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 results is 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)

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
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.
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?
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!

  • Lauren January 30, 2020, 3:15 am

    Hey Pete,

    Really liked this article. I’m in the UK so there are some aspects that I probably don’t fully appreciate eg. healthcare. However, I found it particularly useful to have an overview of someone else’s spending.

    I currently use a spreadsheet to track my progress. I’m a way away from FI. But I totally get the three stages. I went so frugal at one point I was walking the dogs in trainers because I didn’t want to shell out for wellies. And I was cycling 80 miles a week to school in freezing temperatures on the bike my parents bought me when I was 15 (which was over a decade and some ago (late bloomer)). Learning to spend on things that add value in my life and to the lives of others has been a challenge. So that’s why I started the spreadsheet, I’ve structured it so that I save 45% of my salary, and dedicate a certain amount of spending on other things that allow me to grow spiritually, help me relax, be generous etc. I used to skimp on these things. I was turning into a bit of a Scrooge, but because they were ‘non essential’ I felt I couldn’t justify the spend. I think a part of that is that I only make minimum wage at the moment (17k a year). When I finish school I hope to not only increase my saving rate but also my ability to have funds to be more generous.

    Thanks for all the life hacks, and I’m going to check out that app. Sounds so much less of a faff than the spreadsheet.

  • Rebecca Saguin January 30, 2020, 5:21 am

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been tracking my spending since 2008 and my husbands since 2013. I use a spreadsheet and love it. We definitely splurged in 2019 and in 2020 we are reeling it back in. I also started a financial blog. Not as great as yours but hopefully someone will read it and it will help them make changes with their spending. Love your blog. Very encouraging. Keep it up!

  • sam January 30, 2020, 7:09 am

    At 71 (almost 72), I do not track my expenses. I just keep track of the surplus (savings) each month. I do not walk or bike but only average 6,000 miles a year on my car. That my seem high but there is 50 weekly round trip (wife has to get her hair fixed, lol) and our doctor visits are 100 mile round trips (several times a year).

  • Mike Spangler January 30, 2020, 9:47 am

    $19,000 spending last year for me, for my first year of retirement. That includes Obamacare, a crown, and new glasses.

    Medically, I hope you get checked for high blood pressure and for glaucoma, and an occasional blood test. There are things with no outward symptoms that can be serious later. On the other hand, I went through that same period of my life with no medical inputs but one round of penicillin for a strep throat. But my jobs back then required an annual physical, so other than the throat it didn’t (directly) cost me anything.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 6:48 pm

      That’s one thing I should have mentioned – although I’m a big fan of the annual physical exam, I also make a point of keeping tabs on any DIY-friendly measurements more frequently. Like blood pressure measurements with one of those Omron gadgets, heart rate, extra detailed blood tests through WellnessFx, and tracking weight and bodyfat percentage pretty regularly.

      I do have real doctors as friends so I’m not flying totally blind. My understanding from them is that if you feel great, blood pressure and blood work is ideal, look lean/healthy and do all the right things like weight training and outdoor cardio, and keep your stress levels low, the odds are so overwhelmingly in your favor that you really have nothing to worry about.

  • Christina January 30, 2020, 10:03 am

    I’m impressed with your zero cost on the medical and dental. I’m a fellow Canadian—living in BC—so you know the cost of my provincial medical coverage up to this point has been quite affordable and now it’s about to disappear completely into the back end of things. As of Jan 1st there are no more monthly premiums to pay.

    I have a few years on you and I have to say that once I hit my mid-40s things started to break down a little and I definitely noticed the “medical” line item in my budget increased. There’s something to be said for prevention. I would seriously consider the value of regular medical, dental and optical check ups to potentially nip things in the bud. Some issues could end up being far more costly if you choose to be reactive instead of proactive.

    Still…colo(u)r me impressed! Many high fives.

