Mr. Money Mustache

published by Eric Mill on

News Flash: Your Debt is an Emergency!!

On another occasion I was visiting some friends – a married couple. The guy was showing me his new TV and video game system. Later, the wife came home from working at the part-time second job she had boldly taken to accelerate the paydown of some old personal debts. On the way home from work, she had picked up a bottle of wine and purchased a DVD containing some episodes of a popular TV show. This may sound like a normal Friday night to most people, but note that the purchasing of expensive beverages, DVDs, and video games was put at a higher priority than paying off the debt. The girl thought she was taking a second job to pay down debt, but in reality her second job was to pay for wine, DVDs, and video games.

The Practical Benefits of Outrageous Optimism

Fame, fortune, the respect of others, or a job as President of the United States? Just chemical patterns stored in the minds of a bunch of other humans. Even physical problems, like immediately cutting human carbon emissions by 75% to reduce climate change or eliminating poverty in all poor countries, are things that could be solved within months, just by altering patterns in a bunch of human minds.

I'm being destroyed and rebuilt on the inside by Mr. Money Mustache. Not because I want to retire at 30, but because I have been, without a doubt, living the Exploding Volcano of Wastefulness everyone else here has, and it's deeply shaming. There is an alternate universe I am supposed to be living in where I am far more free than I am here.

What's unique about Mr. Money Mustache is that his writing is intensely practical, vigorous, and does not discourage or disappoint the reader during their horrific epiphany - instead, it fills you with the energy you need to do things differently.

It's never too late, and there's so much to do.

Update: My friend Gunnar had a very different reaction to MMM:

There’s nothing practical about this advice. It’s straight-up Calvinism, with MMM and “millions of people”‘s judgement as my Angry God. You there, with the Doritos: convenience and comfort have made you soft, poor, and unworthy of your our love. Pull it together and eat an apple, you depraved sinner.

What should be a series of self-conscious, considered choices about what tools to use or food to eat have become, through the power of MMM’s disapproval, predicates for my sense of self-worth. Literally nothing could be more materialist.

This was sufficient goad for me to take to Gunnar's comment form to really articulate why I feel this way. There's a fuller discussion there, but I wanted to excerpt this part of what I wrote:

Over the last few years, well before I found MMM a couple weeks ago, I have been coming to a steady and angering awareness of a few basic truths:

  • From when I entered the private tech sector workforce in 2005, to 2010, I maintained a constant supply of ~$3-5K in savings. (You can see the $4,000 frozen in stone in late 2010, when I shut down
  • I make more than 2x as much as I made in 2006, and feel 1x as pampered and comfortable. The sentence that first perked me up on MMM is the "Exploding Volcano of Wastefulness". This is what I am living (and I knew this well before MMM articulated it).
  • In the most challenging time I've ever undergone, from Nov 2008 to Mar 2009, I entered joblessness with $3,000 in savings, went down to 0, freelanced back up to $3,000 before landing my job at Sunlight, and then my savings didn't budge for *years*.

So what I have realized is that I am just not good at saving money, and that it is largely all mental. Sure, I've had sharper constraints on me in the past, and I am saving more now, but that I still only manage to save 20% of my income despite having all the advantages in the world (well paying job and no family chief among them), and haven't managed to budge that despite 3 years of feeling really angry about it, is deeply frustrating.

How I'm channeling MMM is simply to give me the emotional impetus I need to make a few reasonable behavior changes. Such as: actually cooking, ever. Bringing lunches instead of buying them. Reducing my impulse purchasing. Taking car2gos a little less frivolously. Basic stuff, that really just requires an emotional foundation of really wanting to do it. That foundation's been very difficult for me to construct, and I'm welcoming it being shored up.

Update 2: I'm not so much looking for a sweet party as I am the ability to look my savings account in the face, but so sayeth Mr. Money Mustache:

  1. Luigi Montanez

    A book that helped me manage my finances is called "I Will Teach You To Be Rich":

    I borrowed it from the library a year or two after it came out. Despite its schlocky title, its a good, sober guide to saving and investing money. I've put my savings and investing on auto-pilot -- barely paying any attention to it -- while my net worth has grown considerably.

  2. fxbx

    You live in a metropolis, one with a 10% sales tax to boot; you're in a difficulty level so high the game has to ask if you're sure about this before you start. Watch yourself!

    Here are my protips from my cloud-cuckoo-land of financial perspective. 1.) Have grandparents that talk about living on fried onion and ketchup sandwiches during their childhood 2.) Never buy a new automobile 3.) Murder your debts with extreme prejudice 4.) Plan on retiring to a location with a much lower cost of living then you're presently at

  3. Mb

    I started making lunches again when I moved in March. It's going really well. I have a similar scenario where I've always worked and never really saved well. Thanks for sharing MMM. I think it's good to question spending and saving habits. It's too easy just too keep the habits we have and forego longer term investments like a house or early retirement. I could buy back some years of my service and retire earlier but this conflicts with my interest in travel. I think a caveat to MMM is to have some sense of where you want to go/save for.

  4. Serrano

    Looks like a great blog! I only read about 5-10 blog posts per week from all subscriptions combined (low information diet!!) but I will add this one for now.

    Frankly I can afford to do whatever I want and still save money since I don't have any expensive hobbies, but of course saving ~2/3 of your income, if possible, is a huge difference compared to ~1/3 of your income. Early retirement or semi-retirement is certainly good motivation to be more frugal. Like you, I wouldn't want to stop working at age 30 either, but switching to part time prior to retirement age would be appealing to me.

    Also, I read this book and recommend it as well: