Exposed! The MMM Family’s 2013 Spending!

Mr. Money Mustache carries the first wall of the new roof structure into place. A great start to 2014.

Mr. Money Mustache carries the first wall of the new roof structure into place. A great start to 2014.

Luxury, luxury, luxury. What a strange and grand country this is, where the necessities are virtually free, so we end up spending most of our income on optional luxuries in the quest for ever-fancier pants. The Money Mustache family is no exception, and 2013 was another tight navigation along the border between “Enough” and “Too Much”.

Imagine that Bill and Melinda Gates had come over to your house for dinner yesterday evening, and just before leaving they slipped you a little envelope containing a credit card with your name on it. It came with a $100,000 monthly limit, and the understanding that you’d never see the bill – it would be covered in perpetuity by the generosity of the Gates family. How would your spending change?

Even with much lower income than that, I have been forced to consider this scenario, because for practical purposes we’re finding ourselves in the same boat. Our surplus in savings and income grew again this year, and the gap between this and our spending became embarrassingly large. This gave me a chance to re-evaluate all of my frugal roots. Was I really doing all this stuff because it makes me happier, or was some of it just because of the money?

So we cut loose a bit. Never thought twice about buying a pack of beer to bring over to a friend’s house, browsing the gourmet cheese section at the hip new grocery store that opened up in town, taking a trip, or inviting crowds of people over for elaborate meals. We hosted a steady stream of out-of-town visitors, providing food and entertainment and hospitality. Upgraded work boots and worn clothing with abandon, and gave gifts and donated time and money whenever it seemed appropriate. I even upgraded my kitchen sink.

On the other hand, many things did not change. I didn’t abandon my trusty commuter bike and become a Car Clown, because cycling is genuinely a much happier thing to do than driving. Kept building things, because carpentry makes me happy. Didn’t buy a bunch of new gadgets and furniture, because simplicity is a better daily habit than cluttering up one’s living room with a Hedonic Treadmill. And we took fewer trips this year, because we love where we live and now have many close friends here. While vacations and tropical beaches are fun, it is always worth considering what you are leaving behind. A better home life creates the desire for fewer vacations.

I don’t do any budgeting or track spending through the year – we just let the cash fly and add it all up at the end. So I was sure we’d blow our reputation this year and I would have to report back to you with an embarrassingly middle-class exploding-volcano-of-wastefulness figure.


Our spending, broken down graphically in Mint (click for larger)

The net result of all this? Our total spending for the year increased by $140, to a grand total of $25,142*

Mortgage Interest00
Property Taxes2,3582,517Looking forward to a drop next year in the new, smaller house!
Food and Dining6,2387,739This is where our flashy spending really showed up.
   Groceries   5,733   6,984For this we can blame the new Lucky's Supermarket, and loads of houseguests and parties.
   Wine/Beer   280   466Although the category has increased, $150 of this was a gift to a friend. Getting your good wine in boxes really helps in this department.
   Restaurants, Coffee Shop   225   288
   Doctor Visits   1,034   425
   Health Insurance   710   2,855First full year of fully unsubsidized health insurance (see article).
   Dentist   172   366
   CPR Class   65   n/a
   Pharmacy   67   143
Auto and Transport1,5372,231
   Gasoline   684   1,022A bit more roadtripping this year, including destinations in Canada and Utah/Nevada.
   Insurance   313   330
   Registration & Testing   217   294
   Express Tolls   79   80
   Speeding Ticket!   75   n/a
   Service & Parts   169   422I enjoyed my first mechanical problem this year on the 1999 minivan, but managed to fix it. See article How to Fix a Car
   Public Transportation   n/a   81While I'm in favor of public transport in principle, I find I never use it in practice, because bikes are faster, cheaper, and better for you for typical intra-city distances.
Utilities1,4631,649This includes natural gas, electricity, water, sewer, trash, recycling, and some other city services. Our usage dropped slightly, but rates rose a bit and some of this was startup fees for the new house.
Cell Phone240300These days I get free phones, but this is the annual cost of a single unlimited smartphone from Republic Wireless. Or two phones with unlimited talk/text but wi-fi data only.
Internet Access360360(not included in mint charts)

We keep this cost down by sharing a high-end connection with a friend: (see article)
   Home Renovations   2,147   383My only house expenses this year were a new kitchen sink and a bath faucet.
   Home Insurance   353   392
   Landscaping/Plants   56   85
Donations/Charity1,734615Personal donations only (business including this blog donates separately).
Crossfit1,175650We managed to chop this down by setting our own garage up as a gym, and inviting friends over for free workouts.
School Tuition1,1100
   Shoes & Clothing   327   606Several pairs of fancypants, new sandals, new workboots. Excessive!
   Sporting Goods   426   566
   Shopping Misc   738   965
   Books   71   46
   Other   789   440Netflix, kids activities, swim lessons, school supplies, local plays, apps, CC annual fee, cash withdrawals, foreign transaction fees
Travel1,8761,934Really you could subtract $1200 from this, which is the statement credit we got from various rewards credit cards. This figure also includes the experiment where I tried to Waste $1000.
   Subtracting Tuition, Donations   22,202   24,567
   Subtracting travel, crossfit   19,151   21,983
   Subtracting organic/luxury food   17,259   19,678Assuming a 33% increase on groceries due to organic + meat.
   Subtracting home renovation expense15,11219,295This is what our "no frills" living cost would be, unless we moved to a smaller house (Note: Misc category could be cut down a lot as well)

As it seems to happen every year, things changed, but we spent about the same amount. And life went on just fine. I think it’s because spending is more of a habit than a conscious effort – if you just develop the habit of spending the right amount for your own needs and savings goals, everything else takes care of itself.

Here’s to a prosperous 2014!

How to track your spending: We do almost all spending using a good cash-back credit card, and let the Personal Capital and Mint apps automatically categorize everything and display it in pretty pie charts and percentages for us. As a non-budget person, I find this method of tracking to be revolutionary, as it happens even when you are busy living life and forgetting about money.

Other exposing annual spending articles:

Exposed! The MMM Family’s Actual Spending! (2010)

Exposed! The MMM Family’s 2011 Spending!

Exposed! The MMM Family’s 2012 Spending!

*Note: I did not include any costs related to rebuilding our new house in this total, which so far have added to about $25,000 including things like engineering, permit fees, steel, lumber, electrical and plumbing parts, kitchen cabinets, and all new windows and doors. This is because the end result will be selling our current house and ending up with $100k to spare from the transaction. It’s more of an investment than a spending spree, although it sure feels otherwise when all these cardboard boxes keep arriving on the job site.

  • Michelle January 12, 2014, 6:52 pm

    Wow sounds like another good year! I’m always amazed by how little you spend each year in restaurant spending. This is something that we are still actively working on. We are doing much better than before, but there is still room for improvement.

    • Free Money Minute January 13, 2014, 8:55 am

      Avoiding restaurant spending can make a huge difference to the bottom line. Especially if you have a regular job and bring your lunch everyday vs going out.

      • Ma$e January 15, 2014, 12:29 pm

        We recently moved closer to work, and reduced out debt significantly, one of the spinoffs from the new house is we are not close to restaurants – which we had been avoiding anyway. Although we were spending $0 on restaurants we noticed a real spike in our grocery spending and electricity bills… turns out it was because we were not eating ALL of our meals at home which meant more food and more energy to cook it!

        When we sat down to look at the numbers, however, we saved money overall by eating at home even though I would cringe every time we had to make another grocery trip!

        Next step – figure out how to get to the grocery store on the bike!

    • Miss Growing Green January 13, 2014, 11:55 am

      We are working on it too, but we’ve gotten much better over the past few years. One thing I always like to do is- when we do go out to a restaurant and order something we love- take extra note of what you love about the dish and the spices/ingredients in there. Then, make a special attempt to re-create that meal at home. Once you perfect it, it’s hard to justify eating out for the same thing you can make and home for 1/2 the price. And, often times the at-home-version is better, simply because you’ve tailored it to your exact tastes!

      • Will Murphey January 13, 2014, 3:26 pm

        When my wife and 7 year old go out to eat, we purchase an adult entree and a kids meal. This is plenty for the three of us. It also helps on the waste line. Waters across the board. Also we will add a salad to make the meal larger and the cost of a side salad is minimal.

        Great job MMM on keeping the costs of your living low!

    • mr. books January 14, 2014, 11:03 am

      as most people are commenting – your restaraunt spending is amazing. i don’t know how you do it. and to be honest – i don’t think i want my eating out budget that low. I don’t eat out for lunch. i don’t eat out for breakfast. I don’t walk around town with a new fancy coffee drink that costs me 4$ a pop. But i do like to go out to dinner with my wife and occasionally my kids. a nice dinner helps build the romance and my nose out of the books – if you know what i mean. I spend about $150/month on eating out and i don’t want to cut it back. and that really isn’t that much – about 3-4 meals out a month. enjoyment also has a pricetag.

      Thanks for sharing. some great insights.

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 15, 2014, 7:07 pm

        Wow! $150 a month at restaurants! I guess if you’re really well-off financially, that wouldn’t hurt. I might be so bold to go out that much once my son is grown (he doesn’t dig restaurants right now, which is one of our secrets to this low annual figure).

        But for anyone trying to get ahead (especially with debt), eating out is a really easy category to have at zero. I went my entire university career with zero restaurant meals, for example, because my earnings were enough to cover tuition and groceries – that was it. With eating out, I would have had to go into debt, which would not be cool.

        • mr. books January 16, 2014, 6:18 am

          MMM. thanks for your response. i respect what you do and admire it. I am not in debt. We are on a strict budget. we don’t have cable, no internet, no data plans on phones (writing this from work)but it seems like our family really benefits from the $150/month restaraunt budget. My wife looks at it like a breath of fresh air when we go out to eat. she makes breakfast/lunch/dinner throughout the week and a weekend meal is helpful. i am always the “cheap” one. I would really appreciate some more on this topic (maybe in a future blog). How does your family change it up without going out to eat? because i still have a hard time spending the 150/month . . . . and would like some ideas from the sensi

          • Ann January 16, 2014, 11:36 am

            How about a dinner club? Sometimes it’s just as easy to double or triple a recipe as to make a single, and either invite someone over or bring them dinner. (I’ve seen groups organized both ways). You could also do a modified version of once a month cooking so you can pull your own “takeout” or “convenience” food from the freezer.

            • Lucas January 16, 2014, 12:29 pm

              I love the idea of dinner clubs, but with us and most of our friends having little kids who go to bed early this doesn’t work out so well. We will invite our non little kid friends over for desert and games though which works fairly well and allows us to put our kids to sleep in their own beds. will get easier over time though.

            • Ann January 16, 2014, 9:26 pm

              One of the groups I’m in that does it as a monthly social event–kids at one house with a sitter, adults at another. The other group is a group of four families, and on three Wednesdays a month, someone drops off a prepared meal. The other Wednesday, you make it for all four families. This might be more practical for families with small kids, but you have to be very clear about guidelines, dietary restrictions, etc.

            • markbrynn January 24, 2014, 3:06 am

              Just curious about what’s the concern about little kids sleeping in their own beds. I’m all for having a regular routine with kids most days (tends to help things run smoothly), but once every week or two I wouldn’t think sleeping in a Pak-n-play (very little ones) or in a sleeping bag on the floor would be a bad thing. My daughter always enjoyed the adventure/variety of it.

