me (home helping with my mother’s illness) and I don’t care about the AC, there’s no humidity here in the West, AND I was the one who had to tell him the AC wasn’t working, he didn’t even notice. He keeps saying “but I want things to work right” and “once one thing goes, it all goes.” (Like the AC is going to drag the whole system down.) Let’s say he has 10 hours left for AC driving this summer, that’s $100 an hour. In the end, I prevailed.

  • Mary July 25, 2018, 4:03 pm

    It must come natural to MMM types, like my daughter and I. I’ve longed for an SUV for years but then we do the calculations and it is way cheaper to just rent one if I really want to do some trip over rough roads. Though the rental companies discourage that.

    One possible exception. When I bought my first home I was determined that a 2 bedroom was more than enough for my needs, while everyone insisted that I needed to get a 3 bedroom if I ever wanted to resell it. Ended up getting the 3B because that was about all that was available. Now I can see the wisdom in their advice. My home has more than doubled in value and would sell in a New York minute if I decide to move. I still think it is stupidly extravagant though.

  • Michael July 25, 2018, 4:11 pm

    That RV bullet hits home for me, having made that mistake. Luckily we still do get a lot of use out of our huge (old, cheap, and hail damaged) Suburban even though we never tow anything anymore.

  • Frank July 25, 2018, 4:15 pm

    Been reading for a while but first comment.
    Which is to ask if this is a classic?
    As in I read the article and thought even my spendy friends would read this and feel “holy shit” and develop a cold sweat at the thought of all the money they’ve wasted.

  • Adventure B July 25, 2018, 4:17 pm

    “why not pick up a fairly new Prius and a good tent and hit the road…”

    I recently did exactly that at $85 per day! I drove 4200 miles round trip from the Appalachians for a backpacking adventure in the Rockies. I estimate my 2009 Prius cost per mile at $0.27, including gas, maintenance, and depreciation. So the travel cost is $1,134. I crawled out of the tent for two luxurious nights in hotels for another $281. For the 17-day trip, the daily cost of driving and lodging is about $83. Adding $1.50 per day to use my tent, sleeping bag, and backpack, the total daily cost is $85.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 26, 2018, 6:51 am

      Nicely done and well calculated!

      Readers might note that your cost came out pretty high because you had a large mileage-to-nights-slept ratio. But you still kicked the ass of someone who might attempt something like that in, say, a Dodge Ram.

  • Greg K July 25, 2018, 4:25 pm

    You should have included country club memberships in your article. The average round of golf costs a lot of $$$.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 26, 2018, 6:49 am

      Oh yeah, yikes! Country club memberships are so far off my radar (despite the fact that I live in a house with a stunning mountain view golf course adjoining the back yard) that it never even occurred to me.

      Our golf course is a public one where you just pay a reasonable $15 fee for a round.

  • Laurie July 25, 2018, 4:40 pm

    When trying to decide on a one or two bedroom condo in the area we wanted to live, my (very clever) husband pointed out that it would cost us well over $100,000 dollars for a second bedroom.
    GAH! The decision was really easy after that. ‘Hideabeds’ are waaaaaaaaaaay cheaper.

  • Kim July 25, 2018, 4:52 pm

    I have to disagree about the vacation cabin. We have a very small beach cabin which was purchased when the economy crashed. It does costs us monthly for utilities and property taxes but at the same time, we spend much more time at the beach then we would otherwise.
    You might think it would be cheaper to rent and it probably is but do you actually plan ahead, make the reservation and not let other obligations get in the way? I was terrible at this.
    Owning a cabin means I can go at a drop of the hat anytime with no pre-planning which means we spend a lot of time there and walk the beach (we don’t walk at home). Our health is much better because of our beach cabin and so is the quality of life and if needed we can always sell for more than what we paid for it.
    Now if only I could find a way to pay for the utilities and property taxes without renting it out. I don’t want anyone other than us sleeping in our beds!!

