What if you quit your job tomorrow? Do you know how much you actually need to live a healthy lifestyle on? Do you have healthy habits, and can you train yourself to create new ones that enable you to live with more long-term gratification and foresight? Can you flex your self denial / frugality muscle without feeling regret or loss? Can you make a conscious choice to cap your annual spending at a certain limit forever?
Who? A mustache made of money? No, humor him for a little bit. MMM (for short) writes a blog about money and your lifestyle. But this isn’t your standard wealth advice about investing and making money. It’s actually about life improvement.
He teaches you the common sense lifestyle skills needed to take control of your life. First start paring down your life of unproductive waste. Why? Because it is here you will develop self control and a sober assessment of your finances and your lifestyle. Do you want to retire? Do you want to live a life of more satisfaction? Then get off of the mentality of optimizing your consumption and move toward producing and creating a purposeful life. Start by spending smartly. MMM clearly points out:
Cutting your spending rate is much more powerful than increasing your income. The reason is that every permanent drop in your spending has a double effect:
• it increases the amount of money you have left over to save each month
• and it permanently decreases the amount you’ll need every month for the rest of your life (key word: permanently!)
• let me add a third effect: it taps into the power of fasting and personal discipline that allows you to experience personal freedom from things that otherwise might control you
It isn’t rocket science. This isn’t just dogma. This isn’t just frugality. It isn’t a get rich quick and retire early feel-good rant. It is about recognizing how to flex our financial muscles and learning what we really need to make us happy and to understand what we actually need to live on.
Note: This isn’t to say increasing your income should be discouraged. Moving to a higher quality profession that isn’t accompanied by significant time and expense sacrifices is appropriate for the capable person. Try your hand at a self-directed higher paying job. But for those currently in their field of choice earning a competitive salary (perhaps at a corporate job), increasing your income is a slow and steady endeavor that isn’t without risk. Cutting your spending habits is an immediate dollar for dollar boost to savings. So, the first step is understanding how much you spend! Use Mint to start automatically tracking all your financial information in real time!
I was introduced to MMM in early 2012 and found that his financial and lifestyle ideals very much echoed my own life of moderation. With his humor and thorough explanations, his lectures are entertaining and incredibly informative. In the blog, he loosely covers topics around personal finance, but in truth, it is far more than that. He often analyzes the very lifestyle and culture we live in and shows that being free from those habits is the best thing you can do for yourself (both financially and for your long term happiness). Get off the financial treadmill now by changing your present mindset.
Mr. Money Mustache would point you to start here in a summary post, or browse by history here, but MMM is absolutely on fire right from the beginning. Join the mustachian ranks, already millions strong.
For those of you curious before you dive head first into his blog, here is what he stands for:
- Save 30-70% of your income (this can be achieved by the steps below).
- Pay off your debt like it is an emergency!
- Arrange your life so that you live close to work.
- Drive less, and use less expensive cars (12K and under).
- Cook your own food.
- Take care of your own stuff (yard, body, housecleaning, fingernails, etc.).
- Don’t buy anything on impulse. Add it to a list, think about it for a few weeks (or years).
- Ride a bike.
- Realize that all the steps above will dramatically improve your life, not representing any negative sacrifice or suffering at all. In fact, you’ll be living a happier life.
- In doing so, you will no longer have to work for money your whole life. It will be a wonderful option in a labor of love and kindness.
That’s the ‘gist. Do all of these things and you will be rich in as short as 10 years. But for some of you, you need to rationalize your actions. And so you need to be trained to THINK. To reprogram yourself. That’s what MMM does so well in his 300+ articles. You don’t read him just to get the above points. No, you read him to get brainwashed into improving your life and living wholesomely – and that is not a bad thing. In fact, you’ll be able to think more clearly. But you need a healthy dose of reprogramming. Just listening to the conclusions won’t be enough to change your behavior. You need to internalize these ideas rather than have them serve as external rules and goals.
Why are you still here? Go! For those of you who want to keep reading here, I’ll summarize the key mentalities for you to peak your curiosity. Then promise to visit his official site!
• Eliminate financial waste from your lifestyle using common sense and the realization that a simple habit or choice has an exponential effect the longer it is practiced. (Driving A Car Is More Expensive Than You Think, Pay Off Your Debt Like It Is An Emergency!, How Biking Can Make You Better!)
It is likely you are wasting hundreds or even thousands of dollars each and every month. Don’t believe me? Do you drive a car? Do you commute more than 20 minutes to work? Do you go out to eat? Do you purchase a daily coffee? Do you watch cable television? Do you enjoy acquiring material objects? Is your bike sitting in your garage corner? Do you pay less than the full balance on your credit card(s)? Do you manually pay your utility/internet/insurance bills? Do you hate to wait for sales on the things you commonly purchase? Do you smoke? Do you drink excessively? Do you eat out of stress? Would you rather call a professional technician to fix something that you can reasonably learn to fix on your own? Do you live in a residence that has more than 1,000 sq ft per person? Do you spend extravagantly despite not having your house paid off (or any debt in general)? Do you lease a car and then trade it in for a new one? Do you spend your time on Facebook rather than investing that time in yourself or face to face relationships?
