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Exposed! Mr. Money Mustache’s 2019 Bachelor Spending!

Purchases like this really blow my budget.

These days, I do a fair amount of informal financial coaching for both old friends and newer acquaintances. 

It’s a pretty amazing experience, almost as if I were a real doctor – people let down their guard and talk about the details of their financial lives, without the usual hangups and secrecy that tend to plague our society when it comes to the subject of money.  

Often, even taking this first step is a huge leap towards creating a more wealthy and prosperous life. Money conversations are not something we should reserve only for our paid professional advisers. We should speak about it openly with our friends and family, and support each other in a lifelong quest to make the most of our lives.

Through these hundreds of little sessions, I have started seeing a pretty consistent pattern:

  1. People who struggle with money see the whole subject as a swirling, confusing mess. Income and spending, debt and retirement accounts are everywhere. They describe the situation in a long, meandering paragraph. 
  2. People who are good with money have this stuff more mentally sorted. They can quickly list their income, their assets and debts, and most importantly they know how much money they spend each year.
  3. People who have been good with money for a long time have moved even further. They might not track it very closely, but they still maintain a growing surplus – because living well within their means is just a natural habit, which means there is no conceivable way they can run out of money in their lifetimes. People in this category sometimes need to be coached away from the habit of being too “cheap”, and towards making the most of the opportunity of a lifetime.

As an MMM reader, you are headed straight for Option #3 above.

But you may have to move through #1 and #2 to get there, which means sorting things out and tracking your spending. 

Tracking Your Spending is Fun, Useful, and Easy (Yes, really!)

I can already hear your collective groan as I give you this prescription, but adding up your past year’s spending is one of the most useful things you can do with a Saturday morning, and here’s why:

  • You can see where your money is going to waste and where you can make really easy improvements that completely change the course of your life
  • You will get the courage to switch jobs, houses, cars, and other life decisions as your fuzzy swirling financial paralysis transforms to a crystal clear understanding of money – one of life’s most useful and fun tools.
  • You can immediately see how much money you will need to retire. (just take your annual spending and multiply it by 25 as recommended by the 4% rule)

I’ll show you my spending if you show me yours.

Road Trippin’ in a Tesla. I keep this cost low by bartering carpentry or business help with Tesla-owning friends, or renting them on Turo.

Now for the fun part. I like to think that I live in “Category 3” of that list above – most of my major life expenses (housing, cars, health, food, clothing) are lower than average, because I have simple tastes and I love optimizing things.

Meanwhile, I have several sources of income which add up to many times more than my living expenses (stock index funds, real estate investments, this website, and side hustles like carpentry and operating the MMM HQ coworking space.) 

So I haven’t been tracking my spending for a while. But a couple of years ago I went through a major life change – the former Mrs. MM and I split up and moved to separate households in the same neighborhood.

With the old routines shaken up, and new things like hosting more parties, outfitting a new home and increased friend/family/long-distance-relationship travel, how has my bachelor spending been transformed?

It’s time to find out.

How Do You Track Your Spending?

My expenses are really easy to track: I funnel all my spending through a rewards credit card, which saves me about $2000 each year. (in 2019 I used the two highest-paying cards from Capital One which you can find here.)

Meanwhile, I hook up a third party financial app to automatically monitor these transactions, alert me to any unusual activity, and – the best part – automatically categorize and add everything up for me. I’ve been using one called Truebill for a couple of years*, and it has the simplest interface of anything I’ve tried – you get results like this:

Recent screenshots from my own Truebill account. (Sorry about all that cash sitting around earning nothing, I will put those little green employees to work ASAP!)

Truebill is great for tracking and improving spending, and you can also track with Personal Capital, which I have used for the last five years or so mostly for keeping tabs on all my net worth (see my 2013 article on that).

BUT you can also all this quite easily with no apps at all, just by downloading the full list of your 2019 transactions from your bank and opening it up as a spreadsheet. In Capital One (which I also use for my checking account), I just clicked on each account and there is a link for “Download Transactions” right at the top of my transactions list.

For me, it was extra easy because I used the same bank for both checking and credit cards, so everything shows up on a single login screen like this – kudos for Capital One for doing this so well since most banks have pretty bad websites:

Lots of useful stuff on my capital one home screen (don’t worry, balances and account numbers, etc. have been modified for public sharing)

So whether you use an app or a conventional spreadsheet, tracking your spending is quite useful, to know where you are now.

But the biggest message to take home from the result this:

These are not your “living expenses.” This is your current level of spending, something that is entirely under your control.

There is always a trick for everything, and you get to decide how many of these tricks to apply.

For my part, I try to use only the tricks that save me money and make my life better in some way. For example, I do my own carpentry and I use my own legs for transportation, because these are a win/win for me. But I do pay an accountant to do my taxes for me. Your own choices may be completely different, but it’s important and empowering to use that word – choices.

Special Notes Before I Share This

Many fun and even “fancy” things in life don’t have to show up as expenses – like parties at the MMM HQ, which is actually a business rather than an expense.

The table below will shock some, offend others, and hopefully inspire you to at least consider a few new things. But because of my unique life situation, I have made a few unusual choices. I’ll explain them in advance so the table will make more sense.

Do I really have zero medical expenses?

Yes, and I have for my whole life – this is a probably combination of dumb luck (genetics) and hopefully-smart luck (I made a guess that 1-8 hours of outdoor physical work, bikes, barbells and salads every day would be good for my health and so far it seems to be working.) But I know this is not a lifelong guarantee, because there are no guarantees.

What about kid related expenses?

My little 13-year-old is pretty low-maintenance these days: he develops stuff on the computer, plays the bass and rides scooters with friends. When we are together, we do these same things along with hikes and bike rides and the odd road trip. Other kids are into more expensive activities and that is wonderful if they enjoy it and you can afford it. This table includes the half of his food and necessities that I pay for, but does not include any money that changes hands between Former Mrs. MM and myself over these final four years of our co-parenting project. However, I am infinitely grateful for how happy and cooperative our arrangement has become, and suffice it to say that nobody needs to feel sorry for either of us in the financial sense either.

How can you even sleep, with no house insurance and no health insurance?