              If you do that, you save costs on babysitters, get more interaction with all of your friends kids and still have adult time. This does require that your friends (or you) don’t let kids stay up later/continually interrupt the dinner. Has worked plenty of times for me.

          • Lucas January 16, 2014, 12:27 pm

            Kind of in the same boat you are with this Mr. Books. My wife and I aren’t 100% on the same page with regards to frugality, but we are getting closer. One particularly are of “difference of opinion” is in eating out. We are doing very well overall, though. And some level of spending ~$100-150 a month in this category has helped keep our relationship great while we work on reducing other areas. It is all part of continual optimization. Work on some other areas and then come back to this as you can. If you have young kids, then getting your wife a break whenever/however you can is very important and certainly should be considered the loving thing to do and a long term investment. If you can do this without spending as much money, great!

            • meagain January 16, 2014, 12:38 pm


              If both parents are equal partners (as it sounds like the MMM family is), I’m confused as to how “getting your wife a break” is relevant? Does your wife bear the all the responsibility for childcare in your family?

            • Eldred January 16, 2014, 12:43 pm

              If she is a SAHM and he works outside the home, they CAN’T be equal partners, because he doesn’t have the same availability with the kids that she does… Not saying one way is better than the other, but it’s just a time issue.

            • Jack Nickle January 19, 2014, 3:56 am


              Doing something nice for your wife is completely orthogonal to how you share responsibility for work and childcare.

              We all need breaks and relaxation away from our day to day responsibilities.

          • Cujo January 16, 2014, 1:06 pm

            Intentionally or not, MMM has a tendency to come across as “you should do this”, as opposed to “this is what I do.” My view is that this stuff isn’t scripture that you have to follow to the letter. Pick and choose and adjust according to what works for you. If you’re spending $150 a month eating out, and you’re aware of that fact, and you feel like you’re getting $150 worth of enjoyment out of it, then keep doing it. Our own figure is probably around $100 a month, and I have no interest in reducing it.

            • Emmers January 20, 2014, 5:42 pm

              ^ This. MMM works best if you realize that nobody is exactly the same as anybody else, but take all the good suggestions that are applicable to your life and use them.

            • asdfdas January 27, 2014, 3:02 pm

              Personally I am amazed that someone can waste 450 dollars a year on beer and wine when water is free, 80 bucks on tolls, roads, 500 bucks on crossfit, and a few other things on the list. But our priorities in life are different.

              One thing to think about is how much of some of those numbers is just random variance. Was spending 600 less on the doctor just chance (2 less visits for a nagging cold) or frugality. Was spending 200 more on the dentist a waste (i.e. you got some fancy tooth whiting) or the fact that junior had 2 cavities this year versus none last year. I know I have a lot of things that go in cycles. Some years I spend 1000 bucks on clothes but they get balanced out by the years I spend 100. Things like work jean, socks and underwear can last 5+ years.

          • Spectra January 23, 2014, 4:21 pm

            @Mr Books
            I love this response. One thing I hate about comment boards is when a great article like this is written and everybody scoffs and fights. Personal economics is all about choices. you made a choice and MMM made another and I’ll have one too but I can always respect anyone who understands the costs of their decisions and then decides whats best for them. I lose respect often for those who make frivolous choices and are clueless to why they’re broke and stressed out.
            Enjoy your meals.

            • Eldred January 24, 2014, 9:08 pm

              I can go along with that. When I was getting out of debt, I made the decision to keep bowling in league. I realized that would increase the time it took to get debt-free, but I was willing to sacrifice that time to to something I enjoyed doing.

          • Kumiswati January 29, 2014, 2:48 pm

            $150/month for eating is VERY reasonable. We spend at least $1,500/month and that is a huge improvement to the $3,000 just a few months ago. We live in the bay area, so things are very expensive here. I’m retiring in July and my husband just retired last week and we both will be self employed. I guess what I am implying here is, we want to be frugal at your own standard but still could do what we enjoy most. In our case, eating out. We are foodies and live really close to all the restaurants and bars. Plus, what’s the point of living in SF when you can’t do all that?

            • meagain January 29, 2014, 7:57 pm

              Wow! You spend half of what I make on eating out. That’s certainly luxury. I’m a foodie too, but for me it takes the form of fancy (highly affordable) and innovative meals at home…including homemade ice cream about once a week. For $1,500 you could get some awesome kitchen gadgets and flex your culinary skills (if you’re into that).

            • Mr. Money Mustache January 29, 2014, 8:20 pm

              Yeah.. I think it helps if we all remind ourselves that we are “foodies” as soon as we advance above the most basic rice/beans/potatoes/vegetables diet, which would cost under $50 per month per adult. Above that, you’re eating luxuriously. So with my family burning almost $600/month (most of that for the adults), we are in ultra-crazy-decadent-ridiculous eating mode. This is not meant to judge – $1500 is fine too, if you can truly afford it and have nothing you’d rather do with that money.

        • Juliet January 17, 2014, 5:26 am

          I stopped eating out at restaurants completely due to food allergies and fear of cross-contamination. I usually avoid drinks too, since servers can easily get me sick just by touching a plate of food, then touching the rim of my glass.

          Based on my experience, reducing restaurant spending to 0 is definitely possible, and even quite simple. I just don’t consider “restaurant food” to be food. If I were to eat it, it would not provide nourishment for me, but instead make me very ill. Therefore, I am not tempted to eat it. Even if it looks delicious, to me it is like fake plastic food (which can also appear delicious).

          However, I personally have found that social ramifications make avoiding restaurants very difficult, in contrast to college-age MMM’s experience. When you are a college student, no one expects you to be able to afford restaurant meals. After college, that changes. I often find myself in social and professional situations where eating out at restaurants is expected, and when I don’t participate, I am made to feel very awkward. When I do go out to dinner, I often spend much of the evening explaining to various people why I am not eating anything. These conversations just sap the fun out of everything, detracting from the purpose of the dinner. In these situations, I would gladly pay the cost of an entree to get out from under the microscope.

          What you buy at a restaurant is often more about social status, relationships, and networking than about food. I think of eating at a fancy restaurant like wearing a tie. Practically, it’s totally unnecessary, but it might get you a little farther in life if you do it (and there’s definitely an opportunity cost to not doing it). I suspect that’s why the commenters here, who tend to be very logical and financially savvy, are citing so many social reasons for high restaurant expenditure.

          • kid February 1, 2014, 5:56 am

            Thank you for that comment. Those are my sentiments too. My sensitivities are certainly of a lesser kind but usually don’t feel well after a meal at a restaurant and rarely enjoy the taste. Yet I feel like a fool when I try to explain that, almost as if I was making excuses and not actually telling the truth.
            Also, I am quite a minimalist when it comes to food and I often can’t understand people trying various recipes and marveling on how great those things were. It takes a really good cook to make the fancier meals really tasty, so to me all this foodism is another form of excessive consumerism and ego massaging. I’d rather eat simply (this doesn’t contradict improving and experimenting) all the time and go somewhere you know the food is excellent once or twice a year if I can afford it, but yes it would very likely put me in a worse position socially.

            • Juliet February 1, 2014, 4:30 pm

              If you don’t completely understand why restaurant food makes you feel unwell, you may want to investigate. Start talking to doctors, get some testing, and try an elimination diet. My food allergies started the same way when I was very young, and gradually got worse. If I had taken the problem seriously many years ago, I would have saved myself a lot of pain.

              I actually really love food and cooking, especially experimenting and trying new recipes! Many “fancy” recipes are actually quite simple. If you ask a professional chef and a relatively inexperienced home cook to create a dish with a certain flavor, the professional chef will use fewer ingredients. One key is understanding how to balance flavors (saltiness, acidity, sweetness, bitterness, umami, etc.), and knowing what ingredients add those notes. Another key is understanding the techniques necessary for achieving a certain texture (such as how thinly to slice ingredients, cooking time/temperature, etc.). These are simple concepts to learn from books, and it takes some practice to get right. I personally feel that if I am going to cook all my own meals, it’s worth it to develop the skills to make them really fantastic!

        • JB February 10, 2014, 3:31 pm

          Eating out will be the biggest issue to get my wife to cut back on when we retire. We save about 46% of our income, but we like to travel and eat out. She doesn’t like shopping and we grow some food and cook from scratch, but she likes eating at celebrity restaurants. We make over $350K a year and could retire now and live like MMM, but we aren’t quite ready yet, so we just keep saving.

        • Mr.Fancipants February 24, 2014, 6:06 pm

          I think the hype over “eating out” can be misleading. There can be big differences in the cost of eating out. Going to places that have counter service can provide meals that I would argue are pretty close to what it would cost you at home. A big part of this is due to waste. You want to make your own sandwiches, fine. But if those last few turkey slices go bad or you don’t get to part of that tomato you sliced up, you’ve just upped your cost. I’m not saying you can’t eat at home very frugally. Anyone can stretch rice and beans out but I think there are casual dining options that are very reasonable because they can buy in bulk and can more easily limit waste because of high volume.

      • JB September 9, 2014, 2:26 pm

        We go out all the time. Mainly because we have a large income and it is a small percentage of our expenses. Could we cut back? Yes, but we aren’t misers. We should have plenty of money when we retire.

    • benji January 18, 2014, 6:08 am


      Interesting video for all those looking at the short term satisfaction that arises from consumerism and the cycle that working to spend places you in

    • JB February 10, 2014, 9:32 am

      Heck, we spent $150 dining out just on Friday Night and Saturday night, but it was an unusual weekend. Eating out is one of the biggest places to cut back. You can eat at home way cheaper.

  • meagain January 12, 2014, 6:53 pm

    I aspire to your café/restaurant spending. What gets me in that category is that’s how most of my friends want to hang out. Any suggestions? I’ve suggested getting wine/beer from the grocery store and hanging out in our various apartments but we always end up out somewhere.

    • lemonlime January 13, 2014, 10:57 am

      The only thing I’ve come up with so far is to go out with them but drink club soda (usually free, but I will leave a tip because the bartender/waiter still had to prepare it and give it to me, especially if you hang out for a while) and not purchase food when out. If you have a ride, you could “pre-game” at home before you go out. It’s tough, admittedly, but if your friends already know you’re a weirdo they’ll accept it as another weirdo thing. In that case the hardest part is not cracking open your wallet.

    • Miss Growing Green January 13, 2014, 11:52 am

      This is an issue for us, too. We don’t eat out much (once or twice a month) but about 50% of that is “obligatory” eating out with friends / colleagues that like to eat out. It would be kind of awkward to not order *anything* at a restaurant/bar, but we usually arrive full (eat dinner at home) and then order an appetizer to share and a drink each.
      There are still some costs associated with that strategy, but it’s a lot less than friends who are ordering appetizers, entrees, multiple drinks and desserts. You can still be social and eat with the group without spending $50 on a night out.

