Have you heard of Mr. Money Mustache? Most people haven’t.. And most people are a little weirded out by his strange name.
But, I have to tell you, a friend introduced me to his Personal Finance blog and I basically read every post he wrote from the time he started to the time I encountered it over about a 3-4 day period.. And I was converted!
Converted to what, you ask? Well, Mr. Money Mustache is the alter ego of a gentleman in Colorado named Pete. At a young age, like while he was still in college, or maybe before, he realized he could make short-term decisions while he was young that would have life-long outcomes for him.
And, as I’m saying that I’m realizing.. Isn’t that a basic truth about so many things in life? So many of our short term decisions have long lasting effects!
Introduction to Mr. Money Mustache
But Mr. Money Mustache’s main focus was finances. He did the math, the simple math as he calls it, and figured out if he saved like crazy for the first 10 years of his career, he would be financially independent after those 10 years of working and saving. I mentioned how the concept of Financial Independence improved my life in the 6 Concepts post, so if you haven’t read that one yet, or recently.. make sure you read it after you’re finished with this post.
I was introduced to the blog, consumed the entire thing almost immediately, and set out to find other hard-core fans to talk to and learn from. And, I know I’m not the only one who had this kind of reaction to his message. I’ve met other “mustachians” (thats what you call a follower of Mr. Money Mustache) and I’ve heard of similar blog binging over a short span of time.
When I finished reading his blog from “cover to cover” so to speak, I shared it with my husband so he could be converted too. And, I’ve shared the Mr. Money Mustache teachings with many people since then.. and now I’m telling you about him.
How did I find this guy?
A couple of years ago, a few of my girlfriends and I decided to get together on a Friday night to catch up with drinks and food. We just wanted to see each other and hang out and spend some quality time together.
So, I suggested that, instead of going to a noisy restaurant where we’d have to deal with a server and the noise and pay retail for our drinks, we could all just come to my house and bring our favorite drinks and snacks and we could hang out as long as we wanted with no interruption and we would have everything we needed.
That night as we were standing and snacking and sipping around my kitchen island, I was excited to tell my friends my news – I was buying a new car! Of course they were excited and curious – and asked “what kind of car.”
I said “A BMW.” and I will NEVER forget the expression on my friend Ariane’s face! She was devastated! (Which was so strange because we share a German Connection and BMW is a German carmaker). She went on to explain that she assumed I was into financial independence because I had suggested a frugal girls night in instead of a girls night out. She told me she thought I was a fan of Mr. Money Mustache.
I’ll just take a little break and apologize to Ariane for outing her so publicly in this story- she’s apologized to me many times for her reaction that night, and we’ve had some laughs about it and we both agree that she shouldn’t play poker – but really I also want to publicly thank her! Because her reaction, and her mention of MMM (as we call him for short) piqued my interest. So, the next day, I looked him up (I was only vaguely aware of him before that comment) and I started to read.. And my mind.. My thoughts.. My plans.. And my life all started to change!
I love that Mr. Money Mustache is equated with the Financial Independence movement. He certainly didn’t start it, but people who are in this movement definitely know him and refer to him.
I’m going to go more into depth about Financial Independence and the term FIRE in the next post (and, remember, I mentioned it in the 6 Concepts that Changed my Life post.) But just so you know what I’m referring to when I say Financial Independence, it’s the idea of saving – or having- enough money for your lifestyle expenses to be met for the rest of your life without being dependent on an employer.
Finding the Financial Independence Path
Mr. Money Mustache is referred to (maybe mockingly) as St. MMM. – people credit him with showing them the way, being an example, giving them faith in their ability to follow the Financial Independence path and, of course, people criticize him too.
Basically, his blog outlines how he created the life he wanted for himself by living, what some would call, a hyperfrugal lifestyle. He put all of his “extra” money into investments and, based on his math, had enough dividend producing savings to quit his job and live a “retired” lifestyle ever since. I put “retired” in quotes, because he’s actually kept himself pretty busy and works at a lot of different things.
