262 comments

How to Make a Thousand Bucks an Hour

Another summer evening skate-n-scoot outing with Mini Me

It’s Back to School time here in Colorado, which means both my son and I will be hanging up the swim shorts and kayak paddles and getting back to more serious business for a while.

It has been a slow and endlessly sunny and leisurely summer, and a nice break for both of us, which has been very relaxing and a great time for bonding.

But relaxation has its limits. At some point all that Chilling Out fades its way into Complacency, and our natural Human nature starts to work against us, telling us to conserve energy and not really do much of anything. And laziness begets more laziness, and life actually becomes less fun.

You can see this effect in our activities. I’ve only completed two blog posts over the entire summer holidays, and together we have put out only two YouTube videos. Spending more time at home and less at the MMM Headquarters squat rack has caused me to lose at least five pounds of leg muscle that I had wanted to keep. Little MM has spent a lot less time practicing on the upright bass and putting out songs, and a lot more time playing video games and getting sucked into the “dank memes” and “Trove” channels on Reddit.

It has been a fun break, but as the freshly polished school buses awaken with the sunrise, it will be even more fun to get our own lives cranking into a higher gear as well. And if you’re reading this, it means I am off to a great start!

Complacency Is Expensive

This laziness was affecting my financial life, and your financial life too. I had let thousands of dollars of uninvested cash build up in my checking account, where it was sitting around earning nothing. My credit card bills had come in, been automatically paid, and filed themselves away without me even reviewing them for fraudulent transactions or wussypants spending on my part. And I had a growing mini-mountain of things I need to do regarding insurance, accounting, and legal stuff in both my personal and business domains.

And yet once I got my act together last week, I cleaned up the whole mess and set things straight in less than an hour.

It’s not Just Me, it’s You

When I talk to friends and family, I notice a common theme: they tend to set up certain “hassle” things once, and then ignore them as long as possible unless some absolute crisis comes along and forces them to make a change.

“Oh, I just do all my insurance stuff with Jim Schmidt’s Insurance office downtown, because my parents referred me to him when I first moved out for college.

Even better, his wife Jane runs a loan brokerage, so she handles all our family’s mortgage needs!”

On this surface, this sounds fun and folksy and like a nice way to do business. And that is exactly the way I like to live: keeping my business relationships as casual and fun as I can. But when it comes to money, complacency can come at a price, so at the bare minimum we should find out exactly what price we are paying.

For example, just recently a coworking member came to me and asked for some financial help. And as always, I suggested we start by looking at big recurring expenses. So we dug into the details of her insurance and other major bills streaming in from ol’ Jim and Jane, and found an interesting breakdown:

  • Required liability coverage on a 2010 Subaru Forester: $580 per year
  • Optional collision and comprehensive coverage ($500 deductible): $360 per year
  • Home insurance on a 2000 square foot house ($500 deductible): $1450 per year
  • Mortgage interest on a $300,000 loan at 4.85%:  $14,550 per year
  • Student Loan interest on an old $35,000 student loan at 5.5%: $1925 per year

Total: $18,865 per year.


It’s no wonder my friend was having financial stress – she had interest and insurance costs that were soaking up half of a reasonable annual budget before she could even buy her first bit of groceries or clothing.

So, right there we did a quick round of phone calls and online quotes, and streamlined a bit of the insurance coverage by increasing the deductibles. Within 90 minutes (she did most of the work while I had a beer and swept the floors of the HQ), we had the following new set of options:

  • Subaru liability coverage: $380 per year ($200 savings) through Geico
  • Removal of collision and comprehensive (in the unlikely event of a crash, they could afford to replace the car with less than two months of income) ($360 savings)
  • Home insurance on a 2000 square foot house ($5000 deductible): $650 per year ($800 savings) through Safeco
  • Refinanced mortgage to 3.375% through Credible.com*: $10,125 per year ($4,425 savings)
  • Refinanced Student Loan (also Credible) to 3.85%: $1347 per year ($578 savings)

New total expenses: $12,502 ($6363 per year in savings!!)


It is hard to even express the importance of what just happened here.  My friend just did two hours of work in total while drinking a glass of wine,  and dropped her annual expenses by over $500 per month, or six thousand dollars per year. And she will of course invest these savings, which will then compound to about to about $86,000 every ten years. 

Even if she has to do this annual round of phone calls and websites once per year to maintain the best rates on everything, she will be earning about $3150 per hour for this work. Hence the bold title of this article, which you can now see is very conservative.

The Optimization Council

The first Optimization Council meeting at MMM HQ

So you’re convinced. $3150 is enough to get you to pick up the phone, but how do know who to call? Who is going to be your coach if you don’t live near Longmont and thus can’t just join the HQ and have Mr. Money Mustache tell you what to do?

The great news is that all of this knowledge already exists, right in your own circle of friends. To extract it, you just need to gather them together and get them to talk about it.

Earlier this month, I floated exactly this idea with the members of my coworking space, proposing that we form a group with the witty name “The Optimization Council.”

The Council would meet every now and then to talk through life’s biggest expenses and opportunities, and harvest the wisdom of the group so we can all benefit from the best ideas in each category.

The response to this idea was overwhelmingly positive. So we called a first “test” meeting earlier this month and a small group of us talked through the first few categories, sharing not just names like “I use Schmidt Insurance”, but details like, “We have $250,000 coverage with a $1,000 deductible and our premium is $589 per year.”