    • Catherine January 13, 2014, 3:12 pm

      If the weather is nice, suggest a daytime outdoor activity in lieu of the bar/cafe (bike ride, hiking, etc.) If the weather is not so nice or you are meeting in the evening, we often get around this problem by offering to host and providing some “seed” food & alcohol–people will often bring things as well, but there’s not really an obligation, so it’s not any more trouble for them than going to a bar. There is some cost for us, but it’s fairly minor compared to the cost of going out. Plus, once you have gotten the ball rolling on hosting, others will be more likely to invite you over to their place, so the cost isn’t one-sided for long!

    • Peter H January 14, 2014, 7:59 am

      Instead of suggesting beer/wine and hanging out, suggest some specific activity you guys like that you can’t do at a restaurant or bar. Like maybe indie board games or somesuch? Or even like throw a dinner party or something? That way, it’s not just a cheaper alternative that doesn’t sound as fun, but a better alternative that you can’t do at a restaurant cause of the nature of a restaurant.

      • amyb January 19, 2014, 12:14 pm

        Peter, that’s pretty much what we’ve come up with too–dinner parties– and we love it! Every couple Thursdays, the wives pick a food theme and each bring a dish, meaning I didn’t have to cook 3/4 of a 4 course meal, giving me a nice break and having the same effect as the restaurant outing without the price tag remorse. The ladies often do that for lunch but we also do evenings where someone will bring a bota box, someone cheese and crackers, someone wings to throw in the oven, and it’s a blast…and only about $10 per couple.

    • JB September 9, 2014, 2:28 pm

      Find BYOB restaurants. It will at least save some money on alcohol.

  • Schmidty January 12, 2014, 6:56 pm

    Thanks for the update. Every year my frugality muscles strengthen thanks to your encouragement and advice.

  • Miss Growing Green January 12, 2014, 6:57 pm

    Wow, what a neat look into your spending for the year! It’s amazing how much being mortgage-free and car payment free really helps keep your spending down, no?
    I also think it’s pretty neat that you really “let yourself go” in 2013, “splurged” when you felt the urge, and let go of your rigidity with spending rules. The most interesting part is that you didn’t really see an increase in net spending for the year! To me, that says you’ve really hit a ideal spot, where the majority of your happiness is coming from things that don’t cost you money. That is absolutely a great place to be, and to strive for in 2014 if you’re not there already.

  • Rebecca January 12, 2014, 6:59 pm

    Wow. That is really impressive! We have a long ways to go to get our spending down to that level, but I hope we can someday. For shits and giggles I tried to tweak our budget to get to that point, and our 3 biggest expenses are getting in the way. (surprise, surprise) We have student loan payments, daycare, and rent payments. I cannot WAIT to slay those student loans. But even after that, we have a looooong way to go to get to $3k/year in housing expenses.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 12, 2014, 8:19 pm

      I would count student loan principal repayments as savings rather than spending (although the interest portion is a genuine expense). And my “rent” is hidden by the fact that I have a house with no mortgage. Really you could could add in $24,000 per year to these expenses to account for the value of living in this house, and the effect would be roughly the same if I sold the house, invested the money, and spent the $24,000 of investment cashflow on renting a house or apartment.

      And, we spent a lot on preschool just a few years back, and kids eventually get older – so really our core expenses might be pretty close after all.

      • Ross January 13, 2014, 6:09 am

        That’s an interesting point about the cost of rent. I always include it in my spending because it is a genuine cost. If I excluded it from my spending, my number goes way down. I always wonder how people who’ve already paid off their home manage to still spend so much money. Rent is a full 40% of my spending.

        • JMK January 13, 2014, 8:42 am

          Paying off our mortgage will reduce our annual costs significantly, but you certainly don’t live there “free” afterward. For all those who think renting is throwing away money, consider what would happen if you didn’t pay your property taxes, or dropped your house and liability insurance (then had a fire or someone was badly injured on your property). There are costs to live anywhere and home ownership costs that never go away. Once our mortgage is done, we won’t be laying out $30K per year in regular and extra mortgage payments but we’re still looking at over $13k per year after that ($5k property tax, 6K utilities, $2400 insurance) just for the priviledge of continuing to live in our paid for house. That’s the equivalent of $1183 rent/mth. Those costs don’t include ongoing maintenance (our roof replacement 2yrs ago was $18k), equipment (snowblower, lawnmower, major appliances etc). To be safe I assume we need to set aside between $5-10k/yr for maintenance and replacements (windows, septic field, decks, hardwood refinishing, etc) not including any renovations or improvements we might like. If it were only me to consider, I’d much rather sell and rent a perfectly lovely 2br apt for ~$1200 a month an never think about home maintenance again. Oh, and in the process we’d free up the ~$600k of equity tied up in our home, which would mean retiring this afternoon rather in 7 years. We buy used vehicles with cash, rarely eat out, haven’t had cable in 25yrs etc etc, but the house is a money pit for sure.

          • Will Murphey January 13, 2014, 3:42 pm

            JMK, I couldn’t agree with you more! We rented a nice 2 bedroom apartment in a very nice area of Phoenix recently for $795. The school district in this area of town had some of the best schools in the state. Houses in this same area rented for $1400 and up. Home ownership would have ran much higher. We did not have to worry about all the “extra” costs with home ownership. Good thing too, as the housing market was still crashing during this time. It is always good to run the numbers on major expenses like this to see if cash can be freed up and invested elsewhere.

          • Kenoryn January 14, 2014, 7:53 pm

            Ouch, that’s a lot of property tax and insurance! I’m willing to bet it’s not a 2-br apartment you’re paying $5K in taxes and $2400 in insurance on, and if you owned a 2-br apartment rather than a $600K house those costs would be much less.

            My 2-bedroom house would rent for about $1200, and costs me $780 in insurance and $2580 in property taxes, or $280/month – considerably less than rent! Even with mortgage interest my costs are only $540/month.

            • ella January 17, 2014, 1:34 pm

              Taxes and insurance really varies by location. I live in a very modest 1200 sf ranch and pay $4600 in taxes. I was very surprised to read how low the rates are in other areas. Taxes, insurance, utilities and maintaining our older house run about $12k per year easy. I probably would have bought a newer house in better condition if had to do it over.
              . For our area, though, owning our house even with that expense is cheaper than most two bedroom rentals.

      • Lil January 13, 2014, 7:49 am

        Should I then exclude my mortgage payments in my annual expenses x 25 rule for when I am FI/retire? If that’s the case, then my expenses are cut in half and I could retire earlier than what I had planned! Or is it just the principal to exclude?

        • Anne January 13, 2014, 11:10 am

          As long as you don’t lose sight of the fact that doing so means you can’t retire until your home is paid off (a good plan anyhow), you can pretty safely replace the mortgage number with just the escrow portion of your payment. Just don’t cut out escrow with it since you’ll still have to pay property taxes and insurance, and remember to account for inflation of those too (n/a if you’re accounting for it by lowering your assumed rate of return).

        • theFIREstarter January 13, 2014, 11:47 am

          Lil a simpler answer to your question than the one above is “Yes”

          But as Anne rightly points out that is assuming you’ve paid the whole thing off at time of retirement. Also don’t include your home in your net worth calculations if you are using this method. Ah damn… Nothing ever turns out to be that simple does it!

      • Pura Vida Nick January 13, 2014, 7:50 am

        Do you mind sharing what company you use to get your home insurance? That is dirt cheap. I’m sure you’ve raised the deductible as high as possible, but I’d still love to get mine down a bit. Our home insurance is almost double for a house worth less!

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 5:02 pm

          If you start with Geico and get a quote, then ask about their subsidiaries, that is usually a good start.

          My deductible is somewhere between $5k and $10k and I currently have a policy with Safeco.

          All of these companies tend to jack up the rates after the first year even with no claims, so I have had an annual ritual of switching for the past few years.

          I keep a list of the companies we use for various things at this page: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/mmm-recommends/

          • CincyCat January 14, 2014, 12:39 pm

            I imagine that MMM’s rates are so low because he deliberately chose to live in a lower risk part of the country. Rates will most likely be higher if you live in, say, a flood plain, or in an area prone to hurricanes. I believe (but am not certain) that the home’s construction materials, proximity to fire departments, etc. also factor into the insurance company’s risk assessment. Our homeowner’s insurance is about $530 per year for a small-ish brick cape cod in SW Ohio within 1/2 a mile of a fire dept.

            • TomTX January 25, 2014, 5:53 am

              Our house insurance is also pretty high – but with 2 roof replacements in the 8 years we’ve owned it (hailstorms) – we’re still ahead.

          • BadAss CPA January 27, 2014, 3:32 pm

            I ended up with Safeco too since they are one of the few that lets you have a deductible over 5k. Don’t really understand why more companies wouldn’t let you do this though.

          • Mark Schreiner April 2, 2023, 5:17 pm

            Paying off your mortgage and then dropping house insurance is one way to reduce the cost of insurance.

            Does anyone know where one to get an estimate of the risk one’s specific house or zip code faces from fire, hail, sea rise, earthquakes, and so on? That seems like a key input into making an optimal insurance decision. I believe it is very very unlikely that your house will burn to the ground (unless it is abandoned in a decaying area).

            Some insurance companies will only insure you for the “full rebuild value”, when in fact most expected cost to you is likely due to hail or tree limbs or a flooded basement and so on. A great trick, for them. I also find that they greatly overestimate both current and rebuild value.

            Although I lack the data to be sure, my rough approximations suggest that the savings in premium (at least for my house) from going from a $5,000 to $10,000 deductible is extremely small, maybe $50/year (if I had insurance).

            Kudos for anyone who puts money away regularly for house maintenance. The following article estimates house depreciation (on average in the USA, YMMV) to be about 2% per year.

            Harding, John P.; Rosenthal, Stuart S.; and C.F. Sirmans. (2007) “Depreciation of Housing Capital, Maintenance, and House Price Inflation: Estimates from a Repeat Sales Model”, Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 61, pp. 193–217.

            Also makes the point that historical average appreciation of houses is roughly in line with inflation. Sure, at some times and places there is real appreciation, but in other places only depreciation (think of old houses in small towns, decaying parts of cities).

            I do not look at the house as a financial investment, but rather one that allows me to not have to earn so much money to make mortgage payments or rent. Sure, there are property taxes, but they are less than rent for an equivalent rental would be. Also, I do not have to pay taxes on money I did not have to earn for implicit rent that I did not have to pay in cash.

            It is pretty obvious that it is more expensive to rent than to own, if you keep the house and its location, age, and everything else constant, because the landlord needs to pay taxes, cover maintenance, and earn a profit. Renting can be cheaper only if the quality/location and so on is worse for the rental than for the “ownal”.

      • Camp Verde Mike January 13, 2014, 1:30 pm

        How to you handle expenses for gifts. We have an extended family of over 25 which really takes its toll between Birthdays and Christmas. We are in our fiftys, the kids are married and we have 5 grandchildren so this expense has really grown over the last few years.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 5:05 pm

          Everyone in our friends and extended family group kind of agreed to a “nobody buy each other gifts – for any occasion” blanket policy. It really makes sense once you see a buying a manufactured item as a necessary evil rather than a little treat.

          There it’s a very relaxed policy that gets broken occasionally, but it is great to have the expectations lifted. Could be harder in your role of grandparent, though :-)

        • CincyCat January 14, 2014, 12:40 pm

          What if you gave “experiences” instead of things?