But, he is financially independent, meaning, he doesn’t have to work if he doesn’t want to, and he doesn’t rely on a paycheck from an employer to pay his bills. He has set up his finances so he and his family are set for life. And, then he wrote a blog sharing all the details.. And that blog ended up becoming income-producing, so by now, since the blog has been around for about 10 years and he’s been featured in some major publications and documentaries, he’s making more income.. Even though he had already saved what he needed when retired from his job at age 30.
I love that he doesn’t take himself or what other people say or write about him too seriously. I think he refers to the “internet police” or the FIRE police. These are strangers, on the internet, who will write to him to tell him that he “can’t call himself retired” because he does construction and carpentry projects, or because he has an income-generating blog, or whatever. I love that he just notices and laughs it off.
What his Blog is Really About
I love that in a New Yorker article, Nick Paumgarten wrote that “The blog..is really an attack on consumerism and waste—a theology of conservation—disguised as a personal-finance advice column. “ Maybe that’s why I was so attracted to it when I found his blog.. I was noticing all the consumerism and waste in my OWN life around that time and I was craving independence from “having to work” for my employer (at the time) but really from any employer.
In his blog, he basically tells how he saved, what he spends his money on (and what he would NEVER spend money on) and how he creates his comfortable life for himself and his family for about $24000 a year. He also answers questions and case studies from readers and gives suggestions and advice about what people can do to follow his example.
Some of his suggestions are too extreme to my taste – for example he suggests people can cut their own hair and do their own nails. No thanks! Those are elements of my life I’m happy to continue to pay a professional to do for me!
But I do have to mention here.. That in March of 2020- I had to start rethinking that preference when getting my nails and hair professionally done was no longer an option. It’s so interesting how circumstances can change our beliefs about ourselves- right?
Some of Mr. Money Mustache’s hobbies are not to my preference- all the weightlifting and construction stuff. Although, I am charmed by the level of detail that he sometimes goes into about, what to me, sounds mundane – but may be super fascinating for someone else.
He has said that the whole purpose is to talk about and bring awareness to environmentalism- and financial independence just goes along with it nicely. I like that. So even though.. On the surface, he’s a personal finance blogger- I really consider him a lifestyle blogger. And I’ve gotten some great ideas and habits from reading his work.
Low Information Diet
One of the most impactful ideas I got from MMM is the “low information diet” – I think I started following him in 2014, and let me tell you- adopting a low information diet over the past few years has been a life saver for me. It’s allowed me to drop any expectation that I had of myself that I need to follow the news or be informed in politics or world events.
What I mean when I say Low Information Diet is that I don’t consume hardly any news or current events. This is a big change from who I was prior to starting this diet.. I used to listen to the news on the radio driving into work.
I actually had Google News as my homepage so I could scan headlines every time I opened a browser. I also found the news-comedy shows (lIke John Stewart and Bill Maher and even Weekend Update) entertaining, and I would frequently engage in local, national and world political discussions with friends and family.. And sometimes even strangers. Not anymore!
Now, I scroll past anything non-personal on my social media feeds, I don’t listen to or read the news, I rarely watch those comedy shows anymore and I hardly ever discuss current events or politics with anyone- mostly because I have nothing to add to the conversation since I don’t know what’s going on, and even as I’m saying this.. I’m feeling a little irresponsible – because I truly believe democracy is based on an informed citizenry – but in the same breath, I have to say- my life is SO MUCH better this way!
Mr. Money Mustache’s recommendation of a low information diet has been a sanity saver for me- and it’s really helped me manage my own thoughts of fear and threat.
This concept helped me change my behaviors and preferences, because I found that watching, listening to and reading the news, and talking about politics – even with people whose viewpoints and positions were in complete alignment with mine – did not make me feel good.