The meeting was so lively that we quickly ran out of time, but resolved to meet again soon to figure out more things together. I served as the scribe using a shared google doc – here’s a snapshot of that to give you an idea of our topics:

So Yes. There is some thinking and work involved. But there’s also an opportunity to drastically improve your short term cashflow and long-term wealth, and break your friends out of their cautious shell to help them get the same benefits.

As we learned long ago in Protecting your Money Mustache from Spendy Friends, most people tend towards complacency, and following along with the group. Which leaves a big gaping void at the top of the pyramid where the leadership role waits unfilled.

If you are bold enough to climb into this spot (which really means just sending a few emails and Facebook messages, procuring a box or two of wine, and making a large tray of high-end nachos for your guests), you can all reap the rewards for decades to come.

And instead of avoiding this little chore like a hassle, dive into it like a gigantic shower of fun and wealth. After all, this is pretty much the core attitude of Mustachianism Itself.


In the comments: we can start our own Optimization Council right here. If you have found a good deal on any of the categories of life, feel free to share a quick summary of your location (state), and details of the company and product/service/price that you found is the best. To avoid spam filtering, please use names but not direct links.


A Note about Credible:

Watchful readers may have noticed I also mentioned this company on Twitter recently. After a few months of skepticism that the world needed yet another financial company, I was convinced by some conversations with the people running it and a Zoom video of the customer experience from a senior employee, with some very candid commentary on their design choices.

I like it because they import the lending models from their large supply of hooked-up finance companies, then run the rate comparisons on their own server rather than farming out your personal information to each separate lender. It saves you from filling out multiple applications when collecting rates, and also saves you from getting on everyone’s spam list (they don’t sell your contact information, which is a rare thing among loan search engines).

It was a hard model for them to get going, because the banks naturally want to have your information so they can spam you.  But now that they have a growing presence in the market, lenders are forced to come through Credible to get access to this pool of qualified people. After enough testing with people I knew, I found the experience is worth recommending.

So I also signed this blog up with their referral program  – please see my Affiliates philosophy if you are curious or skeptical about how any of that works!

With all that said, if you want to try it out, here are the links:

Mortgages and Refis

Student Loan Refis – $300 bonus with this link

  • Michael August 26, 2019, 6:46 am

    “The Optimization Council” sounds a lot like community, something native populations would call “normal”. The world most of us have been raised in might be called abnormal, spending all day away at work and commuting to and from the office. Or sitting behind a computer, connecting with others virtually, in place of personal connections.

    It might be a worthwhile exercise for the intelligent, and broad minded to see if the Westernized world really made progress moving away from nature. Take a look back at the native Americans for example. Would that life have been so bad? Waking up with the sun, living amidst the prairies, mountains , lakes and streams. Your days filled with time outdoors in nature and under the sun, providing food and making improvement to shelter would be your day’s work. Then gathering by a fire in the evening with the tribe, telling stories, or simply looking at the stars. No bills to pay, a lot less stress, ample time to spend with family and friends, no TV, or drugs, no need to set an alarm because you wake up with the sun or sleep in. No doubt there would be difficulties with that lifestyle, but I would argue it’s a thousand times better than the life of your average 9 to 5’r.

    We’re at a point in history where we might merge the two lifestyles and take the best of both.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 26, 2019, 1:57 pm

      Yup, that’s exactly why this blog exists: Financial Freedom Through Badassity. Keep the high-tech and high-efficiency clever aspects of our lives, but drop all the bullshit and simplify and spend more time doing physical, social, outdoor stuff.

      Assuming we don’t nuke or bake ourselves in the journey, I do think this is the eventual utopian destination of humanity. We’ll see if we can thread the needle on getting there.

      Reply
  • Patrick Hammond August 26, 2019, 8:35 am

    But Mr Money Mustache,

    You didn’t factor in all the wasted time on hold and being transferred by the telephone advisors… I figure at least 1hr wasted for each productive hour.

    Love your articles as usual.

    Signed, guy who just got dropped after 50 minutes on hold with RBC….

    Reply
  • Joey Graziano August 26, 2019, 8:38 am

    A few years ago I started an “accountability” committee at church for this very reason. Being humans, we tend to gravitate towards what is comfortable. So I saw lots of contracts given to friends instead of competing for the best value. And now, each year we have a “frugal challenge” where the many departments inside the organization compete to see how low we could get expenses each quarter. It’s been a hoot and by consequence, forced us to create solutions instead of swipe a card. That is the key.

    If we can switch our brain to start thinking about innovation rather than short-term conveniences (like spending money every time we want to solve a problem), imaging the improvements we can make in our lives and even communities.
    – Use banana leafs for wrapping vegetables instead of plastic
    – Recycle the water from your sink to use as toilet water
    – Use a solar panel from your roof to charge your electric car overnight
    – Create personal service oriented coupons for your family instead of buying gifts (free babysitting, lawn care, cooking, etc)
    (I stole all of these ideas from things that I read)

    Perfection is impossible, so that only means we can never stop improving! Thanks for the post MMM!

    Reply
  • Rob Nelson August 26, 2019, 9:15 am

    For anyone who still has and needs a landline, you can get a voice over IP box called an OBI200 from Amazon.com for about 50 or $60. You can then pay a service a few dollars a month for 911 capabilities since google does not provide this for free with their Google voiceover IP service that comes free with obitalk. Between the two you can have home service and all your existing landline phones by just connecting the box to your house wiring ( just plug it into any telephone jack in the house ). Be sure to disconnect the telephone street wiring from the house box 1st or you will damage the obi200 electronics.
    I currently pay about two dollars a month for a landline, which I need because I have an alarm system.

    Reply
  • Marlena August 26, 2019, 11:11 am

    I started inputting info onto Credible and I got nervous and they ask for so much information. Any reasons to be concerned?