        • DB January 14, 2014, 8:18 pm

          One of my fondest childhood memories of celebrating birthdays was that my grandparents always let the grandchildren stay with them any night the week of their birthdays. We would play cards, do puzzles, and spend quality one on one time with our grandparents that we never got to experience during holidays or special occasions since we were the only ones who got to sleep over on that particular night.

          • amyb January 15, 2014, 2:36 pm

            DB, my parents currently do that with the grandchildren, and they love it. It’s a wonderful idea that takes the pressure off to have an expensive birthday party etc. They have a birthday weekend alone with the g-parents, baking a cake or making a rice crispy treat creature with grandma, eating their favorite meal, then hiking around the property and playing games in the evenings. My kids have never complained about it not being gift-centered and they are young–8, 5, and 2. And what a memory-maker!!

            • Caren January 17, 2014, 3:18 pm

              I became a grandmother this year and will be stealing this idea!

          • juggleandhope January 15, 2014, 5:53 pm

            sweet practice – thanks for sharing.

        • Marcia January 15, 2014, 12:01 pm

          This is a toughie. We have really cut back over the years. We still give gifts for Christmas, but not much.

          I do not exchange gifts with my siblings, for example. I will make gifts for my nieces (they are 7 and 10). I like to send some local pistachios to my family at Christmas (they are a “treat”), but even buying these for 7 different households, that’s less than $60.

          We haven’t been as successful with everyone. While we’ve gotten my in-laws to cut back a little (now that they divorced and are on fixed incomes), my spouse’s sister still goes really crazy. And we don’t reciprocate. She spends on us because her husband’s family spends a lot. I just don’t want it to be a never-ending stream:

          His family spends money on all their kids
          They spend a lot of money on his family
          They feel guilty, so they spend a lot of money on her family to be “fair”
          My MIL feels guilty, so she spends on them
          Then my MIL still feels more guilty, so she spends on US
          The both of them spend a lot of money on us.
          Then we feel guilty and spend on them.

          Craziness. We just don’t do it. Mostly because my husband sucks at preparing and getting gifts these days.

        • JB September 9, 2014, 2:29 pm

          Why do you feel obligated to give gifts to everyone?

          • Mark Schreiner April 2, 2023, 5:19 pm

            Reciprocity is a universal social norm, often for good, sometimes for ill.

      • Ken January 13, 2014, 2:53 pm

        Thank Money M.
        I appreciate that reality check on factoring the “rent” value of a paid off house. I rent an apartment and I can live off of about $35K to $40. And that is with a $1000 a month student loan payment.
        thanks for all you do,
        Ken in Alaska

      • WageSlave January 14, 2014, 12:23 pm

        Another thing to keep in mind, there’s an opportunity cost of having a paid-for house. That is, the money you have tied up in owning a house outright could potentially be earning more rent/interest/dividends/capital appreciation in another investment vehicle.

        Just to be clear, I’m not making an argument against home ownership, just pointing out another facet of an already complex decision. The obvious upside to owning a house outright is lower monthly cash flow requirements.

        Based on the numerous threads I’ve read here and on other financial forums, as well as my own research, I think that generally, the math favors keeping a loan. But perhaps a simpler way to look at it is this, “Do you want to eat well or sleep well?”

        • JB February 10, 2014, 9:40 am

          Homeownership is not always cheaper. If something breaks, you fix it. If something breaks in an apartment, the landlord fixes it. Not all homes go up in value each year. You can work with a landlord to get a long term fixed rent contract. We have a rent house and the person has been paying the same amount of rent for about 12 years.

      • pachipres January 17, 2014, 5:00 pm

        Hi MMM, If you would count student loan payments as savings, would you count RESP contributions for children as a savings as well?

      • TomTX January 25, 2014, 5:50 am

        Right – thanks for the housing comment. We have ~$11,500 a year going to our mortgage. Most of that is principal (refi a year ago to 2.5% on an 8 year loan. Done on its own in 7 more.) Property taxes are right around $4,000.

        I suppose for an “apples to apples” comparison, I should add back that $11.5k to the MMM budget.

        $36,500 seems a LOT more doable for our life than $25,000. It also shows how much more we will be able to stash as soon as the mortgage is paid off!

  • frugalNYC January 12, 2014, 7:04 pm

    I always look forward to these annual spending breakdowns. Thank you! This is really an inspiration. I showed it immediately to my SO and he wanted to know what kind of beer you bring to your friends.

  • Nate January 12, 2014, 7:10 pm


    That is a, “tight ship” of habits you have here!! Spending without restriction and only topping 2012 numbers by $140… Wow! LOL! That is amazing.

    This really does prove that becoming wealthy is really as simple as accumulating the right set of habits (not necessarily easy).

    We saved over 60% of our income in 2013 (thanks in large part to the MMM movement). Our respect, appreciation and gratitude for the resources we have been blessed with managing increased to an all time high.

    Thanks for the summary MMM – you are providing us with an enourmosly valuable set of blueprints for crafting a luxurious early retirement.

  • Chris Gammell January 12, 2014, 7:29 pm

    Welp, you got me. I was fooled. Thought you actually upped your expenses by some amount…but no.

    The food is impressive to me and would love to see more articles about this in the new year. I know you’ve written a lot about this in the past, but it’s likely my own expectations about meals. Having a allergy diet in the household doesn’t help, to be sure, but I’m sure some (most) of our expenses past yours are perceptions of need vs actual need.

    For the insurance, would you mind annotating the deductibles? I know you’ve written in the past about self insurance and I agree with it, but seeing it compared against the current numbers is always helpful (especially when looking back later). Also, do you buy your health insurance through your blogging company? I assume that would help reduce the taxes on your insurance since it’s through your company.

    Thanks for being so open about this stuff!

    • Anonymous January 13, 2014, 2:00 am

      Seconded; please do document the insurance deductibles and coverage level. (Or link to documentation of the specific plan.)

    • JMK January 13, 2014, 8:58 am

      It will be interesting to see how the food budget changes in another 7-8 years when junior hits his teens! Anyone who has ever fed a teenaged boy will understand. It’s like a piranha has moved in and the food budget needs to be adjusted to accomodate a few crazy years.

      • rob January 13, 2014, 12:20 pm

        I have a friend who is suffering from that with 3 teenage boys plus a host of visitors. I noticed what he and others did is to cut way way back on expensive stuff

        For example he makes a slow cooker lentil soup it will feed 8 hungry mouths and contains 1 carrot one sausage and loads and loads of lentils.
        Tasted great but had very little beyond lentils.

        That’s how you feed an army of teenagers

        • Kenoryn January 14, 2014, 8:00 pm

          I think the teenagers should grow some portion of their own food. :) When my sisters and I were kids we each picked 3 veggies to grow each year. The garden was divided in 3 and we each had a section to tend. Makes even more sense with teenage boys.

        • Lisa January 15, 2014, 5:12 am

          My bread machine gets a good workout thanks to a teenage son.

      • Marcia January 15, 2014, 12:03 pm

        Yes you definitely need to make sure you don’t have “snacks” in the house, or they will be gone. Anything expensive and “snack like”, eaten in one sitting. Brother used to do that.

        Homemade bean burritos, lentil soup, homemade bread, bananas, oranges, apples…

  • Ree Klein January 12, 2014, 7:38 pm

    I’m pretty good with money, but I must admit that I spend far more on my groceries and dining out that your family of three spends. I’m sure I can do better; however, I love my Trader Joe’s Greek Yogurt and prepackaged nuts & berries (so convenient!).

    My Mr. loves meat…(I could live without it, but hey, we all have to make compromises, right?!?!?!). So, we watch for sales and buy some to stuff in the freezer when good deals show up.

    Looks like we need to trim expenses or make more money…maybe some of both!

    • amyb January 18, 2014, 4:09 pm

      My husband is a meat lover too and our 3 boys are hot on his trail. Between the army and his current job with gas/oil we have moved around a fair amount so we haven’t gotten much into hunting and stocking a freezer until this year. It has really helped. If you’re not into game meat, buying in bulk is a huge help! My husband and his father for years now have bought the whole tenderloin from sam’s club then cut their own steaks–so much cheaper than buying individual steaks, they freeze great, and HANDS DOWN best steak I’ve ever eaten! Another huge part of our budget was greek yogurt (ridiculous!), and I recently started making my own. I was so proud of myself, buying my yogurt maker and strainer, lol…until someone said “you know you can just use a crockpot for that, right?!” No…I did not know. Or you can use a 9×13 dish with a heating pad under it (google it)!!! Whatever you use for starter is what yours will taste like, so if you like the taste of trader joe’s, use that for starter. (With honey, cinnamon, and almonds mixed in is our current fave) It’s super easy to make! Just strain to make it greek (a ton of uses for the leftover whey…pizza crust etc) and put in little jelly jars for individual serving sizes if you like your yogurt premeasured/convenient. And we eat a lot of nuts too, but kicked an expensive trail mix habit for mixing a bag of craisins with a bag of shelled pistachios. It’s crazy good.

  • Ann January 12, 2014, 8:12 pm

    The loss of school fees helped a lot, but I’m curious how yours went to zero; in the two states I have experience (IN and TN), I feel like I’m writing half a checkbook for the first week of school. IN had book rental ($120-200/kid, depending upon grade); both had classroom fee, PTA fee, recorder for music class, science lab fee, etc. Does CO not charge any of these?

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 1:02 pm

      These are included in “other”.

      The fees are pretty minor at our school. We had materials to purchase, plus a $10 fee for more materials. Our son participated in an after school Robotics class which was $50. We also paid for a yearbook ($15, I think) and some photos (I just bought a digital for about $10). We make his lunch at home. I don’t think there have been any other fees so far, although we have donated and bought a couple of books from the book fair.

      Our son is only in 2nd grade, so maybe that’s why some of the fees are less?

      • Jen January 13, 2014, 4:45 pm

        Yeah, I don’t know if the big book rental is an Indiana thing or what, I live in Indiana and we had to pay about $150 per kid, I lived in two different states that didn’t have book rental. I imagine it has something to do with the fact that taxes are low here.

  • Becky January 12, 2014, 8:16 pm

    Way to go! But, of course, no surprise, since…you know…this blog and the stuff you preach on it!

    It’s funny that you ask the Bill Gates question, but never really answer it. I would travel. A ton…and adjust my charitable donations accordingly.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 12, 2014, 9:05 pm

      I DID answer the Bill Gates question – the answer is that I’d live exactly the way I lived this year, spending an astounding $25,000 even without any mortgage-related costs. An additional billion would make us spend no more on ourselves, but we could definitely spend much less if it became necessary.

      • Kokuanani January 13, 2014, 11:54 am

        I’m astounded, MMM, by your very low level of charity [although you admit you do donations via your business].

        The amount you list for donations is equal to that for shoes. Really, are there NO worthy causes in your area [or even outside of it] that deserve support?

        If I had that $100,000, one thing I’d do where I live is use it to fund an after-school tutoring program. Schools here are HORRID, and there’s no after-school [or summer school] program to provide academic help. Parents are working two and three jobs apiece, just to provide a minimal existence for their family [NOT HD tvs and video games, but food & shelter]. Many drop their kids off at the school @ 6:00 am to get to their job; it’s the only relatively safe place for their kids, even though adult supervision and the ability to get into a classroom were lacking until recently.