    • kruidigmeisje July 26, 2018, 5:14 am

      The formula is the same, but your numbers are really different. So….. It adds up to a different outcome for you.
      Good for you to have an asset that is not draining your wallet, enhancing your health (including a peaceful mind), and might even be appraising (though that is always only known at time of selling)

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 26, 2018, 6:40 am

      Hi Kim,

      While it sounds like you are happy with your choice (especially if the money side of things is not an issue at all for your family) I still try to push readers to fight against some of the feelings you express therein.

      Why? Because of COURSE it feels nice to have a cabin you can go visit at the drop of a hat, and of course getting everyone outside feels good and is healthy. The problem is that many people make these same choices even when they’re not very wealthy (or even worse, in debt), and they may pay a price of 40 years of extra office work and commuting just for those pleasant beach weekends. Is it worth it? Only if they are explicitly aware of the price they are paying.

      Because there’s ALWAYS another way to get the same happiness for free or almost free. With enough creativity in choosing where you live, work, which friends you choose, you can live equally well without owning any vacation properties. YOU specifically do not have to do this, but others may.

      Finally, I think everyone should become comfortable with other people sleeping in their beds and sharing their stuff – in exchange for a fair price if it’s with strangers. Losing our squeamishness and becoming more community oriented allows us to share resources more efficiently and is also a happier way to live.

  • Patricia July 25, 2018, 4:55 pm

    I just went through this with a theoretical hot tub purchase. The boyfriend loves to soak. We were (somewhat) saving up for a hot tub. But I kept thinking, “all that money, and then the maintenance, and then the extra money, and then heating it?”

    And then in an early morning google search, I found the following solution which the boyfriend said would be just as good. Thanks Mother Earth News (and the internet) We’ve already got $100 saved. Now I just need to build it.

  • CHESSNOID July 25, 2018, 5:38 pm

    Shouldn’t it be 18 years x 365 days x 4? 26280. if they all swam everyday of the year.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 26, 2018, 6:46 am

      No, because Canada is not a tropical country.

      • Reade July 26, 2018, 2:02 pm

        Yes I’ve never understood why any Canadian has a pool. If I lived in TEXAS or somewhere with a warmer climate for most of the year it makes a lot more sense. Love the article, in Toronto where I live, a lot of people3 head North every weekend to a cottage. Aside from the crazy real estate appreciation over the last few years, the math has to be horrible. I with interest rates rising, I think that party is over.

        • Married to a Swabian September 2, 2018, 6:11 am

          Yes, there appears to be quite a bubble in the Toronto area real estate market. Hope it doesn’t burst suddenly.

  • Dan July 25, 2018, 6:24 pm

    With the cost of a cement pond, I guess I’ll just jump in old Gitchi Gummi.

    • Frugal Toque July 25, 2018, 7:34 pm

      Just not, you know, in November.

  • Jen in Boston July 25, 2018, 6:46 pm

    Great post, MMM! Really makes me re-think the things I think I want. I guess I don’t want that house on Cape Cod after all! Phew. I have read through the entire blog and I don’t think our secret vacation weapon has ever been mentioned — Home exchange. Our family of 5 has had wonderful vacations all over the world for a fraction of the usual cost. We have exchanged homes, but also cars, pet care, bikes, sports equipment, etc. True, we have to pay to get where we’re going, but airline miles have made that a lot cheaper as well. We can cook for ourselves at our “home”, often have a pool, do our laundry for free and have enough room to spread out so family peace is maintained. The host is usually a great resource for local events and sites and we have never had any issues of our guests mistreating our home in any way. It’s not for everyone — there are strangers in your home — but you are also a stranger in theirs. Mutually assured good behavior! There are lots of websites to facilitate exchanges. Highly recommend it!

  • Patrick Allaire July 25, 2018, 6:58 pm

    We bought a used pop up camper last year. I am keeping a sheet of all the costs and all the camping night we are doing. At the moment we are at $1124 per night !!! It doesn’t make any sense at the moment, the only way it make any sense is if we go through with the plan of going all time for 24 months, in 3 years.

  • Orphan July 25, 2018, 7:21 pm

    30,000 dollar pool. Owned it for seven years. 100 a month for electricity. 2800 for a new pump and heater. 80 dollars a month for cleaning and chemicals. Too busy working two jobs keeping up with the Joneses to clean the stupid thing. Kids maybe used twice a month in the summer. I never wanted to add up the total cost.