    Reply
  • Joe August 26, 2019, 12:47 pm

    Any mustachians in Oklahoma?

    Reply
    • Effsysbreak September 5, 2019, 2:21 pm

      Not from Oklahoma, but I’m a short trip across the Red River in northeastern Texas. You might be closer by than you think.

      Reply
  • Nolan Hergert August 26, 2019, 7:41 pm

    I just signed up for the Tello cell phone service. $.01 for each text/minute, $.02/MB[2], with no expiration date on your balance as long as you use it[2]! If you communicate more than I do, then it’s a cheap upgrade to an unlimited plan ($8/mo). Not sure how they make money, but the customer service is good so far. It’s a Sprint MVNO, which might not work for everyone (CDMA).

    To eliminate data usage, I use Google Maps offline for navigation and location lookup and postpone instant “Google it” gratification by sending myself emails to check something when back on wifi . Works great!

    [1] https://tello.com/rates/pay_as_you_go/United%20States
    [2] “Starting September 1, 2017, if you don’t use the service for 3 months, the credit will expire and the Tello service will be disconnected. Otherwise, the balance and your number have unlimited validity as long as you call, text or surf the web.”

    Reply
  • Pace August 26, 2019, 7:43 pm

    Hi MMM –

    Great pic of the first optimization council meeting, but I couldn’t help but notice the glaring lack of diversity. I think you have developed a great service and extremely active community of readers, but it would be great to see a more proactive outreach to more diverse communities, which is likely related to who you invite to have a seat at the table. Just a friendly nudge of encouragement from a supporter.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 30, 2019, 10:21 am

      Welcome to Boulder County, Colorado – and to a lesser extent to the MMM readership! Lots of white male tech workers in their 30s and 40s.

      We welcome all varieties of people to HQ with open arms. But I’m also not going to turn down potential members, just because they look like me on the outside. And these are just the people that happen to want to join.

      As for proactive outreach – I agree that this is an effective strategy. One of the people I know who does this best is Ryan Carson, the guy who started Treehouse Learning (Portland Oregon). I admire his work, but he is also much harder working than me. At this stage in life, my sole advocacy involves exactly what you are seeing here – occasionally typing some shit into the computer.

      Still – challenge appreciated.

      Reply
  • Brian August 26, 2019, 8:12 pm

    If traveling long term AirBNB often has major discounts for stays over 28 days. We were in Costa Rica 2 months and the discount was 70% off the normal daily rate. Some cities also collect a short term rental tax which is automatically collected by AirBNB for staysless than 28 days. By extending our stay in Joshua Tree from 28 days to 31 days it canceled the short term rental tax and we actually got a credit back!

    Reply
  • Travis August 26, 2019, 8:18 pm

    According to WSJ.com, most people are paying too much for Internet. Seems like the basic package is good enough for the majority of internet users.

    Reply
  • JamsODonnell August 27, 2019, 2:15 am

    I’ve been optimizing for the last 4 years, gone from saving pretty much 0 to 18-20k€ per year. I’ve been feeling so lonely in this process, this post almost made me weep. Thanks MMM.

    Reply
  • Katie Camel August 27, 2019, 9:53 am

    I LOVE this idea and want to propose it to my local Choose FI group. I especially love the idea of providing details, i.e., the mortgage loan amount and interest rate versus just a mortgage company. I’ve already done a very cursory review of Credible’s options – so much to consider. So, thanks! :)

    Reply
  • Joe August 27, 2019, 10:49 am

    Hi. Not sure if someone mentioned this yet, or if I’m just pedantic, but you said: “Even if she has to do this annual round of phone calls and websites once per year to maintain the best rates on everything, she will be earning about $3150 per hour for this work.” but this won’t really work annually. Surely you can only get this radical reduction once if you’ve allowed your expenses to creap up to this bad level?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 30, 2019, 10:11 am

      Good point Joe, but I’m not sure if I agree: She saves $3150 EACH YEAR that these savings are maintained. So if she has to spend a couple of hours per year to maintain them, the annual savings could be divided out across those two hours.

      In fact, if she only had to make the calls once and then the savings stuck in place and compounded for ten years as shown in the example box, it would be more like $43,000 per hour.

      Reply
      • Joe August 31, 2019, 9:34 am

        Sure. I guess complacency is your enemy. Here in the UK, insurance cover renews automatically annually, at whatever rate the insurer deems appropriate. So they tend to increase significantly every year. We are blessed with lots of comparison sites you can use to get a quote to switch providers within minutes and you can almost always get a better deal with a new provider than what your current provider is willing to renew at. Keeping loyal customers seems like a foreign concept to them, and they often give new customers crazy offers while always increasing existing customer rates. I’m flabbergasted, it makes no sense. I regress. Over here it’s imperative you spend the time to switch every year, otherwise you’ll find you’re paying double within about 3 to 4 years. So much for retaining loyal customers. Anyway, love reading your blog…

        Reply
  • Shane August 27, 2019, 11:39 pm

    I like following the MMM blog and a few others as they keep me motivated to prioritize the things in life that bring me joy and to remind me that there is a perfectly reasonable way to live that doesn’t require hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    It took me a lot of hard work over the past 17 years, but I finally got to the point this year where I am actually doing what this article says (getting paid $1,000/hr by actual clients for my work). All it took was starting a career out of college making ~$28k/year in 1999, doing that for a couple years then starting at our local state college with a law school at night in 2002 while still working full time in my original career (picture days that start at 6 am and end at midnight or later on school days which was 3-4 days per week). Finish law school in 4 years and get a job at a good size law firm where you can build a reputation. Spend 12 years working just as many hours as I did when I was in law school honing my craft and building a reputation with clients. Fast forward to today and clients are happily paying me $1,000/hr to work on their matters.