  • Brian January 30, 2020, 10:28 am

    Regarding there are no guarantees on medical expenses, I fit the mold of healthy, active, and outdoorsy. Very fit for the the 47-years-young that I am. But earlier this month I learned that I have a “damaged” carotid artery. No idea how or when that happened, but after a night in the hospital and several follow-up appointments, and more treatment to come, I spent more on medical care this month than I have in the last decade+. I never would have guessed that would happen to me – not now anyway. But it does kind of hit home on unexpected medical expense planning for when I’m 60, or 70, or older.

  • Mike January 30, 2020, 1:22 pm

    Fellow Canadian here. What app or software can we use to easily track spending. I have looked at creating macros in excel but would like to have something that is a little easier..

  • Anonymous January 30, 2020, 1:34 pm

    Hey, where does ‘recreational’ substances go? I didn’t see it listed.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 4:51 pm

      Marijuana is free in Colorado because anyone who wants it just grows some alongside the tomatoes in the vegetable garden.

  • DuckReconMajor January 30, 2020, 1:40 pm

    Inspired by this article and the comments, I went to the dentist for the first time in almost a decade! (same as MMM, insurance changed and never got around to getting back).

    I thought parts of my teeth were just stained, nope it was plaque! They look so clean now!

    I got very lucky too, my teeth themselves were in great shape, just had some gum inflammation and of course they were covered in plaque.

  • Malbec January 30, 2020, 4:20 pm

    I track using YNAB which I really like and has been the first tool that helped me to sort and understand clearly how much I am spending and how much I am saving.
    Have you used it?

  • Rytis January 31, 2020, 2:46 am

    I’m late to the comment party, but this article inspired me to aggregate my 2019 spending. Since I programmed myself a budget tracker and I meticulously log every expense there, it was just a matter of writing a simple SQL query. I love owning my own data!

    I had 43 categories and I tried to aggregate everything to bigger categories for ya’ll and I ended up with 22. Here’s my spending for anyone who’s interested. All amounts in euro. Also it would be lovely if we could do tables in comments. I’ll comment on my categories below the list.

    Savings – €15500.00
    Apartment Improvement – €9494.92
    Car – €3041.60
    Electronics – €2886.72
    Rent – €2400.00
    Entertainment – €1978.44
    Groceries – €1264.30
    Healthcare – €1240.31
    Utilities – €1184.14
    Clothing/shoes – €1127.58
    Eating out – €957.51
    Business – €859.80
    Snacks – €653.85
    Sport – €533.10
    Other – €493.23
    Holidays – €492.28
    Mandatory State Health Insurance – €429.00
    Steam games – €276.44
    Cellphone – €212.66
    Internet – €150.16
    Gifts – €46.20
    Ride sharing/scooters/uber – €37.10
    Total – €45259.34
    Total w/o savings – €29759.34
    Total w/o home improvements – €17864.42

    Still extremely spendy. I have a few comments after seeing the numbers. Out of 3k for the car, fuel was only €371, the rest is financing and insurance. But it was a new car with 0 miles that I bought for €10k and I plan to keep for a long time, so this cost will go down. I live in a city center, so I barely even use it.

    Electronics spending was a huge surprise for me, so modified the query to check out what went wrong here. Here’s what:
    Valve Index – €1100
    Apple Watch – €567
    Wacom Drawing Tablet – €567
    New Monitor and SSD – €452.88
    Kindle – €190.28
    Arduino – €67.38

    Very lavish, but most will not be recurring.

    Rent is the money I send to support my grandmother who left me the apartment, real number would be multiplied by 3.
    Groceries include pretty much general expenses like food, cleaners, etc. I send €100 to my girlfriend every month for my food and she takes care of the rest. Yes my home food budget is below €100 a month.
    Sport is basically gym membership and protein.

    This comment is probably getting too long now, so I’ll stop right here, but if anyone has any questions or comments, please post them below! I L-O-V-E discussing budgets to a freakish amount!

  • Bryan January 31, 2020, 6:25 am

    I have learned so much from you and hold you in the highest regard. That being said; please go to the dentist at least once a year. Get your teeth professionally cleaned and a quick X-Ray. No biggie, 100 bucks probably. Medical; you’re young so OK. But once you hit 50, again get some basic lab work, colon cancer screening and prostate screening. Your son will thank you when he is 30 and his dad is still there to celebrate his birthday.