        Meth & crime are also huge problems here, so many kids are neglected. The foster care system is a travesty. I could find many uses for that $100K to help kids — not to buy them iPads, but to provide basic necessities and pay teachers or others to care for them.

        And then there are animals who need rescuing/care.

        There are just so many needs, particularly in these times. I’d have no trouble figuring out how to utilize that extra money to help people, and not in the “give it away” sense, but seeking ways to help folks build skills and support themselves.

        And there’s always the local Food Bank.

        • Cujo January 13, 2014, 12:00 pm

          And I’m astounded by the number of people here who seem to think it’s any of their business how much MMM donates to charity. I very much agree with @MandyM that this is a very personal thing and not the tiniest bit anyone else’s business. Not to mention that you haven’t the slightest idea how much he might be donating under the umbrella of the blog business, where perhaps it makes better financial sense to put the bulk of his giving.

          • Elle Navorski January 19, 2014, 10:03 pm

            Cujo wrote: “And I’m astounded by the number of people here who seem to think it’s any of their business how much MMM donates to charity.”

            The premise of this site is that Pete’s family is quite happy on an income of some $80,000 while having expenses of some $25,000. If Pete has a million dollar a year business via MMM blogging or whatever, then the premise here is not honest: He in fact has much greater financial security and can much more easily afford to gamble say with The Lending Club. This is a delightful site but its popularity and so advertising success may one day invalidate its premise (assuming this day has not already come). Just an observation.

            • Mr. Money Mustache January 20, 2014, 9:28 pm

              Elle, I’d have to disagree with the premise of my own site. It’s not that we make X dollars and yet are happy spending $25k. It is that regardless of how much money we earn – from $25,000 right on up to fifty billion per year, I would see no need to increase spending on ourselves.

              And this is what I am hoping other high-income/high-wealth people will see. The more I can manage to earn while still living this lifestyle happily, the more solidly the point is proven. Remember that the mission of the blog is not just to get average income people to financial independence. Equally important is getting higher income people to let go of high consumption.

        • Miss Growing Green January 13, 2014, 12:03 pm

          Well, there are two ways to give to charity- through monetary donations and time donations.
          We are FI, but not to the cushy extent that Mr. MM is (yet). So, we aren’t as charitable with our money now as we plan to be in the future when we have that larger cushion and passive income.
          *However* I find that volunteering time is more rewarding, and can be even more helpful than simply donating money. We volunteered for the Secret Santa program for our local women’s shelter this year and sponsored a family for Christmas. I also volunteer regularly at the local Humane Society. I’m just saying, dollars and cents isn’t the only way to measure someone’s charitable giving :)

          • Ben January 13, 2014, 12:46 pm

            I couldn’t agree more.

            Obviously, money can be a great tool for helping in charitable causes, but putting smart thought and time into something is often far more effective.

            Personally, I do not give much actual cash, but I am regularly helping others move, give rides, shovel sidewalks for free, etc. In addition, I feel one of the best things I can do is share a smile with strangers and go out of my way to make someone feel included in something etc. These forms of “charity” are very important to me.

            As to the original comment: this is absolutely none of your business.

        • Mrs. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 1:10 pm

          Charity and giving is very important to us. As mentioned in the article, this is our non-business giving (usually sponsoring friends, donating to the school, etc.). The blog is also a way for us give back to others by helping millions with their finances.

          We volunteer a lot as well. I volunteer at least once a week at the school and help with many activities.

          Finally, we are working on educating ourselves more on charities. The only reason to keep accumulating money is to help others. You can do a lot with larger sums and our goal is to use ALL blog profits to fund charities (MMM wrote an entire article about this, although I can’t seem to find it now…).

          So, we are on that path and there are big things to come. We’re pretty excited about it, but we do want to do it properly – donating to causes that are important to us, but that also make the biggest impact.

          • Karen January 13, 2014, 1:36 pm

            Looking forward to hearing about that!

          • Rachel January 15, 2014, 1:04 pm

            Look into World Bicycle Relief. Fat Cyclist– my other favorite blog– has raised a lot of money for them. They don’t just give bicycles. They empower people with bicycles. They put bicycle factories in Africa and hire locals and the bicycles are donated to people who need them most and sold at low cost. They train bicycle mechanics. It’s a really well run, well thought out charity.

          • pachipres January 19, 2014, 1:53 pm

            Hi Mr. MM, nice to read your comments. I enjoy yours just as much as Mr. MM’s. My question is will you put your charitable donations, once you decide where you want to donate to, in your expenses for the year? We donate to various people -depending on how we are moved, per month -but we put the amount (usually around $200) in the expenses for that month. Will you be doing this?

  • Ammon January 12, 2014, 8:18 pm

    I’m a recent subscriber, having been referred by my sister, who with her husband recently downsized from 5000 sq ft to 900. After reading this post and thinking “c’mon, we’re living frugally, too–why is our budget so tight?” I took another glance at our monthly budget.

    What I found was surprising: we’re actually doing *remarkably* well, particularly for having five kids! What’s eating into our income are the big ticket items – mortgage, charitable donations, property taxes, trip to Disney World (yeah, I know your opinion of tourist traps, but we saved up for that one), and a couple other things.

    I just wish I could talk the bosses of my internet startup to move the company to a state with lower income and property tax rates…

  • Jeff January 12, 2014, 8:22 pm

    Foreign transaction fees? There are plenty of no annual fee credit cards (All of Capital One’s, for instance) that do not charge this…

  • Anonymous January 12, 2014, 8:26 pm

    > Imagine that Bill and Melinda Gates had come over to your house for dinner yesterday evening, and just before leaving they slipped you a little envelope containing a credit card with your name on it. It came with a $100,000 monthly limit, and the understanding that you’d never see the bill – it would be covered in perpetuity by the generosity of the Gates family. How would your spending change?

    I’d look for charities that accept credit cards for donations.

    • Tristan Hume January 13, 2014, 6:24 am

      Instead of doing that you could simply not spend any money using it and be certain that all the money you didn’t spend would go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an excellent charity.

      • Anonymous January 18, 2014, 12:45 am

        It’s a fine charity doing good work, but I value different things more highly, and given the opportunity, I would happily direct funds to another charity instead.

    • Kokuanani January 13, 2014, 11:42 am

      Actually, I differ with you, Anon, re the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Although they do good work overseas, here in the US they devote huge resources to “reforming” schools, which means attacking teachers, promoting testing & charter schools. There are “good” things they could do for education, but following the recommendations of Michelle Rhee and Arnie Duncan are NOT among them.

      • Lisa January 15, 2014, 5:30 am

        Agreed. I teach in Canada and the Bill Gates way of “promoting” education by having teachers compete with each other instead of working cooperatively horrifies me.

        But I get the point the previous poster was trying to make (as I’m sure you do too and thanks for speaking up about Bill and education).

      • Anonymous January 31, 2014, 2:08 am

        > Actually, I differ with you, Anon, re the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Although they do good work overseas, here in the US they devote huge resources to “reforming” schools, which means attacking teachers, promoting testing & charter schools.

        First of all, I didn’t say anything in support of the Gates foundation, so you’re not differing with me there.

        Second, I can’t disagree with you strongly enough on how to fix education. Promoting charter schools is not “attacking teachers”, for instance. More generally: a system that really believes it is operating efficiently has nothing to fear from alternatives, since they’ll naturally demonstrated to not work as well. And if an alternative manages to overcome the huge disadvantage of having to compete with a system that gets paid whether used or not, and still be better than that system, that’s a serious sign of a problem with that system.

        Now, let me make it clear that there are a hundred far more important things I’d throw money at before I’d want to go anywhere near the problem of fixing educational systems. Most notably, fixing hundreds of problems related to health and long life.

        • Anonymous February 1, 2014, 3:59 pm

          > since they’ll naturally demonstrated to not work as well

          Sorry, missed a word in the middle of that sentence. :)

    • Mark Schreiner April 2, 2023, 5:37 pm

      In the one interaction I had with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they were incredibly wasteful.

      The kids and I discuss what we could do to help the world if we were as rich as Bill Gates, or what we would counsel him to do. My suggestion is for him to buy Haiti (pay off all the politicians, get them placed in other countries, get himself elected president) and try to help it back on its feet. If he can do that, then it would show he fully earned his Microsoft wealth.

  • Peter January 12, 2014, 8:29 pm

    Peter in Canada (Mississauga) here – is insurance that cheap in the US. If you still own and insure 2 cars and 2 drivers for that amount I am amazed. Of course I assume you don’t carry collision coverage but still wayyyyy cheaper than here.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 8:48 am

      Yup: $300-odd per years for two cars and two drivers, living in the center of a city. You could say that Colorado is cheap, or that other areas are ridiculously expensive for car insurance. I like the latter approach, because it encourages you to say, “Shit, if cars are that expensive to own where I live, it’s a sign that I should not own cars here!”

      With all that said, some of the savings come from no comprehensive/collision coverage, both drivers 39 years old and married with no accidents or tickets on the record (because my small ticket last year was just a photo radar one – not on the record), safe and non-sporty cars, using cars for recreational use only (you get a discount if you don’t car-commute), under 7k miles per year, and using Geico for insurance.

      • Kenoryn January 14, 2014, 8:16 pm

        Hi Peter, I’m in Peterborough and grew up sort of near Mississauga! Unfortunately, you actually can’t get Geico in Canada. My best car insurance quote was from TD Meloche Monnex, because I got the alumni discount through my university alumni association, but I still paid $800 for one car/one driver (with no accidents/tickets/claims, no collision, no comprehensive, no commuting, under 10K kms/year, and an elderly sedan). Would have been more in Mississauga! It’s just cheaper in the States, and REALLY expensive in the GTA!

        • Alicia January 15, 2014, 12:10 pm

          Seconding TD Meloche Monnex from another Canadian here, with the caveat that you need to have an alumni discount with them (I think CAA and a couple professional organizations also get discounts). Also, if you can bundle in your Tenant/Home Insurance you’ll be doing great.

          • Joan March 10, 2014, 4:23 pm

            I live in toronto – car insurance for ONE car is $2300 (no tickets, no accidents, 50 year old drivers, no teens on the insurance) and Townhouse CONTENTS (only) insurance is 2000 – plus taxes for these. I was stunned to see MMM’s insurance costs! I wish!

  • insourcelife January 12, 2014, 8:59 pm

    Really looking forward to seing how the upcoming move to the smaller house will affect your spending in the coming years as compared to this and previous years.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 12, 2014, 9:06 pm

      I predict it will trigger a massive spending spree on even more entertaining and travel, due to the time freed up once I’m done building it. And the annual total will somehow end up around $25,000 anyway.

      • Danny January 13, 2014, 11:51 am

        MMM, let me preface this comment by saying I’m a frugaler, too, who is shooting for early retirement. I (realistically) estimate I’ll be saving 70% of my take home in 2014. I share your philosophy that stuff doesn’t matter, but happiness does. I also try to avoid relying too heavily on convenience.

        That being said, what prevents you from travelling more and spending even more time with friends? Experience matters, and friends matter even more. (In fact, I believe relationships are the ONLY thing that matters!)