This really depends on your personality type – and mine may be unusual in this regard. I simply don’t worry much about things like theft, accidents, fires, disasters or anything else. I certainly know they are possible, but my mind thinks in statistics and probabilities rather than emotions or fears. In other words, I’m a bit of a robot. And the robot in me says, “On average you will make a profit and you can afford any worst-case consequences, so why buy insurance?”

For people in situations where losing a material possession would be a big deal, insurance may be appropriate. But I also still like the old-school advice of “don’t buy stuff that you can’t afford to lose, and take really good care of the stuff that you do have.”

But this will all be covered in more detail in an upcoming article about health insurance, including an interesting new option I am just about to try this year.

What Else Are You Hiding From Us?

My businesses pay for some stuff (blog-related trips, this computer, tools, etc.) that happens to be fun for me too – this may prevent me from spending personal money on other fun stuff.

Charitable donations, which now total over $300,000 (see previous article), are also not part of what I consider spending. To me, these are a reallocation of a good part of this website’s income to causes that need it more than me. But I probably wouldn’t be brave or badass enough to give away much money, if I were only earning the bare minimum needed to cover my lifestyle spending in the chart below.

And I don’t include income taxes in my spending, because if someone really lived on a level of retirement income to cover even twice this level of spending they would pay no tax. In my situation, I do earn more than I spend, and pay plenty of tax on it. But much like the charitable donations described in the last article, I think of income tax as just another way of contributing a small portion of this super-lucky surplus back to society.

It’s really not a big deal – and I find that statement to be true in all areas of life: as you get older and your material desires drop away, fewer and fewer things seem like a big deal.

Okay, let’s get into it!

MMM’s 2019 Bachelor Life Spending
(all figures are for the full year)

CategorySpendingComments
Housing
Mortgage + Insurance0Bought the current house ($315k) with cash, and I have been self-insured on houses for the last 5 years or so. Not for everyone but it feels right for me.
Property Taxes$1735My current place is a 3Br/2Ba home in an “up and coming” (i.e. working class) central area. Downside: pickup trucks everywhere. Upside: cheap to buy, and located on creek and bike path. Walk/ride everywhere!
Maintenance and Renovation$4699Renovated my kitchen (IKEA), plus assorted painting + lights
Utilities – City$1227Electric + Water + Trash service. Average electric = $24/month including electric car charging.
Utilities – Heat$353Natural Gas service (incl. hot water)
Household Items $294Things like lamps, picture frames, vegetable peelers, wine glasses at places like Target.
Total Housing$8308
Food
Groceries$4615Mostly fresh, organic higher-end stuff. For one active man and 1/2 time of a growing teen boy. Costco/Sam’s whenever possible, plus Whole Foods for more specialized items, and because it’s within walking distance.
Restaurants$910Many more nights out in this new life – expensive but fun.
Beer/Wine/etc$203
Total “Food$5728
Medical Care
Health Insurance$0I decided to self-insure for 2019 as an experiment (because the US coverage mandate was removed), to see if I found it stressful/scary. Article on this to come!
Medical Bills$0Had a truly fortunate year again – capping 45 years with just about zero medical costs so far. Will not take this for granted!
Dentist$0Confession: I have only been ONCE in the last 25 years. Complacent because I’ve never had a cavity. Teeth are fine and clean. Am I pushing my luck?
Automotive
Gasoline$22.621999 Honda Odyssey – used mainly for construction hauling. I do lend it frequently to friends, but they return it full of gas. But I walk and bike for all of my in-town transportation.
Maintenance$0She had a perfect year (although with low mileage, car breakages are rare)
Car Registration$545For van, cargo trailer, and Nissan Leaf shared with former Mrs. MM
Insurance$397Mainly for the Leaf because it includes comprehensive (long story) – this is my half of the shared policy cost. Still using Geico and it’s great.
Automotive Total$965
Travel Total$3702Plane tickets, car rentals, airport transport. Interestingly, most accommodation was “free” due to staying with friends, credit card points and AirBnb Referrals.
Entertainment$400Plays, Books, Netflix, Google Play movie rentals, even a couple Oculus VR video games.
Mobile Phone$300I’m still on Google Fi. It’s $20 per month+data, a solid value for lower data users – I like the free international coverage.
Internet$600This is expensive because we buy Longmont’s gigabit fiber internet, but well worth it for a household of blogger/video gamer/youtubers.
Total$21,470Hey, not bad!
Total “Barebones” $13,068My real (still luxurious) living expenses without the travel and $5000 kitchen renovation. Still includes restaurants, booze, cars, gadgets from Amazon, and living in a 3 bedroom detached house!
……………………….……………

So, What Now?

Well, this was a pleasant surprise. I had felt like I was living a total billionaire’s life in 2019, because it has been so packed with interesting people and places and experiences. I always buy whatever I want – after considering whether it will really make me happier – and this leads to a feeling of almost dizzy abundance. But I guess abundance just isn’t that expensive.

2020 is shaping up to be an even bigger year of personal growth and better friendships and hard work. I’m drawing up the plans for an exorbitant second-story deck off of my bedroom. The Tesla Model Y comes out in just a few months, and I am in love with it.

It could get expensive.

Stay tuned and I will let you know how it goes!

In the Comments: do you track your own annual spending? If so, how did you do last year? If not, what is your reason?

*About Truebill: I heard from Haroon Mokharzada as he was just founding the company, and was impressed with his background of seeming to be on the “good guys” team. So I have been a casual user ever since, just to follow their progress. The Truebill service/app is now good enough that I can see it being useful for many people – not just for tracking spending. And they have a sizable development team and a large and growing base of happy users. Nice job y’all!

Affiliate notice: While I have no financial relationship with Truebill, this blog may get a commission for other recommendations within this page, including Personal Capital, Airbnb and the credit card recommendations. And many thanks if you do use them!

  • John January 28, 2020, 8:35 am

    My 25 year old healthy son is one of those people who would think they don’t need health insurance and could self insure. Except unknown to anyone, it turned out he wasn’t so healthy and had a brain tumor. He would be bankrupt if he didn’t have insurance.

    Reply
  • Stewart January 28, 2020, 9:28 am

    Hey MMM, thanks for sharing your spending once again! I have a question about one category I didn’t see included, which is “gifts”. I find that as my income and family/social circle grows, there is a corresponding increase in gift giving and receiving, which obviously peaks around the Christmas holidays.