  • Knight February 3, 2020, 2:28 pm

    So after reading every article at the beginning of last year, my wife and I decided we had enough with our debt and I want to retire by the time i’m 50. We paid off $7,000 worth of credit card debt, we now have $5500 toward the obnoxious car payment as well. We ended last year with a total income of $53,000 and a total outflow of $37,000 (the savings each month went toward debt). This was a first for us to actually have months left over in green instead of putting more on our Credit Cards. Now i use our reward card and pay it off every month. I’ve earned nearly $250 in cash back since last May. Problem areas for us (I would love for you to help us with a case study) (May-Dec): Groceries $5300, dining out $3500, travel (gas, etc) $1700, holidays $4300. We have discussed some new strategies that we are going to utilize this year to push us forward faster. Any tips, comments, concerns, etc are much appreciated.

    • wendy panozzo February 19, 2020, 2:14 pm

      Hi Knight. Just from what you have shown of your costs I would say that dining out has to go!$3500 is quite a bit. Holidays are next as that $4300 could be put towards a nice cushion in savings or paying off that car sooner! Some sacrifice for financial freedom is in order. Perhaps a side hustle is in order to move your progress along a little faster. Plenty of fat can be trimmed to succeed but you have to be willing do temporarily do without.

  • REIT Dude February 3, 2020, 6:11 pm

    I assume that you can self-insure but going without health insurance sounds genuinely terrifying to me. I tend to follow a somewhat Mustachian blueprint for my own life but I definitely spend lavishly on my medical insurance. My thinking is that if I end up getting some kind of terrible illness I don’t even want money to be on my mental radar.

  • Chris February 4, 2020, 1:36 am

    Any spending on clothes/shoes etc? I mean I’m pretty frugal when it comes to refreshing my wardrobe but even I have to renew some items every year, just from general wear and tear.

  • Dane Ferna February 4, 2020, 7:58 am

    Dear MMM,

    What do you do about SHOES???

    I have a 13 year old and a 9 year old who seem to need shoes ALL the time. And the larger the feet, the more expensive the shoe. And I try to buy good yet least expensive shoes because they walk and bike to school and also play outside and at park a significant amount of time during the week. Any life hacks you can share in this department please!

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 4, 2020, 6:33 pm

      Those are part of the Amazon spending for me.. but you have a good point – you might be stuck with 1-2 pairs of $50-80 shoes per kid per year, depending on the styles involved.

      However, the worst case of $320/year is less than what most people spend each MONTH on unnecessary car payments (effectively depreciation on the choice of owning an overly new car). So if you win on the big things, necessities like shoes are easy to pay for.

  • Lynne February 4, 2020, 9:43 am

    Anyone considering solar needs to find out what it costs to remove and replace them when your roof needs replacing. It can be terribly expensive. And unless you install solar using tons of rebates and tax credits, it may not ever become a positive ROI.

  • Lesa February 5, 2020, 3:15 am

    Good overview! Tnx for the good work, i have been reading you for 5yrs now. Some unfortunate decisions made my financial situation worse then i wanted it to be, but – in January i, through some side hustle and saving, managed to pay of cca 20k USD of my last consumer debt in about 1.5yrs of saving
    Now just 75k USD mortage left, this is next.
    I am in Easter Europe:
    Salary 2450 USD take home (salary similar to country prime minister :)
    Mortage 450 USD
    Alimony 250 USD
    Utilities 200 USD
    Food and mics 500 USD
    Car and all expenses provided by company
    Rest is saved, some add expensed for my daughter but cca 900 USD per month is geting saved in goal to get rid of mortgage and find some less soul sucking job :)

  • Wess Stewart February 7, 2020, 7:30 am

    $600/year for fiber internet? I’m jealous! Where I live, the “entry level” is 100mbps, and it costs right at $99/month. And it’s not like it’s not a civilized area…it’s a town with a major university. Perhaps one day I’ll get out of here, but I doubt it. lol.