        • Mrs. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 1:14 pm

          We spend a lot of time with friends – our close friends are all within walking distance of our house!! Also, we visit Canada to see friends/family for 7 weeks every summer. I’d say we’re doing pretty well in that area. :)

        • Lucas January 16, 2014, 12:21 pm

          They are just very good at making it about spending time with friends, not spending lots of money getting to that point ;-)

  • Susan January 12, 2014, 9:11 pm

    Thanks for this detailed outline of your expenses. I’m a relatively new reader of 6 months, and recently began working my way through the archives rather than just hitting “random post.”

    In December, we realized that in order to know how much my husband would need to retire within the next 12 years (or less!), we needed to know our annual cost of living.

    So far, we have recorded spending every day since January 1st, so this is a real accomplishment for us! Thanks for the inspiration and education from up here in balmy Vancouver, BC!

    • Insourcelife January 13, 2014, 7:46 am

      If you have not yet, try http://www.mint.com as it sure beats the pain of having to record daily transactions manually.

      • ak January 14, 2014, 9:23 pm

        Mint is great as a spending tracker – but if you really want to get control of your money, try YNAB! (www.YouNeedABudget.com)

        • JMK March 24, 2014, 2:09 pm

          Hint: the lest you spend the less there is to track…

          If you cut out all the nonessentials it takes only a few minutes a week. We charge virtually everything to our credit card. Gas and groceries, but also every recurring bill (insurance, phone, cell, internet, alarm monitoring, etc) then once a week I check what’s been processed against the spending plan set up for the ENTIRE year and update where the actual is different from the estimated amount. I pay off the credit card and transfer all the excess not needed for next week or beyond out to our retirement accounts or make an extra mortgage payment. Because our spending plan includes only the bare essentials, we are forced to add a row to the spreadsheet if we ever decide to indulge in a restaurant meal, or purchase clothing for example. Neither of those is necessary 99.9% of the time so they aren’t part of the plan. Having to add that extra row for an unscheduled expense and then have that many fewer dollars of excess for the week makes it just painful enough to make us pause before any crazy spending happens. A perfect week is one where all the planned items happened and a few even came in under the expected amount which means there is more excess for the weekly transfer. Laying out a year of spending in advance takes a couple of hours but once it’s done, it takes 5-10 minutes a week to cross-check the CC and bank account with the spreadsheet and update the estimates with the actuals.

  • Sandy January 12, 2014, 9:27 pm

    Banner year and great numbers! The housing expense alone would kill the budget here in NYC. It’s the price I pay, I guess. But on the other hand, I paid my debt down by over $18,000 in 2013 and I’m all geared up to make that at least $20K in 2014.

    Your priorities will dictate your spending. For me I push as much as humanly possible without walking around naked to debt. The biggest category for you was food and dining. Family has to eat, right?

  • AdrianM January 12, 2014, 9:28 pm

    Still kicking my arse MMM even when I factor in the cost of living differences between Townsville and Denver (Denver was a close to Longmont as I could get)


    Most of that is because I own a fishing boat and clown car.

  • RP January 12, 2014, 9:35 pm

    Thanks for the spending update. Would you give us a breakdown of your income in a similar fashion? It would help to show where you have your money and the revenue generated to support your lifestyle. For those who have saved and learned to spend wisely, we still worry about the pot of assets lasting.

  • HealthyWealthyExpat January 12, 2014, 9:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing, MMM! What I find quite insightful is the percentage of your budget going towards food. I have read a number of articles stating that the average American generally spends only about 10% of his/her income on food (and as the average American spends all they make, we can safely assume this means 10% of their budget). However, your spending reveals that you spend over 30% on food. Could this discrepancy reveal the true meaning of life, that good food is one of the most important aspects of a fulfilling lifestyle? I know that for us it is. We saved about 65% of our income this year, and food was the largest portion of our monthly budget, coming in at about the same percentage as the MMM family. We don’t skimp on food, as it provides our family with endless enjoyment.

    • Ann January 13, 2014, 7:04 am

      On a dollar basis, MM probably doesn’t spend more on food–it’s that he DOESN’T spend on other categories–like housing, which eats up over 30% of most American’s budget. Compared to the USDA food spending levels, (http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2013/CostofFoodJun2013.pdf) Mr. MM’s would be on the “low cost” level (their spending = $645/mo vs $623 for their style family of 3) vs. the Thrifty level ($513), Modest ($826) and Liberal ($1015) of spending. So MM’s analysis of “we do pretty good, we could do better but we are voting with our dollars” is a good one.

      • Mrs PoP January 13, 2014, 7:12 am

        I completely agree. Their family has arranged their lifestyles so that categories that are large for most people are almost non-existent in their annual spending. For example, the house and cars are completely paid off and insured with very high deductibles to minimize cost.

        We spent a similar total on food for the year and felt like we were eating out a ton and still want to work on reducing food waste at home.

      • Lucas January 16, 2014, 12:01 pm

        thanks for the USDA link. Found it interesting to compare. Guess we are doing fairly well on their chart. Curious on their methodology for getting the numbers. My guess is they didn’t poll MMM readers for their thrifty line ;-)

    • JMK January 13, 2014, 9:23 am

      There’s the distinction. They put 30% of there spending, not 30% of their income into the food budget. Years ago I plugged our amounts into some sort of calculator that told you if you were over or under the “recommended” amounts in each of the normal categories. It was good for a laugh since we weren’t doing anything the normal way.
      Our housing costs looked massively high, but that was because we were paying off thousands more than required on our mortgage payments. Recommended retirement savings were 10 or 15% which only makes sense if you are determined to sit in your cubicle until you are 65.

  • JK January 12, 2014, 11:41 pm

    My homeowner’s annual insurance went up to $1,100 annually last year. For the prior 5 years it had been in the $700-800 range. My house is near Dallas Texas. The insurance agent said there had been across the board rate increases during 2013 by all insurance providers. In December I got quotes from three different insurance companies and all came back in the $1100-1200 range. My policy is based on replacement value of approx $140k (1450 sq. ft. house) and 1% deductible.

    I am curious how your home insurance is only $392 per year considering your house (old house) is quite larger than mine and worth more? Much higher deductible?

    • The Norwegian Guy January 13, 2014, 10:46 am

      Our house is about 2700 sq-ft and the annual insurance is 440 USD. What is happening in the US with the insurance price? I do not have a high deductible, and I live in the most expensive country in the world. If my house burned down to the ground the house would have to be built by the world’s most expensive carpenters, electricians etc.

      Edit: Replacement value of my house is a little above 800 000 USD

    • MooseOutFront September 9, 2014, 1:52 pm

      My home insurance in the DFW area on a $200k house is now $1500 annual with a 1% deductible through safeco. I know I need to raise the deductible, but my roof is of unknown age and will need replaced next hail storm…

      I really need to slash this expense. $392 that MMM pays through the same company on a more valuable house than mine sounds crazy.

  • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow January 13, 2014, 1:17 am

    I’m sorry but am I the only one embarrassed by how stingy Mr and Mrs MM are in the “givings” category? 2.5% of your spending and about half a percent of you income (based on what you were earning while working but sure it’s higher). Your wife spends more on cross fit than you give to charity. I mean you don’t even have a category for donations

    Embarrassing to say the least!

    So can I give you a challenge, instead of saving 70% of your salary why not start working towards giving 70% away. Even better why not emulate this man.

    Toby Ord: Why I’m giving £1m to charity.



    • Megan January 13, 2014, 6:29 am

      Looks like you deleted the comment where you claimed you are going to give 10% to your church this year and save 1/3 of your income. Going by your own criteria (aka judging of others) shouldn’t those figures be inverted? The part where you mentioned you don’t work didn’t impress me much, either. I guess it’s your spouse’s money you’re so generously giving? Methinks some self-examination is in order. Don’t be so judgemental and preachy.

      • rob aka captain and mrs slow January 13, 2014, 12:33 pm

        Yeah I did as it invariably gets into church/religion bashing which kind of takes away from the point I was trying to make. The point is at the rate MMM is going he in 50 years, at the end of his life will be worth many millions of dollars,

        Read the article about Tony Orb and you’ll find someone who is very Moustachian and wants to make a difference now.

        I know he’s talked about giving money away I suppose it’s just he’s been too busy to really follow up on it.

    • MandyM January 13, 2014, 6:33 am

      I believe most of their charitable giving is from the money made from the blog, which is accounted for separately. He’s talked about it a few times, although I don’t have a link handy for you.

    • decemberbaby January 13, 2014, 6:59 am

      Yup, I have to agree here. 10% of our income to charity is treated like every other expense – not optional. Especially for those of us living debt-free and possibly even FI, there’s no excuse in this category.

    • Mari January 13, 2014, 7:09 am

      Yes, I noticed the reduction and small amount given to charity as well. However, if charitable giving is not a priority for the MMM family, then it is not a priority, and thus is reflected in the numbers.

    • Ottawa January 13, 2014, 7:57 am

      @Rob – first of all…did you not read the comment next to the donation area?

      “Personal donations only (business including this blog donates separately).”

      I think that one not need read b/n the lines to understand that personal donations are not the only potential donations.

      Also, in terms of donating – what does this really mean? What is donation to you? Would spending lots of time running a blog, the sole focus of which is to save the world, qualify as a donation of time? How many hours to you think MMM spends a year doing this?

      As a side note – donations are personal – they don’t need to be cash. We send VERY LITTLE cash each year to charity. I would rather donate time. To be quite frank, I wouldn’t judge anyone for NOT GIVING A PENNY or NOT DONATING ONE MINUTE to charity.

      • Newbie January 13, 2014, 1:45 pm

        Ditto everything Ottawa said. Especially the part about donation being different for each person. I, too, consider this blog to be a huge donation of time and effort for the greater good.
        Additionally, I feel that time spent helping friends and/or family counts as a charitable donation, and is in many ways more important. Some of us don’t need to look very far from our own backyard to exhaust our annual allotment of giving, in both time and money. I believe charity begins at home and my friends and family will always be the beneficiaries of my charitable giving ahead of any organization. Therefore, I would submit that MMM is doing even more charitable giving than just this web site. How many times has he mentioned helping friends with construction projects? What about the time Mrs. MM helped her friends buy a house and gave up the realtor’s commission? What about the Cross-Fit gym in the garage to which they invited their friends, thereby helping them increase their fitness AND save money? There are many other examples throughout this web site that show the good hearts and generous spirit of the MMM family. To suggest that they should be embarrassed, and to call them stingy, is unfair and rude.
        One last thing…. just because MMM “runs a public blog where he details his spending” does not give anyone the right to demand more details. I look at personal blogs as people’s homes on the web. When you go to a friend’s house and they say “make yourself at home” do you ask to see their medicine cabinet so that you can judge them for what prescription drugs they may or may not be taking? Do you ask them to whip out their checkbooks so that you can evaluate their level of charitable donations? Just in case I’m not being clear, the answer is no, no you don’t.
        Yes, this is a personal finance blog, but it is at THE BLOG OWNER’S DISCRETION as to what he chooses to share. End of story. I happen to think that MMM shares a heck of a lot of personal information, and I appreciate his work for the betterment of us all.