    All it takes is some real hard work for ~20 years or so.

    Reply
  • TM August 28, 2019, 6:42 am

    I love this article! I have actually been doing this review a lot more carefully the past 2 years and keep a running total throughout the year in my notes. This was all done over the summer in about a 3 month time span. The ease of doing these types of things these days is incredible. All of these savings were from me basically doing research and transactions all from the internet.
    For 2018:
    Reduced rent $350/mo (4200 yearly)
    Cut cable (1200 yearly)
    Sold financed truck and bought used Odyssey in cash (4800 yearly)
    Car insurance re-evaluation $143/mo (1700 yearly)
    Increased salary (10,200)
    Total Annual savings 2018: $22,100

    In 2019 so far:
    Refinanced mortgage 6 months after purchase (1700 yearly)
    Paid off Verizon financed phones and switched to Mint ($1400 yearly)

    Reply
  • Amy August 28, 2019, 7:08 am

    Hi MMM,

    Thanks for the great piece and reminders! I’m all about putting in the due diligence to gain savings and love seeing how much I can save each month.

    Unfortunately, I immediately get stumped when you say, “she of course invested the savings”. How do you know the best place to go to invest and with whom to handle the transactions?

    I am hesitant on who is best to work with, and find myself in a self-inflicted holding pattern because of this.

    Appreciate any tips!

    Thank you,

    Amy

    Reply
    • Frank August 29, 2019, 5:52 am

      Amy, open a trading account with ac discount broker (E-Trade, td Ameritrade, Schwab) and buy SPY, which reflect the S&P 500 (roughly the stock market), and hold that for years.

      Reply
    • WanderingWhitehursts August 29, 2019, 4:30 pm

      I know there can be considerable anxiety about choosing who to invest with, and how. But honestly, I think the biggest mistake is being sidelined by fear. Even if you chose an investment avenue that is a little more pricey than others, statistically you’ll still be making more money than just leaving it in a savings account while you try to figure out what your next step should be. Just getting it into the market is a big win in and of itself, whether you are invested through Fidelity, Vanguard, or a “Robo” investment manager such as Betterment.

      I’ve seen MMM refer to JLCollins blog, specifically helping folks get comfortable with basic investment strategy. I think it’s worth a read for sure. Start with either https://jlcollinsnh.com/2011/06/08/how-i-failed-my-daughter-and-a-simple-path-to-wealth/ or https://jlcollinsnh.com/2013/06/04/my-path-for-my-kid-the-first-10-years/ If you still find it interesting, the “Stock Series” can get you a little more in depth… https://jlcollinsnh.com/stock-series/

      But lately I’ve found myself telling people that may be a little uncertain or hesitant about stock investing to go to Betterment.com and see what they offer. It’s a relatively affordable way to feel like you aren’t “going it alone”, and makes is super easy, especially if you aren’t as comfortable as others you may find on the MMM forums.

      I hope that helps. Remember, no matter how “smart” the investment decision, it is still subject to risk, and it will go up and down over time. It’s just part of the process. Good luck!

      Reply
  • TheCampGuy August 28, 2019, 8:17 am

    For all those Canuck Mustacians out there… Get a Manitoba Number.
    MTS (Manitoba Telecom Service) has a huge monopoly in the province and forces the other pig players to drive their prices down.
    I’m with Koodo – 5 gigs data, unlimited national/international calls. $40 bucks a month. Less than half of other big telecom companies.

    Reply
  • F8 August 28, 2019, 10:42 am

    Some bad advice.

    Removal of collision and comprehensive (in the unlikely event of a crash, they could afford to replace the car with less than two months of income) ($360 savings)

    Did not consider break even poinst. $360/yr * 10yrs = $3,600.

    Penny wise and pound foolish.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 30, 2019, 10:04 am

      Okay, but what is your poinst here?

      She will save $3600 every ten years. That car is worth about 7 grand today, with the value continuing to decline. If she crashed it tomorrow, a payout in the event of totaling the car would be about 6500. But in that case, your insurance premiums would also rise for a while, making the net payout more like 4500.

      So as long as you total a car less than once every 12.5 years (4500 / 360), it makes sense to self insure. Now, I’m not sure how often the typical person destroys their car – so far I’ve never crashed one in the 28 years I have been driving, but if you estimate your chances are greater than 1 in 12, the insurance would indeed make sense. (As would some advanced driver training courses!)

      Reply
      • Don September 1, 2019, 3:08 pm

        The premium also decreases while the car’s value is declining. And the premium will go up after any crash regardless assuming you are hitting another driver. After the accident, one would re-evaluate the break even point to carry collision with the new increased premiums.

        For example, my break even point (from today’s perspective) for a total loss would be over 50 years. I re-calculate that number during every renewal. But that seems like a good deal to me. For my home owners insurance it’s over 300 years for a total loss. That also seems like a good deal.

        The important thing is to do the math. Even if one could afford to stomach the loss.

        Reply
  • BabyMoney August 28, 2019, 1:59 pm

    Quick hack for you Republic Wireless users, if you work in education, in any capacity ,not just a teacher but and admin or maintenance worker or anything Republic will give you a %50 educator discount. Check it out.