    I am wondering if gifts are already factored into your spending in other categories and if you have tips for how to deal with this category in a manner that is frugal, but not cheap.

    Cheers,

    Stewart

    Reply
    • Becca Niederkrom January 28, 2020, 1:17 pm

      I have that same question Stewart. I have very waspy family members and buying nice gifts for all of them was a must yet also crushing to my budget. It would have also been nice to receive just one thank you from them . . but thats for another blog =)

      Reply
    • Sasha January 30, 2020, 2:36 pm

      I have the same question for MMM. If you’ve stopped exchanging gifts with your family, how did you communicate this with them?

      Reply
  • Blue to Bliss January 28, 2020, 9:50 am

    I definitely track my spending. Probably too much, because I can’t seem to stay off of my apps for a single day. I guess watching your net worth grow isn’t the worst vice you can have. I have never heard of Truebill, so I’ll have to check that out. And no homeowners insurance? Yikes! You are truly braver than me. I never even thought you could do that. Just goes to show you can always cut your budget, even if you think you can’t.

    Reply
  • KEN January 28, 2020, 11:23 am

    Not sure if anyone out there can help with this. My family of 4 (ages 9 and 6) has lived in an 810 sqft house in Seattle for the past 10 years and we’re busting at the seams for space. I just got bids to remove our coal-burner-turned-oil-heater from the basement (which takes up a ton of space). But here’s the catch. Asbestos. So the bid is $5K to remove the furnace, $9K to remove the vermiculite from the attic, $4K to upgrade our electrical panel,$2K to decommission the oil tank, and $14K for a heat pump. For a grand total of about $35K to change the heat. Does this make any sense to invest in this? Or would it be better to just rent/sell it to someone who doesn’t mind living in a house with this heater (as we didn’t mind for 10 years)? Sorry, I know this is a little off topic but a question I need to figure out.

    Reply
    • Sarah February 4, 2020, 8:03 am

      OSHA inspector here … if you choose to stay believe it or not I’d do the diy route to remove the vermiculite. Abatement is costly but it’s mostly dudes in suits and appropriate masks scooping stuff in bags. Read up on PPE and how to bag it and where to take it. How’s your lot size? Would a simple bump out addition make this home more livable in the long run? Personally I wouldn’t pay 35k for more efficient heating for a home you are outgrowing. However, if there is potential to increase the size, both with clearing he basement and an addition … maybe.

      Reply
  • Ecomm Man January 28, 2020, 11:52 am

    Hey MMM, great article! I have been reading for close to 6 months now and have been utilizing a lot of what you preach. I am already in the financial industry so I was frugally minded just have to get my SO on board now too. I was able to get our spending down DRASTICALLY in 2019, and now we are getting rid of early adulthood mistakes like my SOs bad car decision before we were together and my student loans. Also planning on moving within 5 miles from work instead of our current 25 miles, but we started carpooling and doing things to limit our ridiculous usage of cars, every day that passes makes me more and more excited to move this coming summer when our lease is up so I can start getting that positive ROI commuting under my own power while saving the planet and my wallet. Anyways to my main point.

    One thing I am worried about right now is leaving my current job, I make great money for my age (22) (my SOs income is rather low) and have low living expenses so we are able to throw 50-60% of our income at debt and emergency savings building right now, but im just not happy doing what I do. I can easily go find another job with my experience and skill set, but not without sacrificing potentially 1k a month or more in earnings. (i am the majority earner by a good margin) which would equate to a loss of 15% (or more depending on taxes) loss in excess net income slowing down our early stages of mustachianism. I am 22 and she is 21 so we are very young and income is bound to go up once degrees are fully achieved and more resume building has been completed. It is also fair to mention with all this extra cash I am investing into my side hustle business and at the rate it is growing currently it should replace what I am earning at my current employer in about 14-16 months.

    Any wisdom would be appreciated, being this young can be challenging putting things into the perspective of time.

    Reply
  • Adam January 28, 2020, 12:38 pm

    Sheesh! I spent $12000 on rent in 2019, almost equivalent to all of your discretionary spending.

    The good thing is I’ll be increasing my salary this year and cutting my rent almost in half!

    I’ve implemented most core Mustashian principles into my life, but man, you are on another level! Excited for what 2020 brings.

    Reply
  • Marcia January 28, 2020, 12:41 pm

    That was educational. I don’t track my spending anymore. For years we used a program (I don’t even remember what it was called!), then we switched to mint for awhile. Now we don’t really track at all. For fun, I track groceries in a spreadsheet annually. That’s about it. Still, every time we look at our checking account and savings account, it goes up. So we periodically just move it over to investments. We’ve automated our life and limited our needs that it’s nice. Now that the kids are getting older (13 and 7), and we have a bit more energy (not too much, because we old), we are actually getting back into doing our own home and garden improvements. (As opposed to just letting it look like crap.)

    I do think you are pushing your luck with the dentist thing.

    Reply
  • Michael January 28, 2020, 12:58 pm

    Do you mind sharing what part of town is “Upside: cheap to buy”? I was considering Longmont as a place of residence last year, but found housing prices have been quickly accelerating over the last few years. The average home seemed to be around 400K, which is currently out of my FI budget. However $1735 in taxes is very cheap compared to NH. It’s not uncommon to pay 5K in taxes for a 250K home.

    Reply
    • Michael January 28, 2020, 3:05 pm

      Never mind, I did some research and it looks like CO, has some of the best property taxes in the nation. Cheap housing in Longmont is generally expensive compared to other locations. Reviewing the actual tax rates was very helpful, I need to move out of NH or maybe do a tiny home on wheels. https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-property-taxes/11585/

      Reply
      • Donna January 28, 2020, 6:00 pm

        Thanks for the link to the Wallethub article however I wouldn’t rely on it as they said the rates were determined by:

        For real-estate property tax rates, we divided the “median real-estate tax payment” by the “median home price” in each state. We then used the resulting rates to obtain the dollar amount paid as real-estate tax on a house worth $193,500, the median value for a home in the U.S. as of 2017 according to the Census Bureau.


        I would talk to a realtor or broker based in the state/county where you want to buy as there can be local special assessments. For CA, Prop 13 which limits annual increases once a house is bought, means new owners can pay much different rates!