    • Andreas January 13, 2014, 8:16 am

      @Rob: In what way and to what extend one contributes to society is everyone’s own very private decision. Attempting to publicly shame someone on this topic, be it for religious or other motives, is shameful in itself.

      • rob aka captain and mrs slow January 13, 2014, 12:35 pm

        But he runs a very public blog where he details his spending, so my question is legit, perhaps a bit harsh, yes, but communicating via the written word is not my strength which is why I gave up blogging

        • Kenoryn January 14, 2014, 8:29 pm

          As others have pointed out, a) it’s not your business; choosing to share some information does not mean you automatically put your entire life on display, b) MMM also makes charitable contributions via the blog, amount/proportion of income unknown, and c) If you were to assume it takes MMM 4 hours to write an average blog post, and he writes about one a week, and his time is worth about $35/hour, he’s giving about $7,300 annually just in time writing blog posts, nevermind blog maintenance, which with the figure he gave amounts to about 1/3 of his total budget – plus other time he donates to things like his son’s school, plus donations through the blog! If you are donating 10%, it sounds as though he is hugely kicking your ass in the charitable donations department!

          • phred January 19, 2014, 7:55 am

            Based on my own experience, it takes a lot more than four hours to write each post. You need to add in research time, thinking about it time, first draft time, starting over time…

      • earlybird January 13, 2014, 5:09 pm

        Triple ditto to Ottowa, Newbie and Andreas’ comments!

        The MMM blog provides such a great public service – for FREE – so that all of us can learn to be more moustachian. I can’t even imagine how much time, heart and soul Mr. & Mrs. MM give to this blog.

        We should all be very thankful and less judgmental!

    • Kamil January 13, 2014, 10:41 am

      From other posts by Mr. and Ms. MM, I believe their charitable giving is not limited to monetary donations. They also seem to be active volunteers in their community. Contributing money can be an efficient and helpful way of giving for those with limited time, but donating skills and services are also important ways of not only addressing problems in your community but deepening your understanding of issues confronting less fortunate neighbors.

      • Melissa January 17, 2014, 5:51 am

        It is very easy to sit down for 30 seconds and write a check. Taking 3-4 hours of your Saturday to clean, paint, dig, etc. and be involved in your community is quite another endeavor. We consider giving of time, muscle, and brainstorming great ideas with others equally as helpful and giving.

    • Marcia January 13, 2014, 11:42 am

      I wonder how many of the people who consider 10% charity (or whatever) to be non-negotiable are tithing? Or are religious? It’s what I consider “enforced charity” and I guess I’m not that impressed.

      I donate to charities here and there. I donate time to my son’s school. The amount of both just really depends on how life is going at the time. I really don’t understand why anyone else should judge.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 1:18 pm

      I answered this above – please take a look! In summary, charity and giving is very important to us and the number on this table does not represent what is really happening.

      • DC Junior Mustachiam January 14, 2014, 6:52 pm

        I support your guys’ strategy. It seems like the sacred cow of annual donations was invented by those that would have us tithe to them. It seems far more effective to accumulate throughout your life and donate it all near the end when compounding effects and a lifetime of surplus is assured. Much better way to end it than the standard track of leaving a large inheritance to your undeserving offspring.

        • DC January 15, 2014, 2:57 pm

          I used to also be a fan of the big end of life giveaway. But I had that notion pretty well skewered by “The Life You Can Save”. The author references good research supporting the fact that while your savings and investments are growing, the health/social/economic problems in need of your giving are probably growing even faster. So a $50,000 donation today may have the same long term effect as a $1,000,000 donation a couple decades from now. MMM gives today with this blog. For others (like myself), the giving today may best be monetary.

          • TBoomer January 17, 2014, 9:55 pm

            I also just finished reading “The Life You Can Save” over the holidays and HIGHLY recommend it as it reframes what it means to give more support to the Billions in poverty around the world. And you know where I got the book recommendation: MMM list of recommended readings. Thanks, MMM for helping me rethink by giving in 2014 and beyond.

      • KarenInPittsburgh January 16, 2014, 7:23 am

        1. As an administrator of a charitable organization that depends on the hard work of hundreds of volunteers annually, I wish more people understood that volunteer time can translate very easily into money. For most volunteers, I think the valuation is a little over $22 an hour now.

        2. Some people give time and money. For some people it’s either/or. We are equally appreciative of whatever combination resonates with the giver as “appropriate” for his/her situation.

        3. The proper response to any level of giving is, “thank you.”

      • TomTX January 25, 2014, 6:23 am

        I think that you guys are doing awesomely with helping others. Thanks!

    • Catherine January 13, 2014, 3:23 pm

      Given that there are no specifics given on how much of the blog profits are getting turned over to charity, this comment seems a little quick to judge. MMM has previously stated (and Mrs. MM even says upthread) that their eventual goal is to have all the blog profits going to charity, but that they aren’t there yet because they want to do it in a smart way. Obviously I don’t know all the particulars, but I’d imagine that the blog profits constitute well over 10% off the MMM family’s income.

      While I don’t know them personally, my impression is that the MMM family is pretty generous with their time and resources. Maybe they aren’t “perfect” but I don’t think they deserve this level of judginess.

  • CT January 13, 2014, 2:20 am

    Wow–you really do put yourself out there! I have never even added up my own year before. Retired before 40 though–probably could have retired 5-10 years earlier if I added up my year.
    One thing I am glad to see is that you asked yourself why you do some things. It is good to question our motives–are we doing things because we enjoy it or because we just want to collect more & more money. Being frugal for me has to do with three things; 1. I hate to waste (anything) and satisfaction of DIY, 2. I hate to be ripped off (like the estimate for a new driveway gate for $6000; we did it for $300). 3. I conserve in one area (like hanging my clothes to dry) so I can splurge elsewhere (like buying premium baking cocoa for Fudge Drop cookies).

    Why we conserve/spend is more important than what we conserve/spend.
    Thanks for the peek.

  • jestjack January 13, 2014, 3:50 am

    Pretty cool breakdown….this “Mint” program looks pretty cool. Like others would love to only spend $350 on car insurance for a year (1 car?). One of my favorite aricles was the one on working on the van while on vacation. To replace a wheel bearing while on vacation….in a parking lot ….no small feat! AND it appears your timing could not be better for selling the old place. In this “neck of the woods” it appears the real estate market is coming back…not crazy….but steady improvement…

  • Gaming Your Finances January 13, 2014, 5:37 am

    Wow! Very impressive as always. I have a question about vehicles. Do you include the depreciation on your vehicles in your spending (I didn’t notice it)? Or would a new vehicle purchase show up only in the year it was bought? We were just working on our future FI budget and included $200/month for car replacement/depreciation but wondering how other people handle it.

    • Prairie Practicality January 13, 2014, 9:28 am

      I budget vehicle costs at $0.30-$0.40/km I annually drive. It depends on insurance and make/model to get exact numbers. So if I drive 10,000 km (it’s metric because I’m not American), I factor $3,000 for total expenses; repairs, gas, replacement costs. If I plan a trip of 2000 km I know it’s going to cost $600; about $200 in immediate gas and $400 in hidden future costs (tires, repairs, new to me vehicle etc.). For the record I drive around 5000 km/year ($1500-2000/year for my vehicle).

      Short answer, your budget should reflect how much you actually drive, high miles=high expense. You should tally your driving habits annually, I record my odometer readings with oil changes to keep track over the years.

  • Dee18 January 13, 2014, 5:54 am

    Re: MMM’s charitable giving. We do not know how much money MMM gave to charity in 2013. As noted in the chart above, MMM gave through his business as well. What we do know is that he gives a lot of time and thought to helping people across a wide range of economic levels make better financial decisions. I appreciate being one of the many who benefits from this generosity! …..and I am once again challenged by this annual accounting of the MMM family to cut back on my lazy eating out.

  • BNL January 13, 2014, 6:44 am

    MMM – You found your health insurance from ehealthinsurance.com, right?

    I’m trying to reconcile this… For my family, I can’t find anything under $620/month, regardless of deductible. I tried removing my youngest daughter, making my family almost identical to yours, and it was still over $600/month.

    So then i tried changing my zipcode to a Longmont zip code, and it dropped to $444. That’s crazy it would go down by so much, yet it’s still well above what you’re reporting.

    Am I missing something? Because right now, I’m looking at a similar budget as you, but $5000/year more just because I can’t find a better health insurance.

    • BNL January 13, 2014, 12:59 pm

      Nevermind, I found the answer. I wasn’t filling in my future income after I quit, which takes me down close to your level of ~$250/month for a family of 4.

      This is great news! Now I just need to sell my damned vacant rental property, and my days in an office are over.

  • rjack January 13, 2014, 6:44 am

    Nicely done and a great inspiration!

    I recently managed to pare down my budget for 2.5 people (.5 = son in college) from $53K to about $47K. The savings came from Obamacare subsidies, selling my car so that we are a one car family, and finding better home and auto insurance policies.

    You are inspiring me to reduce further. The next big savings for me will come when we sell our house and downsize. That will not happen until next year at the earliest. At that point, I think I can get the budget down to around $42K or lower.

  • Brian January 13, 2014, 6:53 am

    Great post and a constant reminder that if you don’t have home loans or auto loans, life can be relatively inexpensive while still enjoying the finer things in life (i.e. travel and great food).

    If people are envious, all they need is a 400k portfolio with an average dividend rate of 5% to live like you (assuming no home or car loans)!

  • ABC January 13, 2014, 7:42 am

    How do you track your spending?
    What’s your system? If you use excel, do you have a spreadsheet to share?

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 1:20 pm

      We use mint and personal capital to track all our spending.

      • Kris July 8, 2016, 12:22 pm

        Why both? It sounds like Personal Capital is more about investing and if all or most of our money is in a Total Stock Index Fund, would Mint.com make more sense for budgeting?

  • Steven January 13, 2014, 7:44 am

    Just a fine example of what really matters when cutting or living life on the smart. Housing, Transportation, and Food are what eats up your budget and if you don’t have a mortgage payment, choose biking or public transportation, and decide to not to eat out like Restaurants are the only people in the world who know how to make food, you will be winning the game.

    For example if you have a 2K mortgage you are paying Housing Expenses equal to MMM alone.

    Live life on the smart, good choice.

  • Mr. Grump January 13, 2014, 8:06 am

    It’s incredible to see a family of almost the exact same demographic live on such a low number compared to my family. We spent in the ballpark of $70,000 not including health insurance last year. Sadly this includes almost $20,000 in interest. We are working are way to financial independence one month at a time like everyone else by cutting out the waste buy I can’t see us getting to that level in the next 2 years. However, we will be trying our hardest. In fact we cut the satellite TV and eating out so that means were almost there right? Ha..

    • johnnycarloan January 13, 2014, 7:52 pm

      Mr. Grump, there is only one way to eat an elephant my friend. One disgusting bite at a time. The cool part about reducing expenditures is that it is instantaneous. The moment you decide to change the behavior it happens.

      You’ll get there…and if you don’t get there then the journey of trying to get there will get you somewhere better than you are now.

      Keep hacking.