    Reply
  • Michelle August 29, 2019, 6:26 am

    For Verizon Wireless customers who are still in the grind or have a loved one who is – check to see if Verizon offers an employer discount. I get a 10% discount with my son’s employer. All I had to do was to add my son as an authorized user to my Verizon account and upload his most recent paystub (maybe 2?). I review my bill every six months and the discount is still there.

    I am not a fan of making phone calls or negotiating so I work with BillCutterz and AskTrim. (yes, simultaneously). They both only get paid if they secure savings. BillCutterz has negotiated over $1,000 in savings for me over the past four years. AskTrim is fairly new and all AI driven and have saved me about $130 this past year.

    For biz owners using Apple products – talk to your local Apple store. They are always happy to get people set up with business discounts. I can’t recall what my discount is because I did it so long ago and I’ve never used it. (I bought my last MBP off of eBay for an even better savings)

    Reply
  • MoMan August 29, 2019, 12:36 pm

    In Houston, after a couple of decades with State Farm, we switched to Amica for home and auto. If my math is correct, we save approximately 1 buttload each year.

    Another huge savings for us has been attic insulation. We were all prepared to rent a machine and do it ourselves, then found out a contractor (I believe via Home Depot) with much better equipment and experience would do it for us for about the same price, and probably much faster. We used to have July/August/September electric bills approaching $300/month. Our most recent (July/Aug.) was about $130.

    Reply
    • Ryan Bray September 4, 2019, 11:46 pm

      I found that with Amica, I was actually spending a bit more (even factoring in the yearly dividend) than the “cheap” options, but QUALITY of service when you needed it was night and day compared to Geico/Progressive/AmFam/etc.

      Reply
  • Frank August 29, 2019, 1:38 pm

    Amy, open an account with any discount brokerage (etrade, TD Ameritrade, Schwab, etc.) and buy SPY, assuming you want to invest in the stock market. SPY tracks the S&P 500 (broadly, the stock market), and that way you don’t pay a bunch of fees that eat into your returns. Then hold on to the SPY for years.

    Reply
  • WanderingWhitehursts August 29, 2019, 4:53 pm

    This is a little more than a few hours work, so perhaps beyond the scope of an article like this… But many people have learned to save big by restructuring their lives completely and living full time in an RV (motorhome, 5th wheel, travel trailer all included). We’ve been RV living for over 3 years, and I’m often reminded of how freeing this life can be, particularly with finances.

    I think it’s a great way to kick start savings as an adventurous young 20-something. I’ve met an Apple programmer that worked entirely from home (his modest RV), while living in Thousand Trails campgrounds (a membership that can run you about $3,000 up front and $600 per year thereafter). His living expenses, including “rent” and “utilities” all fell under the $600 annual membership fee. A six figure income then easily becomes six figure savings since you need only pay for food and gas for towing around the trailer from time to time.

    Even RVing in luxury, as we have grown accustomed to, it can still be crazy cheap, so long as you don’t buy a new RV every few years. We moved to Lake Tahoe to ski for three months this past winter, staying free at our membership campground (less than $600 per year dues) for our stay. Generous military discounts allowed our family of five to ski for the entire season for $300 total lift ticket costs (three $100 season passes, the other two kiddos two young to pay). Most families would spend twice as much for a single ski weekend, let alone the entire season.

    And since our Tahoe “vacation”, we stayed for a few months ON THE BEACH near Malibu, CA ($1200/mo, but free for us through a sort of work-camp arrangement), with trips to Yosemite and Pinnacles National Park, the Grand Canyon, and all sorts of great stops thus far this year. The full-time RV life can be a gem of experiences combined with low cost living, and is definitely not something that should only be for retirees, early or otherwise.

    And whenever an RV maintenance expense crops up (and they do quite often), I need only hear a story of a family member dropping $30,000 for new house siding, $10,000 for a fence, or some other extreme expense that exceeds my entire home cost that reminds me some of why this type of life is so great.

    A nice used, smaller sized travel trailer can easily be had for $5,000-$10,000. Larger full family RV’s easily for $15,000. It typically won’t take more than a year to get that all back in savings, and then just socking away the dough thereafter (or slowing down on the paid work, if that suits you better).

    Reply
  • Carolyn August 30, 2019, 10:28 am

    Can we get that nachos recipe?? 😋

    Reply
  • Kristi Pedler August 30, 2019, 1:06 pm

    If you have a college-aged child, call your car insurance company. Many will discount the bill if the car doesn’t go to college with the kid. We saved $400/year with 1 phone call.

    Reply
  • Sarah August 30, 2019, 7:32 pm

    Re: phones,
    We use MetroPCS, which uses T-mobile towers.
    2 phones, 2GB each data, of course text and calls included.
    $50/month

    Sharing because I looked at Republic and Google Fi and neither was better. They offer unlimited data plans as well ($80/month for 2 lines).

    We’ve had this service for 2+ years, got 2 decent Samsung phones free when we signed up (still using them), and the service has been great.

    I believe for one phone it would be $30/month.

    Reply
  • Faith August 30, 2019, 8:34 pm

    If vasectomies are on the agenda, then the diva cup should also be on the agenda. Why is every frugal/environmental blog not talking about the diva cup? It cuts a recurring expense that seems ‘fixed’ such as tampons and pads, it’s the most environmentally friendly because it gets washed and reused every month and it lasts for years without needing replaced. The diva cup is Optimization, frugality and environmentalism at their finest.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2019, 1:18 pm

      Yes! A great point and a weakness of our male-heavy optimization council.

      For curious people, the physics involved mean Diva Cups are not for everyone, but when it works it is such a big improvement it is very worth trying it out.