    I feel like the dumbest SOB alive for ever buying a pool. I now use the community pool for 4.25 a day maybe twice a year. They just don’t like my “Acapulco cliff diving” shorts.

    Great article that drives home the common sense aspect of not buying dumb stuff unless you’re a millionaire 10 times over.

  • robin July 25, 2018, 8:15 pm

    I live in Maine (yup, snowy AND icy) and drive an 13 year old Avalon (bought second hand) because of very bad back problems and I need a comfortable car. It meant giving up my Subaru but I haven’t missed it. Like you I decided not to drive in the snow, though even when the roads are cleared, they can still be icy (even when sanded). However, I have never had an issue with my car sliding into another car or getting suck. I was interested in your comments about tires, so I read your previous post about them. You wrote: “Nowadays, although I argue strongly for snow tires, I don’t own any – because I just don’t bother driving on those rare days it snows in my own area.” So my question (important to me as I will be needing to get new tires this season), what tires do you use if not snow tires. Thanks!

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 26, 2018, 6:26 am

      They’re all season tires – the stock Michelin Energy set that came on the 2016 Nissan Leaf, or and a Costco-purchased set pf Pirelli P4 on the construction minivan.

      But again, in case anyone is just skimming this and thinking of it as a tire recommendation from me – all season tires are not very safe in serious snow whether your vehicle is 2WD or AWD – use snow tires!

  • Steve July 25, 2018, 8:34 pm

    Hi there,

    I was curious if you think investing in such companies as Uber and Air BnB is a smart move?


    • Mr. Money Mustache July 26, 2018, 6:23 am

      Hi Steve,

      Sure, as long as they are bought automatically as part of your purchase of a whole-market passive index fund or ETF (like Vanguard’s VTI)

      Why do I say this? Because I think it’s a statistically less winning game to speculate on any one company outperforming the market by buying their stock individually.

  • Mel July 25, 2018, 8:38 pm

    The number one mistake I see people making is having *several* of these types of costs in their budget. If you love boats and you go sailing almost every day, maybe it’s worth having your own sailboat. But there’s no way you’re going sailing, swimming, vacationing in a cabin, etc, to get enough value to justify *all* those expenses.

    I don’t have any cost sinks like this. I could see myself *maybe* picking up one in retirement, because I might have time to play with my expensive toy daily. But without frequent use, it just isn’t worth it.

  • Mysery Money Man July 25, 2018, 10:00 pm

    My family and I love road trips, and I’ve figured out that my wife and I, along with our three kids, have logged well over 65,000 miles, just factoring in trips of over 1500 miles each.

    For a number of years, I convinced myself that we needed an expensive, newer vehicle, one that would be reliable enough to accommodate our long trips.

    After a while, I realized that if you choose wisely, an older, high mileage vehicle is more than capable. We now drive 10+ year old Toyota Sienna’s with over 200,000 miles, and we have never had a single breakdown.

    And if we reach the point where I feel our van is not reliable enough for a long distance trip, I would simply rent a new vehicle for a week or two at a fraction of the cost of having to buy new.

    It’s a powerful concept…great post Pete!

  • Phire Adventures July 25, 2018, 10:53 pm

    So we live full time in a large motorhome, and our monthly spending is $1,540 per month and $51 per day. This includes depreciation, insurance, gas, repairs, warranty, utilities, upgrades and misc expenses. It’s a great exercise to look back at the monthly costs. We’re pretty far off from the cost of $200 per month. We saved money by buying used (avoided the 20% immediate depreciation), and our costs per day would be a lot closer to the $200 if we stayed at RV parks all the time. For us, it’s completely worth the costs, similar to rent, as we get to experience the national parks, state parks, ski towns and cities. We have all of our toys with us in the RV. It’s just an amazing experience.

    However, we are not the normal RVer.

  • Mr. Tako July 25, 2018, 11:41 pm

    Great post! I could make similar arguments for most people’s cellphone bills — an extravagance they pay a lot for, but hardly use!