        Reply
  • Becca Niederkrom January 28, 2020, 1:14 pm

    As they say, knowledge is power. Thank you for sharing your financial details and encouraging us to look closely at our own. I am always so impressed with your lifestyle and your strategy to live close to where you need to be. Although I live in the suburbs of Dallas, a car city, I gave up my car and do as much as possible walking or biking. We live on the edge of a fantastic trail and only 4 miles from the most northern train station. This allows me to cut out on BS trips by making a choice I would rather not bike somewhere when its 40 degrees out or 110 degrees out. Plus, it feels like such an adventure as i really get a birds eye view of Dallas life. Its a simple yet satisfying life. Its also helpful that I work remotely. =)

    Reply
  • Nathan January 28, 2020, 1:17 pm

    Looks like our house of 2 spent $36,337.93 last year. Got some cleaning up to do! May never be as optimized as MMM but definitely have some room for improvement. We’ve made a lot of progress since I stumbled across your site and binge read every article back in April 2018. Glad to see you still keeping it real! Thanks for all the knowledge you’ve shared over the years

    Reply
  • stephen_mca January 28, 2020, 1:30 pm

    I track my spending on Google Sheets. (I’m in Scotland.) Last year’s total spend was £16512.83 — there was some wastage. I run a very small car and don’t lead a big life but it’s enough. (I live with my mum but I contribute my share for food and energy bills…)

    Reply
  • FS January 28, 2020, 1:40 pm

    I spent $29,890 last year, which includes my 85% share of our rent (my wife doesn’t have my resources so I have her pay less) in the NYC area. It also included trips to Paris, Austria and Japan. It’s amazing how well you can live for so little money if you choose your apartment carefully, cook for yourself, do a little credit card churning, and generally don’t buy too much crap.

    I also retired last year at 33! At this spending level, it would be next to impossible to exhaust my capital, which gives me great peace of mind. I thank you for pointing the way.

    For insurance, I use this. I definitely recommend it. I got 2 doctors visits for minor issues for a grand total of $0 this year using my plan, and the premium is $107/mo:

    https://mychristiancare.org/

    It’s a very religious organization but no one’s checking up on you to make sure you fit the mold.

    Reply
  • Alan January 28, 2020, 1:47 pm

    Great stuff MMM! Just did my 2019 spending – $21,748, I outspend the great MMM by 8 bucks, I blame California cost of living for that. I am a bit older, retired, also divorced with one child, but mine is all grown up and is mostly off my payroll. No more mortgage, paid it off last century. I do have medical insurance, but it’s a benefit from my former employer and is heavily subsidized. I do see a dentist regularly and pay out of pocket. I also carry homeowners insurance with a huge deductible, so it’s relatively affordable and is mostly for a major catastrophe.

    Reply
  • Cody Wheeler January 28, 2020, 2:12 pm

    It’s inspiring to see how inexpensive a happy life can actually be. I always figured somewhere around $60k was fairly conservative, but you’re living at basically 25% of that. Makes me wonder if my retirement goal is too high.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Chris O'Connell January 28, 2020, 2:17 pm

    I retired in May of 2019, definitely inspired by MMM who I first learned about from the New Yorker profile. Learning that health insurance would be $650 month, I decided to self-insure for the last 7 months of the year. I have only had a couple of (unnecessary but precautionary) routine physical exams my whole adult life. At 54, I am sure the risk is higher than at 45 but I still lead an active life with lots of fruits and vegetables, push-ups and calisthenics in lieu of weightlifting.

    I do everything by bike and I really didn’t think about my lack of insurance at all. It would come up from time to time but it was only once we got to the middle of December where I was more conscious of it, I had that knock on wood feeling knowing I was days away from having insurance as of the new year. With the affordable care act, and living on $30K distributions and other savings, I only pay $1/month now. But don’t plan to use the system this year. Maybe I need a colonoscopy or something…

    Reply
  • JENNIFER R OSBORN January 28, 2020, 2:20 pm

    So, I’ve tracked my spending a month here and a month there but not on an annual bird’s eye view ever.
    However, and your post is super timely for me, because I’ve lost 15 pounds since Thanksgiving just by tracking my calorie intake and stopping eating when I hit a certain number each day–luckily, I always hit it after dinner and not after lunch :).
    So, this tells me that if I was tracking my spending religiously, I could have the same results with my finances–only gaining more money instead of losing pounds.
    Thanks for the app recommendations. I’m going to check out Truebill.

    Reply
  • Lisa January 28, 2020, 2:42 pm

    As always, pretty interesting. Just me, but buying the house shouldn’t be a zero on the list. Housing is either $300K for one year or $150K per year for the two years you are there, or 100k per year if you stay three, $etc., etc. I mean- you don’t say your bike expenses are zero, just because you bought the bike with cash. However, I will bow to y our greater insight on budgeting and let that one go as just a point of difference.

    On the non-negotiable list, I don’t see dental insurance for your teenager? No dental or medical costs for your teenager? Vaccinations? School requirements, etc.? I get if you want to take the risk of no insurance, but I’m thinking kid costs are sometimes baked in, non-negotiables. How are those costs handled?

    Lisa

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 7:39 pm

      Houses tend to appreciate at the rate of inflation (much faster here in Longmont for the last five years but that’s just luck). So it would not be accurate to count a house purchase as an expense. It’s more of an investment, with slow appreciation and a dividend yield equal to what you would have paid in rent.

      Good point about the little MM stuff – he does have full insurance plus there were a few minor costs that were covered as part of our coparenting budget which I don’t detail here. So if I were a true single dad raising a child alone, you might add $2000 to this budget to cover those things.

      Reply
  • Judy January 28, 2020, 3:07 pm

    I think it might be helpful to look into health insurance options and add the one you WOULD choose to your expenses. Same with home insurance, car, etc. I wouldn’t want real people to take the risks of not insuring, based on your blog, trying to also be badass. Most of us realize MMM is real person, but that you also a very lucrative blog and most of us don’t. I would hate for another person who is also very active and takes great care of himself or herself to develop some form of cancer, and have no insurance and lose everything they own. Sad that can happen in our country, but I have seen it.

    Reply
  • CaptainFI January 28, 2020, 3:21 pm

    G’day MMM,

    Thanks for another great article – I read this one just before bed. I appreciate how open and honest you are posting all of your details, and its great for people to see so they can compare to how they are doing. I am sorry to hear about your change of circumstances, but I know you’ll be fine. I’ve heard girls think money mustaches are rather dapper!