      Reply
  • Paul August 31, 2019, 3:01 pm

    I just read this one and made a gain of about $700 over the next year, by A) Finally moving my emergency fund to a higher-rate Online Savings account, and B) Starting a new rewards CC based on the MMM-recommends page. Thanks MMM!

    Reply
  • Jenny Vitti September 1, 2019, 8:43 pm

    Home owner’s insurance: Lemonade
    I live in Atlanta in a condo, and my annual home insurance is $303 (that’s $25.25/month). I’ve heard that their renter’s insurance starts at $5/month.

    Dwelling = $50k (this covers the studs in; my HOA fee covers insurance for the exterior of the building)
    Personal Property= $20k (the lowest they would go, and it’s still more than it would cost to replace all my things with brand new versions in case of fire/really impressive burglary/etc. — one of the benefits of not having a lot of stuff!)
    Loss of Use = $10k
    Liability = $500k
    [some other coverages included]
    $1000 deductible

    Reply
  • aquac September 2, 2019, 9:55 pm

    Read the blog – 2 mins
    Googled GEICO call center hours – 2 sec
    Called Geico (own shares through VTI) – 8 mins
    PS: GEICO is awesome! Applied the discount retrospectively; no need to upload documents, they’ll verify on their end
    Discount – $56.7/6 month for 10 mins work!

    Allow me to reciprocate by sharing a useful hack with the comments section audience of MMM.. lol

    If you have a work cell phone,
    1. Transfer your personal number to Google voice ($10 one time cost)
    2. Link auto call/text/voicemail forward to work number (takes just minutes)
    and Voila, No cell phone bill for life!
    3. Bonus tip – Load a few credits in it – international calling at 1 cents/minute
    (you can try tip #3 on your personal line as well if you pay a ridiculous amount for international calling)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 5, 2019, 11:54 am

      Thanks and congrats, Aqua C. But can you explain that a bit more clearly? What do you mean by “link auto call/text/voicemail forward to work number”?

      You still need some way for the black glass computer in your pocket to connect to the various mobile phone towers around the world, and this is not free, right?

      Reply
      • MrMelmoth September 12, 2019, 2:03 pm

        I think this was just a clever way to use an employer-paid work cell phone to accept calls from a personal cell phone number, too (after doing this, you can sell your old cell phone).

        Reply
  • Mike C September 4, 2019, 4:06 pm

    If there are any Canadian MMM readers who are not yet aware, the RedFlagDeals forum is a great resource to help live a Mustachian life. I’ve mainly used their forums for comparing mobile phone plans and getting tips on how to get better-than-posted phone plans, but I haven’t really scratched the surface of that site.

    Reply
  • Ryan Bray September 4, 2019, 11:43 pm

    Just upgraded my Amex to Blue Cash Preferred. Yes, it has a $95 yearly fee, but with 6% back at grocery stores, the 3% bump from the free version on our $400 monthly grocery bill more than makes up for the fee. Literally took 30 seconds to upgrade from an email offer they sent me.

    Century link for internet vs. Comcast. I know you get to enjoy NextLight up in Longmont, but here in Boulder we’re stuck with Comcast or Centurylink.

    So far, while I don’t get speeds as fast as Comcast, CenturyLink has proven quite stable, 2/3 the speed at half the cost, their “price for life” deal is true to their word (no yearly haggling or bundling up-sell shpeel to listen to), and best of all you aren’t giving your money to the most hated company in America! $45+ a month saved.

    And finally, fight for your healthcare costs!

    Recently got a bill for lab testing that would cost about $3000 for something the hospital said should only cost $200. Needless to say, the company I work for is large enough to have a health insurance rep to question. Here’s hoping they can bring this charge more in-line with our expectations! If it works, that’s $2800 for less than a minute of my time.

    Reply
  • Debbie September 5, 2019, 8:51 am

    Thank you to whoever mentioned prepaid Verizon plans. I just switched and am saving $55 a month!

    Reply
  • GailNYC September 8, 2019, 3:00 pm

    I have a bit of cash in an online savings account for times when I need cash in a hurry. Recently I switched from Capital One (1%) to American Express Savings (1.9%). It took me under one hour to nearly double my savings rate. (Before I Googled, I didn’t even realize AmEx HAD savings accounts!)

    Reply
  • Louie September 9, 2019, 12:04 pm

    I wonder if it would be possible to get group rates for small group of households like your Optimization Council (or better yet a legion of Mustachians). There could be some added buying power with 5 or 6 (or a legion of) prospective accounts. That may get too complicated but its and interesting thought. There is a little more weight to throw around there. Maybe MMM already does this? Have you formed a “buyers club” of some kind?

    Reply
    • Cormac September 12, 2019, 8:18 am

      What a great idea. So basically bargain as a syndicate for better deals? Could this be the future of consumption where we form communities and bargain hunt accordingly?

      Reply
  • Just Me September 9, 2019, 6:22 pm

    Home phone: Ooma $5.60/per month.

    Cell: Google Fi $30/mo

    TV: Roku (free)

    Books: Libby though library (free)

    Internet: Sadly, Comcast is the only game in town…$80/mo

    Reply
    • Lev September 20, 2019, 5:18 pm

      Even if Comcast is the only player, $80 a month is outrageous.
      I’d recommend at least check their website for the cheapest possible plan – speed increase not worth the money they charge for in 99% of situations.
      Or better yet, check their new customer promotions, they usually have like $20-$30 a month service for first 12 months, and sign on with such a promotion using your wife’s name. Don’t forget to stop your service though :)

      Reply
  • Scott Dyk September 10, 2019, 9:27 am

    While I in no way think you are wrong, I think there is an important note concerning re-financing loans. If someone is 5 years into a 30 year loan, they will look at re-financing, and see that it saves them $X/month. Some of the savings are from a lower interest rate, but often some of the savings are from extending the loan from the 25 years they have remaining to 30 years. So their savings are not as large as they thought.