    I’m recently “unsupervised” (as some may call it) as well…it’s turning out to be pretty fantastic. Got hit with pretty much all of the debts though, and digging my way out of it has been a mess. But I do like the idea of making adjustments that save money and make things easier. Gonna keep working on that. :)

  • Hector February 7, 2020, 5:22 pm

    First comment ever, but been following website for a year. I did keep track of my annual spending in 2019 (always do, I’m an accountant) and I think it was not that bad since it’s a household of 4 (wife and 2 baby boys). It was $33,250 for the whole year, without taking in consideration Mortgage and Car Lease payment (ooops sorry). I prefer a car lease for tax purposes, but that’s another story. What I was mostly shocked was your electric and water spending. Mine is an average of $370 per month, way more than you.

  • Classical_liberal February 7, 2020, 11:49 pm

    Ha! I’ve been reading this blog for seven years and finally the day has come… I spent less than MMM last year! Came in just under 18K. Eat it consumer suck’a :)

    FYI, MMM I noticed on the capital one screen shot you still have their Money Market account. They ungraded savings options and now offer “Performance Savings” that has a slightly higher rate with no minimum balance. Call them to switch it and make yourself a few bucks in 2020, a big spender like you could use the extra interest.

  • David February 9, 2020, 12:16 pm

    Frugality runs deep here in New England. As a Yankee I’ve always assumed it’s a virtue, and I admire all you do to help others live simply and more ecologically. In your own words, though, money is a tool. Is it really best for those of us who can afford more not to wield that tool well? Can we agree to start paying a fair, even high price to support what we believe in? Not buy unnecessary stuff, but spend where it matters. Why are you buying food at Costco rather than helping a local farmer make a go of it, or cheap cabinets at Ikea rather than from reclaimed wood with a local craftsman? The environmental costs and damage to the community may be hidden, but they’re real. Charity is one thing, but I’ve spent a lot of time around non-profits, and I’d trade a hundred of them for one hard-working local organic farmer. Cut back on entertainment rather than support actors, musicians, and artists? Buy the cheapest beer and wine rather than support artisan producers and family farms? Even health insurance, broken as it is, infuriating for the profiteering, is a social contract that the well make to take care of the sick. We sink or swim together. Once we can afford to make a difference in our communities, why not shift gears and spend what we have to lift up our friends and neighbors?

    • NN February 12, 2020, 6:44 am

      Thanks for this comment! Couldn’t agree more with all you said! Maybe just to add to it, I think we should also be willing to sacrifice a tiny bit of our returns on our investments and focus more on environmentally and socially responsible investment! And before anyone points out the obvious, I do realize that most of the screened ETFs are far from perfect but at least companies like Exxon are not putting my money to work for the them.

  • Pete February 10, 2020, 1:29 pm

    Hey man, just discovered your website and I think you have a lot of good info.

    Just remember that the “worst case scenario” for not having homeowners insurance isn’t losing the building and all your possessions to a fire or something. It’s someone tripping and breaking their neck on your property and suing you for damages. No insurance for that and you could be back to square one saving your first dollar again.

    Take it from a 15 year trial attorney. Get some liability insurance on that property.

  • Peter Koch February 11, 2020, 3:04 am

    IMO there’s a huge difference between groceries/food (survival need) and beer/wine (luxuries). I would roll out those $203 to entertainment.

  • LisaC February 11, 2020, 9:06 am

    This is how I see it: You’re not pushing your luck with with the Dental insurance. Some people simply never get cavities and have healthy gums. Just be sure to floss daily. I also don’t get cavities, never go to the Dentist and I have never purchased a dental plan and I’m 50.

    If you don’t mind replacing the full cost of your properties in the case of a total loss, then go for it.

    No Health Insurance is probably a bad idea. If you get something like leukemia/lymphoma or various other malignancies (carcinomas, melanomas, sarcomas) and need complicated therapy, your costs will run into the millions. Take my word for it. I’m a doctor. And the thing about is that these maladies can’t be prevented by exercise and a good diet and they will hit you when you least expect it. Additionally, you would not be eligible for an organ transplant (if you would want one) without insurance. In all honesty, you’re just being a miser in that respect.