      • Mr. Grump January 15, 2014, 5:07 am

        Thanks for the encouragement johnnycarloan. With paying off a car and cutting out television we have already cut out over $250/month from are expenses in 2014.. We also managed to not eat out in the entire month of December. We’ll get there, someday. As you mentioned, eating this debt elephant one bite at a time is disgusting.


    • gr8bkset January 16, 2014, 6:27 am

      I recommend putting all the savings from each month into paying down your mortgage principal. It’ll shorten the years to FI and lessen the mortgage interest you pay to the bank. Download a amortization spreadsheet to model how much you’d save.

      • Kyle January 17, 2014, 7:55 pm

        I would do that only after all tax advantaged investing accounts are filled up.

  • Roy January 13, 2014, 8:24 am

    I’m surprised that utilities are so low for you. I’m in South-Western Ontario, and the last time I did the totals, we were close to $4k/yr for water, gas, and electricity. Time to look at that again….

    • Eldred January 13, 2014, 8:41 am

      Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I spend about $2820 for heat, electric, and water, for one person. They’re less than that with THREE. But my house leaks heat in the winter, so that’s a big part of my expense…

  • Justin January 13, 2014, 8:30 am

    Another great year for the MMM family. Our spending was around the same (under $30k) and we seem to share a similar lifestyle. Of course we were quite wasteful and probably spent double or triple what you did on restaurants.

    I need to tally up our 2013 spending and do a comparison to see where we can out-mustache the OM (Original Mustache).

  • Travis January 13, 2014, 8:43 am

    Your total spending stayed flat, but what do you think of your “no frills” spending increasing by 28% in one year? I’m not knocking the spending levels at all, just curious what you think of this–some could say this is lifestyle inflation. (Even if it would be a complainypants argument)

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 8:50 am

      You are right, it IS lifestyle inflation! The grocery part of it, anyway. A big part of the increase is from adding health insurance premiums for the first full year, which doesn’t count as lifestyle because insurance is no fun at all :-)

  • Prairie Practicality January 13, 2014, 9:11 am

    Thank you for sharing, I just finished going through my own expenses last week. Some categories I’m way larger, being a Canuck some things are different, some are smaller (like health insurance – $0). I’m still working, my non-mortgage expenses run around $35k/year. I find a lot of the extra is caused by work expenses, I’m going to go through more closely and see what retirement expenses would look like. Great blog, my fiancée is starting to read it too.

  • Brian January 13, 2014, 9:22 am

    That’s fantastic. Congratulations on your domination of the Hedonic Treadmill. I did my own yearly breakdown here:


    Like others, I remain impressed at how little you spend at restaurants and on home insurance. I love that you consistently spend more on Wine/Beer than at restaurants! After all, hanging out at home with friends and family sipping a Giant Homebrew or glass of Bota Box does far more for the happiness level than consuming overpriced food/alcohol in a restaurant.

  • Belcat January 13, 2014, 10:06 am

    Mr. Mustache, perhaps you’d consider some of the green technologies out there. They also reduce your bill and are insurance against rising rates. In particular I’d suggest:
    – Solar hot water heating (tubes or plate variety)
    – Solar heating (solar air is the cheapest)
    – Solar electricity (PV panels)
    – Drain Waste Heat Recovery items (DWHR), last I looked the Powerpipe was the best,
    – Insulation – In particular Passivhous sounds like an attitude towards heating you’d appreciate.

    Besides PV panels, I don’t know of any solar cooling, although Passivhaus drastically reduces the need for any.

  • Siiri January 13, 2014, 10:07 am

    I too would like to see what the MMM family eats at home.

  • Jacob January 13, 2014, 10:18 am

    $615 in donations? Let’s assume you only earned the $25K you spent. 5% would still be twice what you donated.

    I would love for you to spend some time finding needy and worthwhile charities you can donate more to in 2014. There is always an excuse on why not to donate, and most of them for me revolve around the charity using the money less effectively that I would.

    Perhaps the business charitable contributions are large enough that you don’t feel you need to or should donate personally. If that is the case, please share a blog post about that.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 1:22 pm

      Wow! A lot of comments about donations! We need to add more details on this next year. I answered this above, so look for my other comments to hear what’s really going on.

      • reader in the rockies January 13, 2014, 4:25 pm

        Donations are purely a personal decision. As if donating is an obligation! Especially with early retirement, you have a long way to go. Now may not be the best time to give a lot of your money away. I donate time more than money, which is probably better anyway. Way to go MMM family! Your budget looks awesome.

      • Geek January 13, 2014, 7:52 pm

        No, you don’t. It’s not anyone’s business if you don’t want it to be!

        But if you want it to, it’s all good.

      • Brian January 14, 2014, 10:39 am

        What is it with everyone talking about your charitable contributions. That is completely uncalled for and short sighted!

        Charity comes in more forms than just monetary donations. While I don’t give very much money to causes, I do donate our property for silent auctions to help raise money for families in need.

  • The Norwegian Guy January 13, 2014, 10:22 am

    I’ve to ask about the gasoline consumption. 1022 USD should equal about 340 gallons, and that is about 1290 liter. That’s a lot! Our annual fuel consumption is 900 liters, and that is with a daily commute. Is my math correct? And is this considered a low consumption in the US? If so, the US is more screwed up than I initially thought. With our annual fuel consumption of 900 liters I feel like we’re doing nearly too much driving.

    And to a completely new topic. You need to teach us a DIY haircut, that would seriously save me some cash (half of your annual gasoline bill!)

    • Eldred January 13, 2014, 1:46 pm

      I don’t recall the mileage that MMM’s car gets, but at 30mpg, that’s 10,200 miles per year. Average in the US is probably about 16,000-20,000. So that mileage is low for the US, and it’s probably only as high as it IS because they took several driving trips.
      I’ve had years where I put 30,000 miles on my car just for my COMMUTE…not counting trips/errands.

    • Martin January 16, 2014, 9:19 am

      If you think the US is screwed up, check out Canada in this category! Statistics Canada reports that we consumed 42 billion litres of gasoline and 17.4 billion litres of diesel fuel during 2012. There are 22.5 million cars and trucks on the road in Canada, so that works out to about 2700 litres per vehicle per year. I’m sure not even the US comes close to that kind of volumes of energy consumption for road transportation.
      Personally, since we live in a city and are stingy with our driving, we contribute about 1500 litres to this total. Sad but true…

      • Eldred January 16, 2014, 9:30 am

        But Canada is VERY ‘spread out’, right? Meaning there aren’t really any suburbs, and the next city is some distance away. I noticed that with I was in Germany last April. There just wasn’t a whole lot of stuff in each individual small town, so people had to drive vast distances to get to anything. Even the nearest McDonald’s was 15 minutes away by car. The plant I was working at(In Breuberg) was a good 30-40 minutes away from the hotel I was staying(Bad Koenig), and some of the other people at that plant were coming from farther. But if you somehow had everything you needed in that small town area, it would have been VERY easy to walk or bike. It was a nice place to visit, but it might have gotten boring to LIVE there…

  • Chris January 13, 2014, 10:37 am

    I feel like I’d be right along with you if it weren’t for daycare and rent. That kills about 17.5k of my pay right there. YIKES!!!

  • Cujo January 13, 2014, 11:23 am

    The comment about the blog business donating separately makes me wonder: What other spending (if any) is being hidden behind the business? For example, I assume your trip to Ecuador isn’t included in that sub-$2,000 travel total?

    Do you ever fly anywhere? I ask because travel is a weak spot in our budget, but we’re a family of five; unless we restrict ourselves to the CONUS east of the Mississippi, we’re looking at a bare minimum of $1,500 per trip for airfare.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 1:26 pm

      We hardly flew anywhere this year. My son and I flew to Canada, while MMM drove. We did go on a lot of driving trips though, including Utah/Nevada this year.

      MMMs Ecuador trip was fully blog-related, so that was a business expense. The only other flight that was a business expense was his trip to St Louis for the financial blogger conference (also fully blog-related).

      We kept our travel pretty low this year, but we also had a lot more visitors and enjoyed some fun stay-cations (including winter break and I had a couple of easy in-state girls trips).

  • Marcia January 13, 2014, 11:25 am

    This is so badass! i am incredibly impressed with the lack of restaurant spending. We have let that one get out of control as of late (too much illness in the house… when we aren’t eating applesauce and saltines, we are sometimes eating out).

    Hopefully the latest bug gets through our house in a few more days and we can go back to eating real food. I’m kinda tired of saltines. On the other hand, it’s a pretty quick weight loss scheme.

  • TSR Capital January 13, 2014, 11:30 am

    Would be interesting to see an annual household balance sheet as well.

  • JT January 13, 2014, 12:06 pm

    I’ve always considered myself disciplined with money, but reading this blog over the last couple years has taken it to another level. 2013 was the first year I tracked our family’s income/spending in order to calculate our savings rate. I was pleasantly surprised to find our savings rate was about 10 points higher than I thought. I was also surprised that our food spending seemed so high…about $6700 for the year for me, wife, and 2 kids (6 and 3). This works out to $130/week. We eat fairly healthy but not organic. Compared to MMM’s food spending I guess we’re not doing so bad after all. I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing normal prices and purchasing when things are on sale. My goal for 2014 was to bring this down to around $100/week but maybe now I won’t be so fanatical about it. At least now I have baseline numbers to track from year to year.

  • Liddlem January 13, 2014, 12:13 pm

    I would love to see a breakdown on the grocery budget. Maybe three months worth of receipts? What exactly does the MMM family buy and where?

  • Jimbo January 13, 2014, 12:33 pm

    The first (well technically second) sentence of this post is pure mastery. One of the best I read ever.

    ‘What a strange and grand country this is, where the necessities are virtually free, so we end up spending most of our income on optional luxuries in the quest for ever-fancier pants.’…

    • Andreas January 18, 2014, 10:13 am

      I agree. It’s funny how food is so cheap, you pay virtually no tax, and energy is essentially free, but nevertheless well-earning people manage to put themselves into debt to keep up with the Joneses.

  • Thegoblinchief January 13, 2014, 12:43 pm

    The commenters complaining about charitable giving are just gross. It’s also one of the things that drove me away from organized religion. Sermons became so much about money, giving, and such.

    • chc4444 January 13, 2014, 10:18 pm

      I totally agree with you. It’s troubling that people are so quick to judge others.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2014, 10:28 pm

      I agree! And people keep repeating that same point despite the fact that it had been covered and answered before.

      Are folks showing up and slapping their own opinions into this long stream of comments before reading ALL previous comments first? Because we don’t do that here. I normally delete repeated comments but am a bit too busy this week building the house.

      • Clint January 14, 2014, 10:52 am

        Was wondering why the same ridiculous charity comments were showing up over and over again without adding anything new. You’re out there building something … instead of giving to charity! :)

      • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow January 16, 2014, 12:43 pm

        Hey MMM

        I reread my comments and OUCH much harsher than I thought! I’m sure you’ve given it much thought and like everything else will come up with a creative way of getting a big bang for your buck.

        So in the meantime accept my applogies for being over the top complainy pants


    • Lisa January 15, 2014, 5:47 am

      I keep envisioning Dana Carvey as The Church Lady. You don’t tithe what I think you should? Well, isn’t THAT special?

      I abandoned organized religion too and reading these holier than thou posts is reminding me one of the reasons I did.


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