  • Claire73 July 26, 2018, 3:12 am

    We did the maths on buying a place with a second bedroom and decided to stick with just the one. I think people grossly overestimate the number of nights in a year that they would host guests. We can pay for out of town visitors to stay in Air BnB at a fraction of the cost of hosting them in a second bedroom. Actually, we have put them up in a super fancy inner city, city view high-rise apartment that has two bedrooms and stayed there with them. Works out brilliantly.

  • Mobile_mainahs July 26, 2018, 4:03 am

    MMM, thank you for writing this right when I needed it. I live/travel fulltime with my family in our RV while I take travel nursing assignments across the US. In order to get the tax-free per diems I must maintain a tax home which I do by paying fair market rent to my parents. This costs me about $6000/year. Lately we’ve been thinking about buying a small place back in Maine to use as a tax home but I’m wondering if it’s really worth it. Anyone done something similar for their work?

    • Cmdr.Splash August 4, 2018, 5:19 am

      I was recently checking out some RV options and one thing mentioned for full-time work/traveling/RV people was


      which offers South Dakota, residency, mailbox/forwarding services, no income tax, low sales tax, and more. Apparently great for military, truck drivers, travelling nurses, RV`ers who wish to winter elsewhere, etc. Check into it. The “no-state-income tax” alone sounds like a winner if you really don`t need a house attached to earth. Maine surely has higher income and property taxes.

  • Arno July 26, 2018, 4:24 am

    I do that calculation on almost everything I buy (well, except for food/groceries…)

    New car stereo that will work with my phone via bluetooth including phonebook transfer (and maybe crash less when playing MP3s)? I’ve made about 5 calls in the last year from my car, is that worth 80€?

    Three room apartment to have separate living room and computer room? How often would I be using the living room then? Would that be worth the extra 20000€ plus running costs and the extra effort in cleaning?


  • Married to a Swabian July 26, 2018, 4:48 am

    I am a swimmer and have been swimming about three times a week on average my whole life. The only time we had a pool, was an above ground number that came with the first house we bought nearly 25 yeats ago. I spent far more time cleaning and adjusting the chlorine than I did enjoying it. Probably cost $50 / swim! Other than that, I’ve swam in lakes, YMCA and wellness center pools that cost on avg about $4-5 / swim. Still not cheap, but it’s one indulgence and health is important.
    I think guys just love to accumulate and brag about their fucking toys … especially in this country. Your not supposed to brag about, “Hey, I’ve got over a million bucks in the bank and no debt”, but talking about the pool, the new sports car, the plane, the trip to Hawaii, the vaca house – that’s all acceptable somehow. If you can truly afford those things and have millions, good for you. For the rest of us, trying to achieve FIRE, it’s ludicrous.
    We also love to camp and have been camping for decades … still with a tent. Would an RV be nice, of course!
    But why, for God’s sake, would I spend a bunch of money on an RV before I’m retired and can only use it 2 – 3 weeks per year?! The rest of the year it would sit around depreciating, eating up insurance money and requiring storage.

  • Bob July 26, 2018, 6:37 am

    There is something important missing from this calculation though.

    A swim where i live (UK) costs around £5, so $20 is about £15 at the moment. So it’s triple the price.

    However, swimming in a public pool means a bunch of other compromises, including having to share it with others, stick to their opening times, deal with the public changing rooms and so on.

    I would easily pay double to kick everyone else out of the pool when i wanted to go, and for it to open whenever i wanted.

    On top of that, there are some things the public pool can’t do. I can’t take my BBQ down there and have a family lunch by the side of the public pool.

    So yeah, it’s more expensive, but the calculation is not as simple as ‘£5 for a swim vs £15 for a swim’.

    (not that i could fit a pool into my back garden, even if i wanted to!)