Or a more correct way to say it would be my thoughts about what I was watching, hearing, reading and thinking did not make me feel good. And I thought to myself – is this necessary? Is this helpful? Is this how I want to spend my time, my energy and my attention? And I realized the answer was NO WAY! So, I stopped listening to the news, I don’t engage in world happenings or political discussions, I don’t stay on top of current events. And I don’t miss it at all!
Some may say this isn’t healthy or helpful. Some may say I’m burying my head in the sand. How can I be an informed citizen if I don’t follow what’s happening. Isn’t it my responsibility? My answer to that is “who decides what my responsibility is? I do.” And, I know, that since I stopped following and engaging in all of that, my thoughts are focused on what I want to to think about. And even with a low information diet, I still have my own humanitarian, moral and political beliefs. I still carefully consider who and what I’ll vote for. (And, if you’re curious, MMM has a post about how he decides who to vote for.) But, pretty much any other time of the year, when I’m not getting ready to mail in my ballot, I’m not interested in focusing on all that “extra” information.
Here are some other favorite things I have learned or adopted from reading the writing of Mr. Money Mustache:
Waking up without an alarm
One of the benefits of financial independence and designing your own life is deciding how, and when and where you work – if you do decide to work. So that means, not conforming to someone else’s schedule – there’s nothing to be on time for in the morning. Waking up naturally, with no alarm, became one of my goals. What if I could just let my body decide when it was ready to get up? What if I could just let the gradual change in lighting from the sun coming through the window wake me up?
How is this working out for me in practice? So far, pretty well.
I love my quiet early morning time. It’s the best part of my day – so my preference is to wake up naturally anytime between 5:30 and 6:30 am.
Technically I do have an alarm set on my phone most of the time (but sometimes I turn it off and realize days later I never turned it back on again).
The reason why I have an alarm set for 6:55, even though I don’t ever want to use it, is that’s the latest I would want to sleep – if I’m not starting my morning ritual by 7, I feel too rushed to be able to have a leisurely amount of time to think and write and still make it to my morning zumba class (in regular times, during the time of Corona, I walk in the park instead).
Enough vs abundance
This is a really interesting one because these are just words: Enough and Abundance. And, on one hand, they seem a little contradictory to each other, but on the other hand, they seem very similar.
A short time after I had read all of the MMM posts that were available at the time, I was talking to a friend who was super into Law of Attraction – specifically The Secret, which I’m not really into – even though I now am into the idea of Attraction, generally.
Back then, when this conversation happened, I was still in my skeptical stage about Law of Attraction and still in the phase of dismissing things I hadn’t explored or didn’t understand.
So, my friend was telling me she wanted abundance in everything! She wanted to feel abundant, she wanted to see examples of abundance in every area of her life – and because I didn’t understand it yet, I argued with her a little. I told her, you don’t need abundance, you just need enough.
Reading Mr.Money Mustache had put me in the mindset of not wanting or keeping more than you need – this goes along with concept of minimalism too. For example, why spend money on buying more stuff – just have the right amount of stuff.
Or why have more food than you need? Just consume enough food to fuel your body. When my friend was saying she wanted abundance- I assumed she meant she wanted to possess it, to own it, to HAVE it.
Now that I’ve thought about it and now that I intentionally practice living with an abundance mindset and continue to also try to live some minimalist principles in my life at the same time, I’m realizing that the solution to reconciling these two words, enough and abundance, at the same time – even when they seem a little contradictory- is in the “having of it and the knowing the availability of it.”
I have enough and I know there is abundance available to me.
I don’t need to get more, or keep more or buy more or eat more or save more or hoard more to feel abundant – having all that “extra” and having “more than enough” actually seems like a contradiction to feeling and knowing abundance.
It means I’m somehow worried that I won’t have enough when I need it.. a scarcity mindset would want to hold on to something, to have it.
What is Waste?