    Reply
  • Nathan January 28, 2020, 4:17 pm

    Hey MMM
    We spent about $63k (ex mortgage) this year which was a good year for us – we normally spend $75k. We are cutting down and minimalising.

    We live in Sydney Australia – its expensive but we do love living here.

    I use MYOB accounting software to track our expenses and I do it weekly :) I cant help it as Im an accountant.

    We have setup a Sydney Mustachians group and we meet monthly – a great bunch of people. We are meeting Saturday – we would love to get a shout out from you on video so I can share it with the group.

    Take care & keep writing – I love getting notification of your new articles.

    Reply
  • Dug January 28, 2020, 4:23 pm

    Hey,
    I like that you continue to emphasize tracking your spending. My wife and I still do it the old way, mostly because much of our life spending it done with cash. So, we keep all our receipts, and at the end of two months I sit down for 30 minutes or so and sort them out, add everything up, and enter it onto a spreadsheet. I have been doing this for 3 years, and will keep going. The biggest benefit to doing this all without the use of a third-party application, is that I create my own categories, and decide which category the purchase falls into.
    Our spending was pretty much the same as last year, but up over 10% from the year before. I am not handy with a hammer, so we have additional expenses associated with house renovations.
    I added something extra this year: a carbon budget. I have been tracking our carbon emissions for a couple of years, and they have remained steady as well (about 6 tons of carbon each). Much like your decision-making on everyday expenses, we decided that reducing our carbon emissions is important. So we are freeing up some cash, so that we can install solar panels, and replace our (not so old, and still working well) natural gas furnace with a heat pump. Our household carbon emissions are 2 tons, so once we have made these investments, we only have another 2 tons to eliminate (to get to 2 tons per person per year), which will be accomplished by replacing our 2015 Tuscon with a plug in electric.
    A final note, you mention not buying insurance in your blog, but note that you self-insure in your spreadsheet. This is an important point. It is entirely reasonable to self-insure, provided you are able to deal with a catastrophic loss, say a fire that destroys your home, an accident that puts you in the hospital ICU for an extended period of time resulting in a disability (as in paraplegia or worse), etc. And to make certain that self-insurance works for you, you need to calculate how much you would need to deal with those substantial loses. It is the catastrophic loss that I insure for, not the theft of a bicycle.

    Reply
  • MikeinLA January 28, 2020, 6:06 pm

    Huge MMM fan, but no homeowners insurance or any medical/dental care or insurance goes beyond frugal – that’s plain reckless. Drop a weight on your foot, get a bad tick bite, or have a pipe burst in your house? There goes your nest egg and plans for FIRE. And no life insurance to care for your kid if you die in a bike accident? Coverage for catastrophes doesn’t need to be lavish. Just prudent.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 8:14 pm

      Mike, your points are definitely valid for someone like a young parent with children who is not yet financially independent. Insurance can indeed be a useful form of protection.

      I want to be clear that the no-insurance situation is not my recommendation for OTHER people, it’s only what works for me. And only because I have enough savings that it would not be affected by things like a damaged house or medical bills.

      But I also like to share this information because there are many people out there with even more savings, who still think they need insurance on everything. For example, you do NOT need life insurance if you have millions of dollars in investments, because if you die, any dependents you leave behind are set for life with just your inheritance!

      Reply
  • Marc Hastenteufel January 28, 2020, 7:27 pm

    Enjoyed this article as usual. The one thing that sticks: “People in this category sometimes need to be coached away from the habit of being too “cheap”, and towards making the most of the opportunity of a lifetime.”
    I think/hope I have my investing in place and it will pay one day for retirement. I do travel about 8.5 months a year and spend the rest happily in my one-room place back home. Usually, if I want something I just get it but I do think about it for a while. And every time I just do an impulse shopping thing I regret it later because I really do not need it or it is bad quality. Now I have to fix the “cheap” a bit I guess.

    They should teach the whole concept of looking at how much you spend and adjust spending in school. Told so many ppl to use an app to see where the money goes.
    Waiting for the next blog post!

    One more thing. I get your email but it is impossible to read it in Mail on my MacBook. It is tooooo wide so I go to the website to read it. All other email news letters are just fine.

    Reply
  • TalkingPie January 28, 2020, 7:28 pm

    It’s somewhat difficult for me to get the full picture of our household finances. My common law spouse and I run separate finances, and getting her to talk about money is like pulling teeth. Lucky for me, she’s extremely frugal and always spends considerably less than she makes, so the most difficult part is dealt with. Her 2 year car loan is well on track to being paid off, and she unfailingly pays every cent of her share of the household expenses. Our house is split 2/3 mine and 1/3 hers and other household expenses are shared down the middle. We have no drama.

    For my part, I don’t track my expenses, per se, but do religiously track my savings and income. Last year I spent 40% of my CAD 49,000 take-home income on flying lessons – a long-term career change project – but still managed to raise my net worth by CAD 15,000, not including house equity. Part of that was due to high stock market returns, but I do manage to stay frugal. We’re still getting used to the 2,700 sq ft house we bought to replace the 640 sq ft apartment we were in before, so despite a lack of furnishings, I feel like I’m living in the lap of luxury. My two cars – a 1999 and 2015 – depreciate a bit, but they were bought used, are paid off, and I will likely keep them until they’re just about worthless, so I’m not too worried about that.

    Reply
  • ClaireB January 28, 2020, 7:47 pm

    MMM you are so inspirational! Thanks for sharing. I appreciate you realizing your luck when it comes to health expenses. Others may try to live a healthy lifestyle as well and blame themselves when medical costs go up.

    Thanks for sharing your photos, although the lack of diversity does suggest the mustachian lifestyle is most easily attained by white men, I wonder why that is? We are choosing to prioritize foster parenting over attaining FI at the moment, as when we do reach FI we want to prioritize traveling which is incompatible with fostering. The needs in our community are great.