…I could go on. Really, I could write a small article about each one of these questions and how you need to change your mindset that all of the above are luxuries and are costing you dearly. Thankfully MMM has done that for me. Here’s a fun financial fact that may startle you:
Reducing or eliminating any one of the above habits will save you at least $4 per day, which equates to about $1500 per year. If you invested the initial $1500 and subsequent $1500 each year, after 10 years, the resulting bank balance will show you that you are $17,000 richer just by changing ONE small habit! What if you did TWO? Or THREE?
Imagine if you changed your lifestyle to consume less (live in moderation) and spend time actually getting to know another person (who very well could refer you to a job or fulfilling endeavor in the future) or invest that time back in yourself to learn something new (which could grow into a marketable skill). This is what Mr. Money Mustache is all about. Except he’d rather punch you in the face than ask you simple little questions like me. Wake up drone people!
• Recognize you (and your family) can live luxuriously on less than $25,000 per year. (Happiness Is Relative, An Ordinary Life of Luxury, Learn to Want What You Already Have, MMM’s Luxurious Life)
First of all, do you actually know how much you spend to live your life? Do you really know? Be honest. Even if you live well below your means, you are NOT doing yourself any favors by being in the dark about your lifestyle costs. Good thing technology today makes it easy to for us to calculate this number. Use Mint to start automatically tracking all your financial information in real time!
$25,000 per year? If you realize that a large majority of Americans make between $25-$40K a year in income, then certainly living at this level must be achievable! But luxuriously? Indeed. Let this be exclusive of taxes, meaning $25K equates to $2,083 a month in lifestyle expenses. What kind of expenses? Let’s keep it simple by using 3 key expenses of Housing, Transportation, Food and lumping everything else in Other. We all need a place to sleep, a means to get to work, and fuel for our bodies. The first question is, what else are you spending your money on over and above meeting these base needs? See the first section and principle above and identify the habits that are costing you money and aren’t giving you any additional satisfaction.
The second question is how can you maximize your happiness of the 3 key expenses and spend less? Do you need to live closer to work to cut your commute down? Do you need to relocate to live in a more affordable establishment or get roommates to share the cost? Are you wasting precious calories and nutrition by fueling your body with unhealthy things or perhaps over-shopping such that groceries get thrown away? You’ll have to learn these things. I’m not expecting you to make radical changes without learning something leading up to the change. That’s why reading MMM and asking the tough questions and finding your own answers are important! It takes effort to learn and change! So start by taking a first step!
• Save 50% of your income. Yes, that’s right. 50%. Set the bar high. Higher if you can. If you do, you won’t have to work your whole life. (The Math To Retire, Redefine Retirement, Retirement Isn’t The End!)
First things first. You’ve pared down your life to a wonderful life of moderation in principle one. You then realize you are living quite luxuriously on less than $25K per year (or whatever that limit is for you) in principle two. Now what? In doing these steps, you should already be saving 30%+ of your income! Congratulations! Keep saving. How much? It depends. Ideally, saving 25 times your annual expenses would allow you to comfortably withdraw from this savings to cover your future living expenses – forever. However, saving 10 times your annual expenses can still provide a great supplement to your income as you continue to working, but without all that pressure to maximize your income and savings. How do you get to this point?
The average full-time working career for a human is 40-50 years. That is a long time! What if you could cut it in half? What if you only had to work for 20-25 years. Then you need to start saving 35-45% of your income. What if you want to retire in 10 years? Then you need to be able to live on 35% of your income for 10 years as you work and then you’re free to retire at the lifestyle that you’ve learned to enjoy all that time! That’s it. Simple. If you do these things, you will have enough savings and investment income to cover your living expenses and can supplement your investment interest by working a job you love.
Money makes money for you. And often faster than you can make it yourself. Once you have enough saved up that your savings actually grows significantly all by itself, you might be astonished! Perhaps you saving money NOW will make it easier to increase your savings LATER because your savings will make more savings for you! This is similar to a simple financial principle of compounding interest.
Once your savings start generating a large portion of your annual living costs automatically, you can retire. You can then work at your leisure and make the rest to cover your costs. Wait? Am I really retired if I need to work to cover part of my living expenses? Well, you now can choose to spend time freely doing what you do best and enjoy the most. True happiness is realized when we serve others. When you have all the time in the world to cultivate your skills serving people, it is likely people will pay to have such a person contributing value to their life. So yes, you can retire and do what you do best and enjoy and earn money just by being happy living and contributing value to a community!
Realize that you are likely keeping yourself on a treadmill of needless spending and that is prolonging how long you need to work. Most people lose sight of a 10-50 year journey because they are more focused on the day to day things. They lose perspective. They feel they don’t want to limit the now for the later. What if limiting the now wasn’t actually limiting anything? What if it wasn’t even close to suffering? What if it is a happy choice?
Yes, this sounds frugal, counter-cultural, and only for the well-off. But give it a chance. Read a few articles. If it hurts to hear, good! That means your mind is hard at work learning how to live a better life through a new perspective. And the key thing is to try and put things into practice. Before you know it, you might just get addicted to the lifestyle. This may just be one of the best ‘courses’ in financial literacy that you will ever take. Plus, it’s free!
Related sites for more reading:
David Ramsey – Teaches practical advice to get out of debt and is more cash-focused in terms of your living expenses and retirement savings. He also teaches sound Biblical principles, a great foundation for your financial mind.
NoMoreHarvardDebt – A hilarious and real story on paying off 90K in student debt
EarlyRetirementExtreme – A hardcore approach. Difficult read. But needs a mention – he started it all!