    In your example, the numbers show they are starting a 30 year mortgage right now, which doesn’t seem like a realistic example ….

    Monthly matters, but you should also consider interest over the life of the loan.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 12, 2019, 8:48 am

      Exactly – as with any loan, you should ignore the monthly “payment” number and only look at the portion of that which is INTEREST. Then optimize this down as low as you can get it. Even if you have to drastically increase your payment to get a lower interest rate (like in situations where 15 year loans are offering lower rates).

      Reply
  • Paolo Biondi September 11, 2019, 8:45 am

    Hi there !

    When is the The Optimization Council google doc will be available?
    I’m very interested in the parenting/kid hacks subjects.

    Thanks

    Paolo from Italy

    Reply
  • Jwan September 11, 2019, 9:03 am

    Good article, thank you.

    I have a question and hope you can clarify.

    What interest rate are you using when you say that money invested will return $86,000 every ten years?

    Reply
  • Osama Khalid September 11, 2019, 3:36 pm

    We just had our first Optimization Council meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: https://www.meetup.com/Riyadh-FIRE-Group/events/264523750/
    The amount of experience and advise that can be elicited by just asking the question of financial optimization is really tremendous.
    Thank you, MMM for the great suggestion!

    Reply
  • Michelle Downing September 12, 2019, 8:58 am

    I just made $435 by switching from State farm to Geico for 2 cars + homeowners insurance. Our insurance costs were already so low I would not have thought it possible for them to be lower, but Geico came through for us. Thanks for the idea and motivation!

    Reply
  • MrMelmoth September 12, 2019, 6:05 pm

    Great idea! I’ve actually always wanted to do something like this but never imagined how it would actually work until now. I’m going to try starting a similar group with my nearby friends. Then my own money-saving hack ideas and numbers just started flowing… I’ll put some info in separate posts to better handle it all. I’ve a large family in the Sacramento area of California and just one income, and thanks to MMM, we’re doing pretty well financially.

    MORTGAGES
    Primary = 3.25% 20-yr. fixed. I’m actually just barely finishing up a refinance this week, using OptimumFirst Mortgage. I previously had a 3.75% 30-yr. fixed for the last 3 years. The new loan had no points and cost about $1,000 for various fees (origination charges, credit report, title fees, and gov’t fees). I got an appraisal waiver! (ask for it!)

    TIP 1: My recent refi cost less than advertised since I met a key 60% LTV threshold. I’d suggest that if your estimated property value puts you anywhere close to 60% LTV, start shopping around for a better rate!

    TIP 2: I found this lender on bankrate.com. I’d suggest checking bankrate.com several times a day and taking note of the results you see to recognize the best deals as it seems the lenders change every few hours.

    RENTAL = 3.25% 30-yr. fixed, from about 3.5 years ago (set up as primary, at the time). Before moving to my current larger home, I refinanced with this rate, took cash out to leave the minimum 80% LTV to avoid PMI, and used this cash as a down payment for my current home.

    Reply
  • MrMelmoth September 12, 2019, 6:06 pm

    cont…
    RENTAL PROPERTY
    I use Cozy.co free property management software to streamline application, screening and rent collection. Specifically, I list property details on Zillow.com and craigslist.com (with no phone number). I refer applicants (who contact me via email) to my application on Cozy.co (free for me and them). If they appear qualified, I contact them to schedule a showing, then if they’re still interested, I use Cozy.co to request they pay for a background check and credit report. I get the reports less any highly confidential data, all through Cozy.

    Renters use Cozy for deposit, first-month, and automatic monthly rent payments directly from their checking account to my checking account–all this also for free (Cozy just makes a bit on the background checks / credit reports as well as dime by floating my rent payment money for a week before depositing in my account). Well worth it as I love not dealing with mailed physical checks, late payments (by making the automated option so easy for them), risk to both parties of nonrepudiation for payments made / not made, etc.

    Reply
  • MrMelmoth September 12, 2019, 6:10 pm

    cont…
    INSURANCE – AUTO, HOME & UMBRELLA
    USAA’s bundled rates seem unbeatable, that I can find. USAA is not just for active/former military! If you or your spouse have a living US military veteran parent or grandparent, help them join USAA, get them an auto insurance policy, then their child (you or your spouse) can join. Then, you and your children (and their children, perpetually!) can enjoy the benefits! All my auto, home, and umbrella insurance is with USAA.

    AUTO = $578 / 6 months ($96.33/mo.) I have just one car, a 2017 Kia Sedona (bought used, paid cash) w/ comprehensive and collision w/ $1k deductible, $300k/500k bodily injury liability (and same uninsured motorist bodily injury), $100k property damage, and uninsured motorist property damage. These were higher than otherwise as required for the umbrella policy. I’ll probably reduce coverage to just liability in a couple years.

    HOME = $759 / 12 months ($63.25/mo.) for $535,000 coverage, 15% earthquake deductible, 5% other covered perils deductible (the max) and $1M personal liability (required for umbrella policy). I’ve shopped around periodically and can never find better. Maybe it’s just expensive for California generally.

    RENTAL = $539 / 12 months w/ 10% earthquake deductible, $10k other covered perils deductible and $1M personal liability.

    UMBRELLA = $152 / 12 months for $1M coverage (I figured worth it w/ rental property, and I deduct as rental-related expense since I wouldn’t have it otherwise).

    Reply
  • MrMelmoth September 12, 2019, 6:12 pm

    cont…
    LIFE INSURANCE
    $150/yr. NET for a 20-year $1M term policy. Without the below benefits, full cost is $442/yr.

    Why not get paid to exercise and keep healthy! Check out the John Hancock w/ Vitality PLUS Program. It’s worth it to me at least for a few years while I’ve got 5 young kids and one income, as I build up my savings to eventually self-insure. This plan rewards me to stay healthy. By tracking and submitting points, annual biometric screening… get “platinum” status for lowest rates (regular bike commuting gets me more than enough points). Benefits:

    Fitness Tracking Devices
    When first joined, got a free $130 Fitbit Alta to encourage regular physical activity. A couple years ago, they offered a $300 Apple Watch Series 2 for just $40 (the cost of just the taxes), with no other payments as long as you track regular exercising for a couple years. In a couple months, I’ll probably get a $400 Apple Watch Series 4 for just $25 plus tax, then no payments if I keep tracking regular exercise for 2 years. Link to John Hancock Vitality Watch Info

    Other Benefits
    * $119/yr Prime Membership = FREE (if already a Prime member, they just added a year to your membership, which will postpone your next year’s membership dues) Link to Amazon Prime Promo Code (apparently also offered for some AT&T internet, Frontier internet and Sprint Mobile customers). This comes available after getting their “Platinum” level for 3 consecutive years. So easy to do!

    * $5/mo. in Amazon Gift Cards – By completing 10 “workouts”, you “spin” a wheel in their app and get prices, and this is what I’ve won on average.

    Reply
  • MrMelmoth September 12, 2019, 6:14 pm

    cont…
    CELL PHONES
    We’ve a family of iPhones, which has its pros and cons. We always get them used. I negotiated to have an employer-paid phone for me (Free!). My wife and daughter also have phones:

    WIFE: PureTalk USA (AT&T GSM MVNO), $33.20/mo. (incl. taxes & fees) for 3GB data and unlimited talk/text w/ iPhone. We got a used AT&T booster which ensures great signal which was otherwise a bit weak inside our house. If your usage is less than 1 GB of data, then their $25/mo. plan provides 1GB data and unlimited talk/text. For 5GB is $35, with even higher plans available.

    If you don’t know anyone already using PureTalk, you can use this link:
    https://puretalkusa.com/r/5f7d6423
    and get you and me a $20 statement credit each! After you sign up, you can share your own link with your friends/family to get yourself unlimited additional $20 credits.

    Additional lines take 10-20% off the total bill
    I’m always shopping around for the best MVNOs and love iPhones. I’ve previously used AirVoice Wireless for years and have tried Mint. It seems better than Google Fi, at least at the moment…? Unless your data usage varies greatly month-to-month (i.e., use less than 1GB), in which case Google Fi would be cheaper in some months vs. a fixed cost plan.

    OLDEST KID: Red Pocket, $5/mo. (prepaid $60 for a year), buy on eBay. Provides 50MB/mo. data, 100 minutes, 100 texts on old iPhone 5. She mostly does free calls/texts on Wi-Fi but has this just for emergencies.

    Reply
  • MrMelmoth September 12, 2019, 6:15 pm

    cont… (last one! :)
    INTERNET
    $51.95/mo. for 15Mbps is… Comcast. I can’t seem to ditch them for anything equivalent or better. Only other option where I live is Frontier, which seems to have very poor reliability and worse customer service, in comparison.

    COLLEGE SAVINGS
    529 accounts for each kid, index funds, automatic rebalancing based on their age. Utah’s plan “my529” seemed the best (i.e., using all Vanguard index funds and lowest fees).

    MEDICAL
    I max out an employer-sponsored FSA for 100% braces cost for 3 kids so far paid pre-tax. I negotiated with the orthodontist to make payments only in January of each year so I only have FSA-based payments. Later, after kids are older, I’ll probably go with an HSA (w/o FSA option).

    Hope this info helps others out! Let’s keep the sharing going!

    Reply
  • PattiCake$ September 16, 2019, 9:45 am

    I live in Michigan in the Metro Detroit area, and auto insurance is astronomical here! I believe it’s the highest in the US due to it being a no fault state. I pay $171 a month for ONLY liability and uninsured motorist on a 2001 Buick Century, and I’m 53 years old with a good driving record. My credit is not great, but I’m in the process of getting it cleaned up. It is also a requirement here to have continuous coverage for a minimum of 6 months without lapsing, which I did recently. Root does not do business here yet, and it will be another year (at least!) before some changes to car insurance are supposed to be made here. Geico also doesn’t really insure anyone here. You have to apply on a paper application and mail it in, which I tried when I moved here from LA almost 8 years ago, and they denied me.

    HELP!!! Does anyone have any suggestions? Thank you in advance!

    Reply
    • Paul September 17, 2019, 11:24 am

      Have you or anyone in your family ever served in the military? USAA might give you a better deal.

      Reply
  • Paul David Peters September 16, 2019, 3:24 pm

    This is one of my favorite MMM posts ever, mainly because I saved $988.00 per year with about 2 hours worth of research and phone calls on my car and auto insurance. That’s $494.00 per hour! Can’t wait to dive into the rest of my finances :)

    Reply
  • Marisa September 22, 2019, 12:46 am

    I have found that Country Insurance has far cheaper rates for home and auto than Geico. Also, a good mortgage broker does exactly what Credibly does for home mortgage and is also, often cheaper.

    Reply

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