  • Rob from Montreal February 11, 2020, 2:54 pm

    Bro, no dentist for almost 25 years? You’re lucky, hope your flossing those choppers :). My gf and I fired in 2018 and 2019 with your help, thanks for giving it to us strait!! Best of luck in 2020.

  • KNNYC February 11, 2020, 4:11 pm

    Wow, just my monthly maintenance (not including mortgage) for my one bedroom Brooklyn apartment puts me at over $15,000. So FIRE isn’t in the cards for me anytime soon. But, I’ve decided to get MMM level aggressive about saving more this year (while still having plenty of fun and good food) and hoping to put away 40K on top of my my maxed 401K.

  • John D February 13, 2020, 12:54 pm

    I have to ask, how do you spend zero on bike maintenance? I am a avid biker. At the very least you should be spending money on tires, tube, brake pads, and chains yearly. Every so often you are going to need new cables, chainrings, or a cassette. Now if you are making this stuff yourself please let me know how so I can stop wasting money. :-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache February 13, 2020, 5:43 pm

      Haha, good question John. It’s not zero – I went through a few tubes, a new patch kit, a new chain, some nicer pedals. It’s all part of my generous Amazon budget. (although to be fair, my hardcore bike mechanic friends get more than enough stuff free stuff from adopting and trading around Parts Bikes so that in theory a handy person can ride for free)

  • David February 15, 2020, 7:24 am

    In the past I used spreadsheets to handle my money. Strange accounting errors, and the lack of flexibility led me to search something much more effective. I refuse to share my personal monetary information to suspicious third parties, and so I ended up using GnuCash, a free and open source accounting software. Now I have a much more accurate accounting, and a lot of options to visualize my income, expenses, and sort it all by categories. It clearly helps to see what can be improved, and if there’s any lie I am telling myself (as in, did I really spend almost nothing on X subject for example).

    I’ve been working for less than a year now, have finished my studies. I estimate expenses of about 12k per year, which could probably be lowered, especially with all the stuff I needed to buy as I moved in. Beside, most stuff I bought are tools or everyday stuff that do improve my life and should stay in good condition for a while.

    To a roaring decade !

  • James February 17, 2020, 1:41 pm

    Okay, I get the no home insurance thing but no health insurance? I am a bit jaded in this as I have a daughter who was an extreme premie. Her bills were over 3 million, no exaggeration. We paid just 1000 dollars. I don’t know if I could sleep at night without health insurance.

  • David February 18, 2020, 11:43 am

    re: dental $0.

    I’d be cautious about pushing your luck on this.
    Any reason why you haven’t taken advantage of a dental cleaning on Groupon? I’ve seen those for around $20-30.

  • Jessi February 19, 2020, 9:35 am

    My husband and I don’t track our spending. We just spend less (way less) than we make.
    We do have a $25k daycare bill now, so our cash reserves are going down this year, but we decided they were too high and that was better than diverting investments. We put about 50% of our paychecks directly into investment vehicles, so our savings rate is always at least 50%. In years past we have also saved a good amount of cash.

    Neither one of us makes 6 figures; but we aren’t exceptionally frugal. We just try to prioritize the choices we make for spending. We both drive cars for at least 10 years before buying another one. We don’t eat out much. We don’t do a lot of clothes. Our house decoration skills lack. But our house is way too big, we splurged on solar panels, we both have expensive hobbies and we travel a lot.

    Medical insurance costs us a lot. I will never be without medical insurance.
    When I was 17, someone jumped on me during a game of paintball. I broke my neck and was fully paralyzed, thankfully, I was able to recover and can walk now. But without insurance, I cannot imagine what my life would be like now; even basic care would have bankrupted us, and I was able to get superb care to facilitate a full recovery. But 20 years on, I now live in chronic pain due to the accident, and a subsequent minor car accident that caused other issues. I also have 2 kids who have insurance (and my husband, obviously). Both kids have frequent doctor’s visits.