  • stephen hand July 26, 2018, 7:04 am

    Volunteering is a great way to still consume things you love without paying for them. We live in an NFL city and are big fans of the team. We’ve seen every game the last two years and will again this year by volunteering with the teams foundation before and after the games. My finance also really likes theatre and live shows. She has been volunteering as an usher for a local theatre for the past year and gets to see any show she wants for free by doing so. She even earns free tickets after so many shows so we still have a proper date night at the theatre every few months. Both of these activities require a little work, but let us enjoy something we love without the typical cost associated.

  • Mr. Shirts July 26, 2018, 7:45 am

    Thank you for posting this and its great to see a post that looks a lot like my favorite MMM classics! The cost per use analysis can go both ways too, there’s occasionally things that are worth paying more for up front to drive the cost per use down (think those of us who have to wear “nicer” clothing like suits to work).

    The amount people spend on pools is absurd to me, we’re the only house on google maps that doesn’t have a pool on our street. We love the pool, but join the local YMCA for three months to get their outdoor pool, a fancy diving board to try acrobatic dives and fall on my face, plus get a break from the heat. We’re happy to pay that $5 to $10 per use for the enjoyment we get out of it, but are more happy to walk away each day without the hassle of cleaning or staring at an unused pool in the winter.

  • Barbaz July 26, 2018, 8:17 am

    Ok, help me with this one:

    I’m renting a 300m² allotment garden for 300€ / year. Plus the cost of gardening equipment, let’s say that’s another 100€ / year. Plus having the garden is a lot of work.

    On the other hand, doing the work is probably healthy. Free fruit and vegetables, maybe worth 50€ / year. It keeps me from spending money on other activities and the quality of relaxation is much higher compared to public parks.

    Let’s say I’ll use it for 30 days per year. Is it a good deal?

    Bonus: In a few years, I could sell my rights to the garden for 5000€. Still a good deal?

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 26, 2018, 3:20 pm

      That sounds like a reasonable deal to me – twelve euros per day for an enjoyable pastime with positive benefits on your city and friendships.

      • Siebrie July 27, 2018, 5:25 am


        It is estimated that a 150m2 garden is large enough to feed a family of 4 for a year (sorry, no source, but check a dedicated allotment website), so you already have more than enough. Your costs are estimated too high, I think, because once you buy the equipment you don’t have to buy new the next year; besides, secondhand stores and websites frequently offer equipment at a pittance (I have paid €1 for my shovel and for my rake – they are still perfectly usable after 10 years).

        What do you do with your fruit and veg? Home canning, freezing, baking, handing out as gifts? Courgettes still sell for €1.50/2 here, so if you have 5 courgette plants, I guess that is your €50 already. Besides, I assume you don’t spray your plants, so you can compare your prices with organically/ethically sourced fruit and veg.

        Which fruit and veg do you grow? Typical supermarket stuff, or more specialist? Leeks vs mangetouts, apples vs raspberries.

  • Darren July 26, 2018, 8:48 am

    Soaking in and breathing chlorine fumes is also bad for your health, especially for children:

  • Gloria Cruz July 26, 2018, 9:02 am

    Perfect timing!
    I’ve been thinking of buying a newer SUV model for our daily up and down Mountain rides to our home.

    I think I’ll just give my 04 Lexus RX 330 a good service maintenance. Cost $500-600. Beats a new loan of $20k for a smoother ride

    Thank you for your continued share of living life minimalist.

    Warm regards
    Cruz Family

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 26, 2018, 3:18 pm

      A good start Gloria, but why not do that ride in a Prius instead? The Lexus SUV is fully depreciated, but it is still a horrible gas guzzler.

    • Married to a Swabian August 2, 2018, 4:22 am

      Car loans are one of the worst Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction …. especially when combined with depreciation and high maintenance costs.

  • Ryan July 26, 2018, 9:27 am

    Mr. Money Mustache,

    Tesla has been getting some bad publicity lately. I have heard and I’ve always suspected that a lot of it is fueled by oil companies. I live in an area dominated by oil right now so it’s been hard for me to find and discuss objective evidence that points toward the oil industry fueling that negative publicity. Can you point us in the right direction? Thanks for all you do!