Thinking about this brings up the topic of “waste” which I have been learning so much about recently- in fact, I think I want to do a whole post about why we do or don’t waste food, time, money and energy.. It’s so interesting as I’ve been working with my weight loss clients in the first part of 2020, we’ve been discussing when or if it’s appropriate to “waste” food.
And, as I worked with my own coach, I explored my very strongly held opinions about wasting time. It’s CRAZY how we have these unexamined beliefs that guide so many of our actions.
If you have beliefs or rules that you follow about not wasting.. Please email me so I can think about them and maybe include them as examples when I do the post on wasting.
Humans need a challenge
Humans need a challenge and need to put forth physical effort – You need to sweat or work or problem solve every day to be happy.
I once had a lovely conversation with a friend, when she asked me if I had heard of “failure to launch.” I had heard of the Sarah Jessica Parker movie.. So I kind of guessed the concept that she was referring to – basically, she described when a person grows up, but then doesn’t leave their childhood home – they don’t get a “real job,” they don’t go out on their own, they’re not responsible for their own livelihood.
And as we discussed and as I thought about it, I wondered if a LACK of challenge, sweat, work and daily problem solving contributes to this Failure to Launch syndrome.
If a human is raised with every convenience, given resources the instant they’re needed- like food, money, shelter, comfort, entertainment, affection – if all of those are readily available without challenge, without effort, and if the human becomes expectant and reliant on that ready supply of those “rewards” and becomes accustomed to the pleasures of those things, why would the human ever exert any effort to possibly engage in any pain (like the pain of applying for a job, or the pain of looking for a new home, or the pain of solving a problem like making money or living on a budget) – so then the human is so accustomed to staying in the current pleasure, and avoiding the new pain.. And conserving energy by keeping the status quo – of course they would never launch themselves!
The motivation is NOT there – in fact, all the motivating factors are pointing towards staying at home, living as a dependent adult child.
Failure to Launch
I’m assuming this “adult dependent child Failure to Launch” example probably doesn’t apply to you .. but maybe you notice a Failure to Launch in other areas of your life. Maybe you’re not launching the way you could in your physical fitness, in your health, in your personal development, in your finances, in your household, in your career, in your hobbies..
What do you think? Am I on to you (a little)? Is there an area that you’re settling for status quo?
That’s why I’m so grateful to Mr. Money Mustache for encouraging me to look at challenge and physical effort and sweating and working and problem solving – because that means my status quo isn’t just passively receiving resources. It means my status quo is constantly launching! I become accustomed to and expect discomfort and difficulty and growth. This has so many applications! I use this with my coaching clients around weight loss, and making changes in their career or relationships.
It’s 100% applicable to doing Thought Work and being willing to feel your feelings and manage your mind.
And.. I still have another concept (maybe my favorite concept) from MMM to share with you – but I’m saving it for the next post because it fits in nicely with that topic- and because this post is already pretty juicy! Next week I’m talking about the concept of Financial Independence and Mr. Money Mustache wrote an amazing blog post explaining the simple math of achieving Financial Independence.
And, now, just like I do on every First Friday, since this is a thank you card, a love note, and a fan letter to Pete.. if you’re reading this.. I just want to say:
Thank you for “coming out of retirement” to write your blog. Thanks for following the suggestion and taking the action of putting all your thoughts and ideas into written format and actually pushing publish. Thanks for creating an entertaining, and at times polarizing, alter ego to make people pay attention.. And share – that’s how I found you!
Thanks for writing about both the meaningful and the mundane.. I don’t really care about PEX vs. Copper plumbing, but I still read your post about it! Thanks for your generosity, not just in sharing your time, your experiences and your ideas.. But also sharing your money with organizations and causes that are important to you and to the world.
You have made an impact on my life. I have shared your work with others, so I know the impact you made on me, has also impacted others too. Your influence is almost as good as compound interest! The results are exponential. Thank you!
What do you think? What do YOU have to share with me about your reaction, or introduction to Mr. Money Mustache? Did anything I mentioned bring up any resistance for you?