  • EJ February 19, 2020, 2:52 pm

    For anyone else following along with low level anxiety (about many things, including) about what a FIRE killer divorce would be, I did a little number crunching for a couple in MMM’s initial saving position (850K plus a paid off house) and spending situation who made a firm commitment never to earn money again after retiring in the beginning of 2006. After spending 25K a year from 06-13, 30K from 14-18; getting a 100K windfall in 2014 from downsizing a home, then spending 315K on a house in 2018 and cutting the stash in half in 2019 theoretical lazy-pants MMM is shockingly fine. In fact each of the lazy pantses have 872,056 at the end of 2019. Plenty of money to support inflated bachelor spending of 22K a year per person.

    I assumed 100% investment in S&P 500 fund with .1% fees, used the annual returns from https://www.slickcharts.com/sp500/returns and assumed all spending money for the year was converted to cash on Jan 1 of that year.

    Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but I still found the numbers heartening, so I thought others might too. Here are my year to year numbers for anyone else who might appreciate them or be critical of my lazy math: Stash = (last year’s stash-spending)*return.

    year return Stash
    2005 850000
    2006 1.1569 954442.5
    2007 1.0539 979539.4508
    2008 0.629 600405.3145
    2009 1.2636 727082.1554
    2010 1.1496 807113.6459
    2011 1.0201 797834.1302
    2012 1.159 895714.7569
    2013 1.3229 1151868.552
    2014 1.1359 1387920.488
    2015 1.0128 1349981.87
    2016 1.1186 1476531.72
    2017 1.2173 1760863.063
    2018 0.9552 1352432.398
    2019 1.3139 872056.7137

  • Brian February 20, 2020, 6:50 am

    I’ve been tracking our spending since 2005 using an Excel spreadsheet. I developed a template back in the day that has worked well. Also, as we have a small business in addition to a regular job, income can fluctuate and the spreadsheet allocations can be tweaked to accommodate this. In leaner times, we just save less and perhaps don’t pay that extra $500.00 or more a month to the mortgage. I am proud of what we’ve done with the mortgage by the way: we refinanced in Oct 2016 from a 30 year note at 4.875% to a 15 year fixed loan at 2.75%. The refi amount was 216K at that time. Since then, we have paid it down to 135K! Obviously, the sooner paid off- the better. Anyway, really enjoy your blog and wish you the best in 2020! .

  • LG February 20, 2020, 1:19 pm

    Two comments:

    IKEA??? really? With your carpenter skill and free time I would have thought you would build the kitchen yourself!
    Medical expenses… My only doctors visit in the last five years so far for me is when I was lifting a vinyl plank with the edge of a cutter blade, the blade broke loose and of course… hit me in the eye. I was ok but got really scared so went to the eye doctor. Careful with those fingers and eyes with the carpentry. BTW I also absolutely love carpentry, I just finished building a two story shed and it was super-fun (my Sunday Shed, took me like 6 Sundays)

    I am at a point where my net worth is slightly higher than yours was when you retired but still working full time…. tempting, tempting, tempting…

  • Cow M.D. February 23, 2020, 12:07 pm

    Hello Mr. MM,

    Would you like to write an article about the coronavirus panic that is arising in the world. I would be very curious of what you think.


  • Al February 23, 2020, 4:01 pm

    Great article as always, MMM. I have a question about house downpayments. Where do you recommend keeping the money when thinking about purchasing a house in the next 6-12 months?

  • molly February 25, 2020, 9:56 am

    I know you know you’re lucky with health, but damn you’re lucky. Our small family of three usually meets the out of pocket max for healthcare every year, for chronic (not-lifestyle-related) diseases, with the occasional acute-surprise thrown in. And I’m forever grateful to have the overpriced care we do have and not to be skipping necessary therapies because we can’t afford it.