    Reply
  • ClaireB January 28, 2020, 8:30 pm

    We belong in the Mustachian Wall of Shame this year. 78k, family of 4. We are in HCOL, large mortgage, converted garage to 1/1, kid goes to unnecessary preschool, few hundred dollars on museums, few hundred on campsites. Transportation costs are very low, tiny car we barely drive and mostly use our fleet of bikes. I love to run so spent a bit on shoes, and a variety of body sizes as a I move further from hosting humans means I keep replacing work clothes. Grocery is 450/mo and rarely eat out, don’t drink alcohol or coffee. Base is probably 38k, which includes 12k property taxes. We don’t have to save anymore to retire, we just need to pay off our house and investments would cover that 40k. We are sailing along, it’s a great place to be although obviously FI is much preferable.

    Reply
  • Tom January 28, 2020, 8:34 pm

    How do you handle the liability part that homeowners covers? I know you are of Canadian origin, eh, but native-born US citizens are sue-happy. What if a little tricker-treater trips on a broken step at your house and hit you up for a $10K dentist bill? Also you probably couldn’t have an umbrella policy to protect the MMM nest egg if you don’t have underlying homeowners?

    Reply
  • Eric B January 28, 2020, 8:40 pm

    How do you feel about flying, given that it exacerbates climate change?

    Although I previously had grand plans to travel the world, I decided to cut back on flying, and I honestly feel like my happiness has increased by focusing more on local options (and by not having to deal with airport screenings, etc.). In other words: I’m still just as happy, and the planet (and everyone else on it/soon to be on it) benefits :)

    Reply
  • J January 28, 2020, 11:41 pm

    Last years actual expenses: 6300 rent+utilities, 1650 transportation (gas, insurance, registration), 1200 groceries

    3550 fun money, 3500 dining out, and 3800 vacation, a majority of which was either split or reimbursed in some way. Probably 2k fun money, 2k vacation, and 1-1.5k dining out was mine at most.

    That’s 14650 the entire year on my spending. I made 29k net the same year. My housing is getting eliminated, vacation is going down, and the fun money is going down this year, as well as a near 80% pay raise. Need to make saving as fun as spending money

    Reply
  • thrdgeek January 29, 2020, 5:20 am

    I have been using the Costco Visa from Citibank but wondering if there is a better cash back card. Have you evaluated this card against the cards you recommend for cash back?

    Reply
    • Terry February 4, 2020, 11:52 am

      I use this one too. Since the cash back is only once a year (coming soon!) is is good. I have diversified card use now and have chosen a 2% cash back on everything card, plus an airline card for travel. I am now putting some attention into greatest return on interest per purchase. Plus the most useful perks (free luggage or 5% return at a select store).

      Reply
  • Aeowulf January 29, 2020, 5:20 am

    I feel like this last year we “lived like billionaires” and gave zero consideration to expenses. We still managed to spend 60% of our income, which needs to be improved considerably. Those little purchases add up, just like the little investments add up. While not being disciplined with the purchasing, we still managed to get that first $100k under our belt. Looking forward to buckling down and seeing how much of this belt we can cinch up.

    As always, thanks for being an inspiration!

    Reply
  • Kirsten January 29, 2020, 7:29 am

    It’s great that you are super healthy and haven’t needed health insurance. To be fair, though, you are Canadian like me and could receive treatment there if something major came up (after a short period of residency.)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 7:53 pm

      You’re right in theory! Although in practice I think I would pick another country for medical tourism like Mexico or Costa Rica – assuming I could afford it. The costs are still SO much lower than US pricing, that it’s not a big deal to treat almost any illness.

      Reply
  • Stephen Dean January 29, 2020, 8:47 am

    “As an MMM reader, you are headed straight for Option #3 above.”

    HAHaHaaaaa! Great line! Thanks for the laugh MMM!

    Reply
  • John Norris January 29, 2020, 8:49 am

    JN’s 2019 Bachelor Spending in £ (GBP). Multiply by 1.3 for $ (USD).

    rent £7,740 (includes heating/hot water)
    property tax £800
    car £3,244 (includes £100/mth transfer to car fund)
    electricity £104
    internet/landline £294
    mobile/cell £174
    travel insurance £56
    dental insurance £355
    food & drink £2,129
    eating out/cocktails £3,120
    charity £1,636
    subscriptions £83
    vNICs £780 (state pension top-up)
    travel £3,673
    misc £1,385 (books, clothes, parties etc)
    total £25,704 ($33,415)
    minus rent £17,964 ($23,353)

    Thanks to MMM I retired 4 years ago, now age 61. Life is good :)

    Reply
  • Dharma Bum January 29, 2020, 8:50 am

    I fully agree with you on the dental care.
    As a little kid, I was negligent, but also had parents that were clueless about such things, so by the age of 8 I had a mouth full of cavities that had to be fixed in a marathon series of dental visits.
    As a result, I received a head full of fillings, which, over the years, eventually deteriorated, and had to be replaced. So, oral hygiene negligence in the early years was definitely a mistake. I blame my parents (but then again, I do for everything! ;-)).
    This also lead to the eventual cracking of 3 molars which required either outright pulling or crowns. I opted for the crowns. This was an expense that I could have done without. Thousands of dollars.
    Now that my teeth have stabilized (it’s been decades, mind you), I have diligently taken care of them with brushing, flossing, and using Oral B “pick brushes”. This keeps my teeth sparkly, twinkly, plaque free, shiny, and super clean.
    When I showed up at the dentist after 5 years of absence (I do unfortunately have a tendency for tartar buildup), they reprimanded me, told me that the charges would be higher because it would take 3 times as long to clean, yadda yadda yadda, etc.
    Once the hygienist got into it, however, she was AMAZED at how my teeth were in better shape than most people who come in for their “every 6 months” visit.
    Haha.
    Just an example of one more thing of how we can all save a ton of cash by doing the task ourselves!
    I just wish I would have started doing it from when i was in my teens.
    Oh well, better late than never.
    Smile!

    Reply
  • Dale Roberts January 29, 2020, 10:01 am

    Interesting post. Wondering what is your total annual spending – that is with business and child care costs etc., those transfer dollars. Costs covered under business(es). Other, etc.

    With thanks,

    Dale, from above the 49th

    Reply
  • Sam January 29, 2020, 10:18 am

    You view paying taxes as contributing back to society. Do you believe the government is doing a good job of spending your tax contributions?

    Reply
  • PVD_Kev January 29, 2020, 11:08 am

    Thanks as always MMM. As a divorced-but-remarried FIRE aspirant, I found my biggest expense challenge to be those pesky divorce “legacy” costs: esp. child support. Can you share how you have worked around that? Even an amicable divorce between two FIRE people would still lead to court-ordered child support payments (and maybe even alimony).

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 7:44 pm

      Yes! It’s a real thing and typically a big part of a budget if you are the higher-earning former parent. On the other hand, if you are the lower earner, you incur a negative cost as your former spouse might be paying more than half of the child care costs.

      For us, it’s very minor and temporary because we are both financially independent, and our child is only four years from being a legal adult. Didn’t want to confuse actual spending choices with this personal detail that is very case-specific.

      Reply
  • Mika M January 29, 2020, 11:52 am

    Sure do! We go through the tedious trouble of logging stuff into an old-fashioned personal spreadsheet. Started before we discovered this blog and started working to become Mustachian. Wow what a difference after we started a year later! We’ve also gotten a bit into Minimalism along the way, which has helped a lot with taming impulse buying, and helped us reach the point of deciding to downsize to a small apartment condo a couple years ago, which has made a big difference in fixed costs (mortgage, utilities, taxes, etc.), freeing up more cash for saving. Spending is still a bit higher than we’d like, but we’ll be moving kiddo to public school in the fall, and now with a big cash pile, a big brokerage pile growing nicely on it’s own, a big retirement accounts pile also growing nicely, we’ve started attacking the mortgage to slash down our spending needs a lot more. But yes after several years we still keep up with our spending tracker, because without it we have a tendency to backslide pretty quickly lol

    Reply
  • Pyrrhotech January 29, 2020, 11:59 am

    I’m a big MMM fan from the early days, and MMM is a huge inspiration to me to achieve FIRE, hopefully in my late 30s (not quite as frugal as MMM, mostly because I want to live in a 1M+ house in a “nice” neighborhood). However, I think it would be more intellectually honest to include either:

    1. the opportunity cost of having the $315k house money instead invested in the SPX
    2. the theoretical interest cost had the home been fully financed

    I like #2, so I’d add about 11k annual spend on top of this to be more accurate, and then subtract out any AirBnb income from the house.

    Reply
  • claireb January 29, 2020, 1:23 pm

    MMM can’t answer this question, but for women what is the mustachian way of birth control and cervical cancer screenings?

    Reply
  • carla January 29, 2020, 1:39 pm

    Very inspiring stuff. I don’t track our spending right now. I would like to but it doesn’t worry me enough and I am very time poor (two kids with additional needs). However, I do think it’s something I want to try this year. We are a family of 4 in Australia who live on about $30k a year. We have private health insurance because we all have medical needs. We also have government-funded therapies for the boys but there are some things we do pay for ourselves. We had significant medical costs a few years ago that ran us into a little bit of debt but we are debt-free now including our home. We have made some investments this year and done some small renovations including installing a lot of solar which means our electricity is almost zero. I am working on a permaculture course to grow our own food but also be more self reliant and community connected. All of these things will reduce our costs. I feel very comfortable with our spending, our biggest expense is easily the insurance but we don’t have enough investments to be self insured… yet.

    Reply
    • carla January 29, 2020, 2:55 pm

      OK, so I found Pocketbook which syncs with my bank in Australia and I am now set up. Thanks for the push!

      Reply
  • Sarah January 29, 2020, 2:08 pm

    Well thanks for sharing. On the plus side, nobody could ever accuse you of being normal!

    Reply
  • veronica January 29, 2020, 2:20 pm

    Completely off topic, but whatever happened to Mr. Frugal Toque?

    Reply
  • Stevoid January 29, 2020, 5:45 pm

    No affiliate link for Tesla? You’ve missed a trick there….

    Reply
  • Katie Camel January 29, 2020, 6:03 pm

    Hi MMM!

    Thanks for sharing your spending with us! Tracking my spending has certainly led to me drastically cutting wasteful spending, and my savings have increased exponentially. Thanks for all the pep talks along the way with your blog! I was never ridiculously spendy (city person who opts for walking first, then public transportation second, and Uber as a distant third, don’t own a car), but I started to get a little caught up in the lifestyle inflation, so you and Frugalwoods helped me rein in that spending.

    Anyway, out of curiosity, do you ever buy clothes for you or your son? Or do you shop at Costco and lump that in with your food bill? Most of my clothing spending is through credit card points, but I’m not a big shopper. Just curious how you handle that expense, since I’m sure you must find that you need things now and then.

    Thanks again for such an awesome blog! :)
    Katie

    Reply
  • Ben C January 29, 2020, 6:07 pm

    My girlfriend and I, both as college students, have lived together for a couple years and share a joint bank account. We spent about $3,000 on fast food dining last year, combined with about $1,600 on grocery bills. I know how much you loathe eating out expenses, but if our total food spending for both groceries AND eating out is lower than your grocery bill alone, does that justify our spending amount? (:

    I think there is a big difference between carelessly dropping $50 at a restaurant every other night versus feeding two people for $5 at Taco Bell or Little Caesar’s in between class and work. While I’m sure your eating-at-home diet is much healthier than our predominantly fast food diet, it appears ours is slightly more cost efficient? Even after paying cash for school, our net worth still went up $10k in 2019, so I would posit eating out doesn’t have to be seen as such a bad thing in a person/couple’s budget. I guess I’m with your arch-nemsis Ramit on this one, I really like spending money on Beefy Frito Burritos!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 7:20 pm

      Yes! The cheapest fast food can be pretty cheap on a per-calorie basis (although very expensive if you factor in the future productivity loss and health care costs!)

      My food is expensive because it’s all stuff like organic eggs, fancy grass fed meat and wild seafood, and shelled pistachios and fresh fruits and veggies. It’s insane! If I went into cheap mode, I could get most of my calories from home fries cooked with olive oil, and it would be about 25 cents per meal ($300 per year)

      The goal behind these spending reports is that I am trying to show how I spent WAY MORE than necessary, and yet it still ended up at a lower-than-typical total. I’m not trying to save money here by cutting back on anything of value to me, only trying to be efficient and not spend on things that aren’t fun to consume – like gasoline.

      Reply
  • Debbie M January 29, 2020, 6:33 pm

    I enter my purchases and income on a spreadsheet because I prefer making up my own categories. Like I know how much I spend on produce versus dairy. I also used to use Capitol One (and Chase) credit cards, but I switched to Alliant Credit Union because they’re probably making more ethical decisions than the big banks and they still provide 2% cash back.