    • Mr. Money Mustache July 26, 2018, 3:16 pm

      Yup – from what I have read, pretty much ANY Tesla criticism aside from “their financials are a bit risky and the stock price is irrationally high” is bullshit. The products are at least a decade ahead of the rest of the world, and demand reflects that. They deserve worship and support, in my opinion.

      Here’s a neat story about one such anti-Tesla person getting revealed: an oil fund manager was covering his identity in order to spread negative lies about the company: https://electrek.co/2018/07/24/tesla-troll-short-doxxed-oil-industry-musk-calls-boss/

  • Tara July 26, 2018, 10:08 am

    I grew up with a pool in Texas and I was in that pool practically every day from Late March to October, but I know the owners who bought the house after us filled it in, and probably because it was a poured concrete pool that was in desperate need of a very costly replastering.

    If you are in an area where an in-ground pool makes sense (below the freeze/thaw line, so like below Pennsylvania for the North east, below Ohio for Midwest, etc), and you get a fiberglass insert pool, and invest in a variable speed pump and other energy efficient ways to keep costs down, and you are someone who would use it daily, it adds value. Fiberglass is much more costly but doesn’t have the constant maintenance requirements that a poured concrete pool has.

    But if you’re in an area where you have to keep the pool running in the winter because of frozen pipes, stay away from an -in-ground pool. The utility costs alone coupled with the short swimming season mean that you won’t get your monies worth. That is why above ground pools make sense in the north–you can lower the water level enough to be below the filter jets and skimmer (so you don’t have to drain completely), and winterize it for winter. Plus, since they are not permanent, for folks who don’t want a pool when house shopping, above-ground pools don’t negatively affect the resale value (so long as seller agrees to take pool with if that is what the buyer wants). I used to look down upon above ground pools, but now I love them. They’re still costly if you want a good one (plus if you want to add a deck) and they still affect your home-owners’ insurance, but you can come out with a nice one installed for about $5,000-$10,000 all-in depending on size, (and that’s paying for someone to install), which is significantly less than in-ground.

    But in our case, we still don’t have an above-ground as we can get a summer swim membership for around $500 a season which is high, but gives us the swimming we want without any of the work, and since I want my son to grow up swimming, it’s a justifiable expense for us. So while the swim membership is affordable, we can’t justify spending 10 years of membership fees at once for a pool! Maybe if we one the lottery though, lol.

  • Scrooge July 26, 2018, 10:59 am

    People who live in California should also consider property tax reassessment if planning to build a pool. With the run up in real estate values if you’ve lived in your home for awhile you probably have a pretty nice tax basis. Say you’re being taxed on an assessed value of $250,000 and after installing your pool you get hit with a new tax assessment of $750,000. you’re looking at an additional $5,000+ in additional property taxes owed each year in perpetuity.

    • Brent July 29, 2018, 2:07 pm

      Don’t you only get reassessed on the additional value you add?

      When we looked at adding a back-house or add onto a home what my research showed was that property taxes only increased in proportion to the value of what you added.

      E.g. $250k “original” home assessment +30k pool (except in many parts of CA, pools are often much more) = 280k, regardless of current home pricing being near $750k currently.

      Am I off on this?

  • STW July 26, 2018, 11:29 am

    The table is formatted poorly, but you get the picture…

    time cost/year Notes
    Pool 30000 1 1200 appreciation matches inflation, investment outpaces by 4%
    maintainance (chem) 300 1 300
    maintainance (physical) 10 52 520 1 hr/week, $10/hour
    maintainance (repairs) 100 1 100

    Yearly cost 2120

    Usage 3x/week in season 300
    0.5x/week out of season 132.5

    Total Cost/Usage $16 – cost per individual <$8 (in the neighborhood of $5, soon to be in neighborhood of $4).

    Similarly – there is some cost avoided by not having a yard in the back (~2 hours/week of yard labor, n0 monetary cost because I don't keep up the back yard). Similarly, there is some 'intangible' benefit to having a pool/screen/deck to look and play on instead of an unkempt yard. We may only use the pool 3x/week in season (easily 100 days of the year, probably closer to 140), but we use the deck/screen area overlooking the pool daily. We did not use the backyard of the previous house daily.


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Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time or download the mobile app. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

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