  • aerojd February 25, 2020, 10:30 pm

    Exposed and . . gobsmacked. $73k for a family of 4 last year, not counting income tax. An inspiring post MMM, and thank you to all the readers for your stories about low spending. Running the total numbers is so valuable, as money seems to evaporate out of my wallet. We have no mortgage, car payments, or student debt. Our toes did not wiggle in warm tropical sands last year – we hitched a pop-up trailer to a minivan and cruised the mountains for two weeks, cooking many of our meals over propane. Our house saw no fancy upgrades. $5 cups of gourmet coffee did not touch our lips. I brown-bagged lunch every day to work, and gulped oatmeal for breakfast, hand-mixed at home. No pets shed their pesky fur on our sofas. We smoke nothing. We are light drinkers, my wife and I often splitting one beer. We bought no new cars, no furniture, and minimal clothing (I have a growing list of deferred clothing purchases). No idea how a Tesla, Lexus, or BMW rides – we drive a compact Honda and an 11-year-old minivan. I rideshare to work with employer subsidy, so my commute costs nearly zero. Maids, landscapers and such are something out of an English Netflix series (we joke about “Footmen”). I hand scoop the primordial black ooze from our rain gutters, auger my own clogs. I summon badassity at every opportunity, rewiring a trailer harness and vacuum system, rebuilding a broken side view mirror on the Honda, re-drilling door knob cores on 70-year-old interior doors. We eased spending on Christmas last year. so. . . $73k total. Fuck. As the total numbers added up, the pathways of spending began to surface, like shallow water-carved furrows across a dry red Martian landscape. $5.7k for property tax in a high-cost city. $5k in health care costs. $8k for church and charities. Damn it. $12k in food costs ($9k groceries, $3k restaurants, and those numbers are probably higher as we have a non-perfect tracking system). Private school for one of our two kids: $7k. Activities, camps, and memberships for kids: Roughly $4-5k. Downhill snow skiing, around $4-5k total for the family, plus a new $750 pair of skis for me last year, admittedly an expensive winter hobby. $6k in home repairs, cap-stoned by $2200 to replace a picture window, $1400 for a new refrigerator, $1050 to remove a crowding cedar. $1100 in car repairs. Fuck. Boom like that, well over $50k and on our way to $73k total. I look around at peer families at school and work, with their newly purchased thirsty SUVs and trucks, massive daily commutes, sloshing Starbucks out of paper cups, big houses and mortgages, multiple pets, flying off to sunny beaches, grocery delivery, take-out, plopping their kids in fancy computer and adventure camps during summer, and even the odd vacation cabin. Clearly we made choices that added to our total, but these other folks must have wood staffs they wave in the air to magically flow spigots of cash, like Moses in the desert.

    • Married to a Swabian February 27, 2020, 6:46 am

      We still have to add up the grand total from last year, but should be around $45k, as out monthly budget rarely goes over $3700. We have one son, who is in college. I don’t include tuition payments, as this has all been saved already in a 529, so payments are made with withdrawals from that. We’re always working to improve. Our expenditures were similar to yours, in that we have no debt, no fancy cars and took only frugal vacations. We also spend a bit more on food (more organic / vegetarian diet) up to a total of about $800 – 900 / mo including going out to eat. A big area that helped was going to a smaller house with lower taxes after our son graduated HS. Old house also had $5800 / yr in taxes and new (50 year old ranch) has $2400 / yr. that helps the budget. Doing nearly everything DIY around house also.

      Big thing to look at per MMM is what percentage of income are you saving and investing? For us, it’s been about 50% for the past five years. That has helped to get on a better path to FI.

      Have you read “Your Money or Your Life”? It’s a bit outdated in some ways (ie. invest all your nest egg in bonds!), but further prompts us to think in terms of every dollar spent as costing us time.

      Don’t worry about what the Joneses are doing – they are fucking broke and will be looking for a bailout the next time a financial crisis hits …. which could be soon.

  • Jeff February 29, 2020, 1:39 pm

    Your automotive expenses are amazing lol. I definitely fall in your category 3. Being a person of strict back of the envelope math, it has been close enough to to keep the household well in the green without stressing everyone out with spreadsheets. I probably should keep closer track, haha.

    I love all the points and btw, I admire your balls of steel for going without health/home insurance. I am way to risk averse even tho the stars have to align for catastrophe to happen at those levels with how careful we are. Maybe In our financial independence days I will be willing to take that risk. I def see your points on doing it.

    I am a sucker for Tesla’s. I may be getting a Y soon too. I am surprised on how much room they seem to have for such a small chassis. If you get one I’ll be looking forward to the review!