    I do have health insurance (free with pension) and dental insurance (not). For homeowner’s insurance, I do have the maximum deductible (which I think I learned from you–thank you so much!).

    I beat you on the medical (negative $30) because I got a refund for part of last year’s appendectomy.

    Here is my spending compared to yours:

    Housing
    * Mortgage + Insurance – You: 0. Me: 0 + $1168.
    * Property Taxes – You: $1735. Me: $5571 (high-property tax state). My house is a 2/1, 960 square feet, now gentrifying but still less than the median value in my area.
    * Maintenance and Renovation – You: $4699. Me: $40 + 0 (window crank, roach killer, sink faucet cartridges, A/C filters)
    * Utilities – City – You: $1227. Me: $2239 (we keep it as cold I can stand in winter, as hot as he can stand in summer; it gets very hot here, but even in winter it’s $145/month, so there’s room for improvement, though about $80 of that is fixed costs).
    * Utilities – Heat – You: $353. Me: $334 (warmer here, but/thus so many showers).
    * Household Items – You: $294. Me – $190.
    Total Housing – You: $8308. Me: $9442.

    Food
    * Groceries – You: $4615. Me: $1773 (only one smallish adult, some organic, minimal GMO/hydrogenated oils/growth hormones, do a lot of my own processing)
    * Restaurants – You: $910. Me: $1549 (All for socializing; usually the boyfriend pays because he loves it, but I’m subsidizing him while he’s underemployed–we eat out once a week plus on vacations)
    * Beer/Wine/etc – You: $203. Me: $0 (picky eater)
    Total “Food” – You: $5728. Me: $3322.

    Medical Care
    * Health Insurance – You: $0 Me: $0 health (free benefit) + $658 dental.
    * Medical Bills and Dentist – You: $0. Me: -$30 including $500 refund, a few co-payments, band-aids, etc.
    Medical Total – You: $0. Me: $628.

    Automotive
    * Gasoline – You: $22.62. Me – $339 (My car gets way better mileage and pollutes less than my boyfriend’s, so I have him take it to his various far-away jobs. I walk to places within 2 miles, carpool with him most everywhere, and drive to friends’ houses to socialize and to my family 200 miles away).
    * Maintenance – You: $0. Me: $85 (windshield shades, headlight, tire, windshield wipers on 14-year-old reliable car)
    * Car Registration – You: $545 Me: $119.75 inspection, registration, driver’s license renewal).
    * Insurance – You: $397. Me: $900 (also GEICO).
    Automotive Total – You: $965. Me: $1443.75

    Travel Total – You: $3702. Me: $500 (hotels, restaurants, museums; same state and adjacent states only this year).

    Entertainment $400. Me: $1222 [$250 party foods, movies, gifts; $456 books, DVDs, board games (finally got a bunch of stuff that’s been on my wish list a while); $516 dance classes, play, library fine (oops), Halloween costume, conference].

    Mobile Phone – You: $300. Me: $152 (Republic Wireless).

    Internet – You: $600 Me: $1400 (landline + internet; expensive because of oligopolies).

    Other – You: $0. Me: $6132 [$50 job expenses (fingerprinting), $227 clothing, $5855 charity].

    Total – You: $21,470. Me: $24,241 ($18,387 not counting charity).

    In conclusion, I think you’re better at being frugal, but I couldn’t afford renovations or exotic vacations this year, so that kept my costs low.

    Reply
  • Christina January 29, 2020, 6:48 pm

    I retired in early 2019 thanks to some good advice from MMM as well. Yay Pete! I’ve been a Category 3 spender since my early 20s and am one of those people who found great joy in making a budget in my late 20s or early 30s to convince me to spend more. Retirement took a bit longer than some, but I have no regrets with experiments with grad school, a much needed midcareer sabbatical, life/net worth rebuilding after divorce, changing jobs and taking paycuts for morals, going part time to institute wakeboarding Wednesdays, etc. Zero regrets here, and 2019 was one of the best years yet!

    My 2019 breakdown,* rounded to nearest $10
    Shelter and Utilities – $3300 (property taxes, utilities, insurance)
    Groceries – $3720
    Health – $940 (qualified for subsidized healthcare and this includes a super luxurious rec center pass)
    Transportation – $1400 (car insurance, gasoline, bike supplies, bus passes, etc)
    House repairs/upgrades – $200
    House supplies and decorations – $560 (bought and made some super cool art)
    Office supplies – $50
    Charity – $850 (mostly local to the library, domestic violence shelter, friend’s benefits, some political in here too – still considering MMM’s last post on giving impact. . .)
    Travel – $3900 (3 months of travel with 1 overseas trip, stayed with friends maybe 50% of nights and cooked for them all :))
    Clothes – $260 (new pair of xc ski boots and a ridiculous number of vintage dresses)
    Fun money – $1000 (mostly live music and theater with a handful of visits to restaurants and breweries)

    Total – $16,180 (including 3 months of travel! Whaaaa? I budgeted for more than this.)

    * Admittedly a bit of a scaredy cat over sequence risk in FIRE Y1, I consciously tried to keep costs down on restaurants. I don’t think that had a significant impact on my enjoyment of life this year. Spending may have increased $1K if I would have really lived it up vs the alternative I took of developing more cooking skills and diving in to lots of dinner parties.

    Reply
  • wibob January 29, 2020, 7:19 pm

    thanks for passing your healthcare costs onto those of us with even less wealth than you. I realize the healthcare system in the US is really messed up, but by avoiding health insurance costs until the day that you are diagnosed with a catastrophic disease, you are simply making other Americans pay your bills… I’ve been a huge fan of your message, but felt I had to call you out on this issue.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 7:12 pm

      Your point would be true if I did get a chronic disease, and then managed to sign up for insurance that paid me out more in claims than I paid in in premiums. But not in the situation here, where I am proposing that if I need medical care, I go get it and then pay my own bills.

      Also, remember that my writing for these past nine years has focused on living a healthy, active lifestyle and cutting down pollution and health destruction due to cars. This makes people healthier in the area where we spend 75% of our healthcare dollars: Lifestyle Diseases.

      So, I am HOPING that have done more to cut average health insurance costs than I could ever do just by paying into the premium pool.

      Reply

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