Mr. Money Mustache

Day 121 | $57,116 paid | $33,601 till freedom

I discovered Mr. Money Mustache’s blog a few weeks ago and I’ve read just about every post since then. MMM is written by a very frugal father and husband who retired at age 32 and has something like $800k+ in the bank that he earned by being frugal in his life and successful in his short career. The interest from his savings provides him with $50k or so a year in income that, when coupled with his frugality, allows him to get by without a regular 9-to-5 job.

When I first started reading MMM’s blog, I thought he was a complete nutjob, but after some reflection, my initial disdain for him has evolved into great respect. On the whole, I think MMM is a very high-quality and worthwhile read–it’s been a real wake-up call. It’s the kind of reading that I found so freakishly enlightening that it made me question just about everything I’ve ever done with money during my entire life. It’s the kind of reading that, after consuming the first few posts, forced me to take a couple weeks’ break from it just to get my head around the general concepts and to steel myself for more criticism of the recklessness of my past spending habits.

Truth be told, it was his blog that inspired my post about hedonistic adaptation and early retirement.

Can I emulate Mr. Money Mustache? I’m not so sure I can. The man is married and he has a kid, so he and I are in different worlds. I’m running around Austin, hanging out with my crew, dating, enjoying the last few years of Bachelor Land, and that takes money. MMM, of course, would probably argue that that’s all the more reason for me to be frugal–I have no responsibilities, no kid, no wife to buy things for, etc. etc., so I can be as frugal as the unabomber and bank all of my income. Fair enough; we’ll agree to disagree on that point.

Can I emulate Mr. Money Mustache? I’m not so sure I want to. I’m not yet completely sold on early retirement and all that is involved, such as the permanent frugality. Let’s just say that I’m still in the consideration phase.

That being said, here are my favorite posts from his blog along with excerpts that I felt were the most informational or enlightening. Each title is linked to the source and posts are listed in the chronological order they appeared on MMM.

I must warn you before going forward, though. If this is your first time being exposed to the school of thought that eschews consumerism, embraces frugality, and espouses stepping off the treadmill and retiring early, then get ready for your world to be thrown upside down. It can be pretty unsettling.

Meet Mr. Money Mustache
“I’m going to teach you a radical new way to think about and enjoy money that will get you off of your current debt-powered treadmill and into a lifestyle that is completely unimaginable to most people where I live, which happens to be in the United States, ground zero for self-imposed treadmills.

“Once you are off the mill, you’ll feel like Neo did when he unplugged the suction cups from his pale naked body in The Matrix and looked around at the other imprisoned humans. “Holy Shit!”, you will say. “I’ve been living in this ridiculous slave world and never noticed.. and everyone else still is! WAKE UP DRONE PEOPLE!!!“. You will suddenly be able to fly freely through the world, free from having to work for a living, able to start living life as you choose, doing exotic things like spending time raising your young children, taking a 3-week vacation each month, or just enjoying understated shows of leisure like sweeping your driveway in pajamas at 11am on a sunny Thursday morning.”

What Does “Early Retirement” Mean Anyway?
“The idea is that if you are earning quite a bit, but you trim your lifestyle down so you are only living on about 25% of that amount, then you are ready to retire when:

  1. You’ve finished building your golden nest egg so you can give up the “75%” part of your salary you were saving.
  2. Your savings (combined with some optional part-time work) will continue generate that other 25% for you reliably, forever.”

Unleash Your Inner Hasselhoff for Greater Riches
“Whenever I hear people explaining some of the biggest expenses of their lives, they are usually expressed in terms of emotions, hassle, and fear of the unknown. They are afraid of making changes in their lives because they are imagining a great tsunami of pain and inconvenience washing over them as soon as they try to change the status quo.

“Oh no! I can’t deal with the hassle! My life is already hard enough!

“But guess what? You’re already IN the tsunami, Sukka! How much hassle is it to get up uncomfortably early every morning, rush through breakfast, drive on a crowded and/or slushy road, stare out the office window as day after beautiful day slips by, and maybe miss out on bringing up your own children because you and your spouse both work full-time jobs?

“So you’re already an expert at dealing with hassle. You do it every day, and the reason you do it is for MONEY. If you have a job that you keep mostly because you need the money, you are a professional hassle-manager. Let’s invent a slick new word for it – you are a Hasselhoff.”

Living Well on the Trailing Edge of Luxury
“You see, we humans are actually not very good at noticing accelerating trends. Maybe because all of our evolutionary history was spent in times of very slow social change. So if you ask an average modern person about what things will be like 10 years in the future, they will look back 10 years in their life, estimate the amount of change that has happened in that time, and tack on that amount of change to the present world to guess what the future will be like. They will totally miss the exponential rate of change, which means the future will surprise them.

“Because of this exponential change, our world is awash in almost-new consumer products. The hottest ones are in the stores, and the hottest ones from just a few months ago are abandoned in people’s drawers and garages. You almost NEVER need to buy anything new, because you can have an almost-new item for 25-50% of the cost out of one of these drawers. People are so accustomed to buying new things, that they are willing to almost give away their used things even when they are barely used.”

Weekend Edition: Retire in Your Mind Even If You Love Your Job
“[Certain Individuals] have seen through the tricks of our consumer society for years, and as a result they live relatively efficient lives, and thus have no shortage of money. But they also are good at their jobs, and they enjoy them. Because of their financial independence, they have no fear of losing their jobs, and this actually makes them more valuable workers.”

Weekend Edition: What Would the Native Americans Do?
“The Natives knew how to have a rich and healthy life while buying Nothing for thousands of years. So while you and I are pretty much stuck buying things these days, we can still embrace our inner Badass Native Spirit when making decisions, and start to become a bit more Naked and Muscular about everything we do.”

What is the Real Cost of Raising Children?
“Kids need to really know their parents, and live in a warm and loving environment. And not just furnace-warm, I’m talking about skin, soil, and sunshine-warm. Kids will thrive when they live in a forest of the arms and legs of their parents and siblings, and when their most prized playthings include dirt, water, rocks, and plants. They grow when they learn by observing the laughs and singing and patiently resolved disputes of the family and friends around them.

“They will suck up the advanced knowledge of modern human civilization – things like literature, science, music, art, and math – if their parents live and share these principles as part of daily life right at home – in that chaotic forest of warm skin and human voices.”

Weekend Edition: Health = Wealth
“This week I accidentally got sucked into looking through one of those mindless ad-laden Forbes features on the world’s top billionaires…Despite their unimaginable heaps of wealth, as a group they look far from exceptional in the area of health.

“If you ask the typical person, even here in the United States: What would you rather have:

  1. A gigantic amount of money, but be overweight and/or frail to the point of needing an elevator to get up to the sixth floor of a building, or
  2. Just a comfortable amount of money and a gold-quality, healthy energetic mind and body that keeps you jumping around having fun with no health issues until you’re 100 years old…

“What do you think he or she would say?”

Equally Shared Parenting
“To sum it up, ESP is the opposite of the old 1950s “Executive Father” situation, where the Mum stays home with the children and does ALL of the work. She feeds and changes the babies, gets them to and from school, is the shoulder to cry on when they need help, and does all the housework and cooking. The father just comes home from work each night and says, “How are my little munchkins today!?”, gives them a goodnight kiss, and relaxes with his pipe and a Scotch and a newspaper or television for most of his evenings and weekends.

“From a Manly perspective, I must admit this sounds pretty nice on the surface. The only problem is he’s not really raising his kids. The Dad in this example is just a household appliance, who brings home a paycheck and does some superficial bonding with them. The Mom is the parent, and the one who has the real emotional connection with her children.”

Frugality as a Muscle
“The problem with the Big Income/Big Spender (BIBS) solution to riches is that it is a hollow victory. You are putting effort into earning ever-increasing amounts of income that could have been put into finding a meaningful life for yourself. You are buying shit that builds up in your closet (or in your arteries and your abdomen). You are channeling your precious mental energy into consumption rather than producing ideas and things of your own.