  • Ebenezer March 1, 2020, 8:59 pm

    Since discovering MMM in 2017, we have been tracking our spending monthly and annually. I admit before that it was very much a case of “spend what you want and see what’s left”. Being somewhat naturally frugal, this still let me max out a Roth IRA and fund a pension, but not much more. I’d guess a 20% savings rate. In 2018 and 2019 we paid MUCH closer attention and hit savings rates over 70%. Our net worth has skyrocketed and I now feel confident about predicting what we’ll need in the future. Of course things change, but just knowing what the baseline is has completely changed my outlook. For the record, our baseline costs in the Boston area are right around $50k per year for a family of three. Yes, we can do better, but this is WAY better than before.

  • Poppa T March 3, 2020, 2:44 pm

    Very interested in the healthcare article! Healthcare is viciously broken in America. I’m 28 and have forgone getting health insurance (much to the chagrin of my mom) because running some numbers, I too think it’s a much better deal to “self insure”.

  • Edith March 7, 2020, 7:32 pm

    I absolutely would love to track my expenses, but the places where I buy most of my food, and other services, accept cash only. I have an active two year old and can’t seem to find the time and mental bandwidth to register these transactions. I wonder what to do. Maybe just register what’s in my wallet at the beginning and end of the week and create a general “cash” category? It would be maybe too general. I’m not sure if it would be useful.

  • Liesbet April 16, 2020, 7:55 am

    For some reason this post didn’t make it into my inbox. Sorry for being late to the party!

    Well done, MMM! Especially living in a sticks and bricks house… as I’ve found that living “a normal life” is usually much more expensive than the “life less ordinary” of a nomad. My husband and I have always kept track of our expenses (even before we met) during all our years of sailing, RVing, house sitting, and camping. I didn’t post anything about it on my previous (sailing) blog, but ever since I started our Roaming About blog, I’ve created and posted a monthly expense report. No taboos. And no exclusions. It covers ALL the costs for two adults (and recently our 60-pound dog). Every year, I provide a yearly overview as well. If anyone is interested, here are the results for 2019: https://www.roamingabout.com/expense-report-2019/

    Spoiler alert: our total was $16,119. We spent more on our camper van than you did on your kitchen renovation! :-)

  • MelD April 17, 2020, 5:05 am

    Always so interesting when I catch up with you.

    I would ask you to specify where you are when you write articles like this in a globalised world, it may not be clear to everyone outside the US and who have different laws. e.g. it is illegal not to insure your house or your health where I live.
    A small note of emphasis would suffice…

  • Martize Smith May 6, 2020, 6:15 pm

    Tracking your spending is fun I definitely agree. I started tracking my spending a few years ago and I know down to the dollar where everything goes. I know the exact dollar amount that comes in and what goes out. There is personal power that comes from tracking ones spending because we become more conscious of patterns and we can adjust. In our adjustments we can channel money to our likings to improve our financial situation. I track my money the old fashioned way by hand and then some on my bank app. There are so many tools out there that can help us get a grip on our finances. Googling personal finance tracking software or exploring your current bank are good places to start. Honestly, it comes down to simply disciplining your self to actually track spending and continue to do it long term.

  • Michael May 13, 2020, 8:21 am

    The housing is such a big deal. I believe you’re living a very comfortable life with your spending level, not extreme at all. Having lived in Broomfield for a year and half, I can see how the utilities are so low, near perfect weather year round! Now I live in South Florida and it’s a bit of a change. A/C is a necessity just to protect the interior from mold/mildew issues. I’ll be calculating my yearly expenses more closely now to reevaluate where to trim some fat.

  • CK May 17, 2020, 1:23 pm

    Interested in the upcoming post on self insuring for health insurance. I think it makes sense, but I like to lay off my cancer risk as follows:

    Buy the lowest monthly premium ACA plan available in my locality, because it is guaranteed renewable and it has no cap on claims. Plan not to use it. That’s cancer insurance, in my book.

    In my area the lowest premium is offered by an Oscar EPO plan, which also has free Teladoc (video doctor calls) and a small step tracking cash rebate.


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