“BIBS believers imagine frugal people as tragic little beings, whining and suffering out in the street in their potato-sack clothing, as they harvest leaves and sticks from the gutters and try to pound them into pulp with rocks in order to make their own toilet paper so they can save 26 cents per week. And they extend this 26-cent mentality even into rather big expenditures, like $1000 per year on take-out coffee.

“There really is no suffering here, in this highly frugal life. Just a lot of rewarding work and effort and accomplishment.”

Why I Really Retired from Corporate Work
“So yeah, I would have to say that the dull and never-ending nature of big-company work is what did me in. It was definitely pleasant enough to endure for as long as I needed a paycheck. But after that point was passed, the gain was less than the pain so it became logical to leave.

“My self-employment gig, on the other hand, is worth doing regardless of monetary factors. That’s the kind of work that builds up energy rather than subtracting it, and sucks away abdominal fat and health problems rather than creating them. So I don’t plan to ever quit that one.”

Current Events in Stupidland
“The article tells us that most people in the US could not handle a $1000 emergency. Not only is their monthly budget tight enough that there isn’t $1000 of savings each month, which I would already find quite scary, but there isn’t even $1000 ANYWHERE in their lives to scrape together.”

Royal Wedding, Shloyal Fledding
“What I learned is that it is entirely common for you humans to spend months preparing for a wedding, including renting special buildings, hiring various contractors to provide exotic services, buying clothes that will only be used once, inviting guests that are not people you speak with every day or even every month, and even trying to create “appropriate” appearances to various branches of the extended family.”

Groupon? Never heard of it.
“See, while the deals presented on these sites are indeed good deals, the problem is that they are creating wants and perceived needs inside me, where only contentment existed before. Think for a moment about the quote from one of the nation’s Founding Mustachians, Henry David Thoreau: “A man is rich according to the number of things he can afford to let alone”. I believe one of my biggest advantages in the battle to maximize happiness while buying less stuff than most people, is not even knowing what stuff is available to buy.”

Book Review: “Enough.” by John C. Bogle
“So if you just want the executive summary, I would say it is this: Being a rich person doesn’t mean you have to be a big evil douche. But among the rich today, we do have a lot of this unfortunate breed. So we need to reward and encourage the good ones, even while carefully regulating a few walls around the worst offenders – otherwise get yourself ready for a never-ending series of 2008-style Great Financial Crashes where great profits are made in the booms, and the governments (i.e. you and I) are forced to foot the bill during the frequent crashes.”

What is Stoicism and How Can it Turn your Life to Solid Gold?
“The core of the philosophy [of Stoicism] seems to be this: To have a good and meaningful life, you need to overcome your insatiability. Most people, at best, spend their lives in a long pursuit of happiness. So today’s successful person writes out a list of desires, then starts chasing them down and satisfying the desires. The problem is that each desire, when satisfied, tends to be replaced by a new desire. So the person continues to chase. Yet after a lifetime of pursuit, the person ends up no more satisfied than he was at the beginning. Thus, he may end up wasting his life.

“The solution, the Stoics realized, is to learn to want the things you already have, rather than wanting other things. The most interesting technique that will help you achieve this is Negative Visualization.”

What is Hedonic Adaptation and How Can it Turn You into a Sukka?
“In less fancy terms, what this term means is that “no matter what happens to you in your life, you’ll very quickly get used to it”. Hedonic Adaptation is a feature built right into your Human DNA that allows you to function efficiently in a wide variety of environments, even very harsh ones.

“A most striking example of this was a 1978 psychological study that evaluated the happiness levels of recent lottery winners, and recently injured paraplegics relative to the general population. As you’d expect, the lottery winners were pretty upbeat immediately after their win, and the paraplegics were pretty pissed off. But within just two months, both groups had returned back to the average level of happiness.”

The Joy of Self-Employment
“At this point, I realized I would never go hungry. If I really want the amazing firehose of cash that full-time professional employment provides, I can go get one of those jobs. If I just want occasional boosts of cash and/or self-esteem, I can crank up or down the self-employment schedule as needed. Since I don’t have much need for regular income, the self-employment gig is really just a reassuring companion. Self-employment is a big muscular friend who follows you around and smiles a lot, but cracks his knuckles and lets out a very loud 30Hz growl if Life ever attempts to get up in your face.

“My amazement at getting paid for doing random fun projects around the town continues to this day. But yet I do not have any of the burdens of a real job. When I wake up every morning, my only obligation is to the coffee machine and the frying pan, to make the family a nice breakfast while they play in the living room or the garden. When it rains or snows, I laugh heartily and grab a good book or a vacuum cleaner and watch the storm through the comfort of double-pane windows. When the sun shines upon the Rocky Mountains the other 300 days of the year, I take great pleasure in mixing bicycle errands and completely random local work into my mostly full-time parenting schedule.”

Muscle Over Motor
“But when applied to most of your life, this whole idea of powering your own damned recreational activities (including lawn care) is a great one. It’s another form of Insourcing, but it applies to everyone, not just homeowners with chores. If you find yourself tempted to use a motor when a muscle will do just as well, you should imagine me hovering behind you and reminding you of the slogan every time you reach for a gas-powered lifestyle accessory.”


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18 responses to “Mr. Money Mustache

  1. Patrick

    Here’s another one for you…this one by an engineer. His diagrams appeal to my inner Excel nerd. with Jacob Fisker.

  2. If you haven’t read Your Money or Your Life, I think you’d really like it. It talkes about ‘making a dying’ and thinking about how much having a job actually costs you. Thinking about the ‘crossover point’- the point where interest income is greater than expenses- has really changed how I think about our finances.

    Good luck!

  3. Sarah

    You have talked about dating quite a bit on your blog. I was wondering if you could maybe do a post on dating and what you look for in a girl and how your dating has changed during your challenge. Thanks!

  4. Dan Beck

    Thanks! This is great stuff. Especially as an HBS person…..

  5. Sarah

    Also, are you in to Indian girls? I feel like I’d totally want to date you. A lot of what you have said about finances really goes along with Indian culture on spending money.

  6. Wow, nice post.. like a greatest hits mix of all of my own favorite shit! 😉

    Seriously though – I think you have already locked yourself into a nice early retirement, whether you realize it yet or not.

    Don’t worry, you don’t have to give anything up and you won’t be making “sacrifices”. You’ve just gained an appreciation for the real purpose of money – to work for you so you don’t have to work. You’ll still work on things you enjoy, of course, and I predict you’ll have that million WAY earlier than age 44. And along the way you’ll probably get more naturally frugal.

    I never, ever feel like I am giving anything up living this retired lifestyle. And in fact the lifestyle has caused me to accidentally earn and save far more money than I had 6-7 years ago when retirement began, making the numbers in your introduction a bit out-of-date. So we could spend much more.. but we still don’t feel any desire to do it. (Current spending is under $30k/year for the whole family).

    So kick back and enjoy it – you don’t have to go cold-turkey and give up going out to dinner and finding a wife. You are already a rich man in the making.. just keep up the good work! And thanks for the kind words about the MMM blog.

  7. Thomas Carney

    I started readying your blog, MMM’s blog and also extreme early retirement all around the same time, so it is quite funny seeing all three of you reference each other! I makes the web feel very small.

  8. Zeona

    Thank you for turning me onto my new favorite blog. MMM is hilarious yet wise, and as a Rocky Mountain neighbor, I feel like his advice is especially relevant for me. This blog will be wonderful entertainment during the lulls in between your posts.

  9. NoMoreCornellDebt

    Wow, just came over from link in MMM comments. Been reading your blog for over an hour on the train. Obviously, really enjoying it!

    I paid down my 17K direct loan early last year. Inspired/reminded me to keep going and pay down the last 8K of my Undergrad debt 10 years early.

    My 720 GMAT is expiring in three years, (good for five). The idea of doing student loan debt again seems nauseating…

    • Bravo on your undergrad loans!

      Your 720 should open up some doors for you in terms of scholarships/top tier schools. Graduate, get a job, live frugally for, what, 10 to 12 months? And the debt will be a non-issue.

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