Get Rich With: Your Own Urban Tribe

A small tribe of Mustachians gathers in a Seattle Park

A small tribe of Mustachians gathers in a Seattle Park earlier this summer

Here in the MMM family household, we live a lifestyle that could be considered unrecognizably oddball, or classically familiar depending on who you ask. Although the fairly well-appointed house in an expensive area probably does a good job at reassuring certain neighbors that we fit in, our lives are pretty different.

We spend most of our time within a 2-mile circle with home at the center. The car is just starting in on its third tank of gas for the year, and I’m expecting this one to make it through December. We often go months without visiting any store besides the grocery, and the half million dollar house contains no TV set, clothes dryer, powered lawnmower, ties or suit jackets of any sort, and no items of clothing (other than great hiking shoes) worth more than about $50.

None of this is by necessity or due to lack of money, it’s just how we’ve ended up after ten years of  freedom from conventional work, while trying to optimize our lives for happiness rather than maximum consumption. But the end result is still pretty powerful, as I can’t seem to blow more than about $25,000 per year no matter how luxurious we feel our lives are.

The further along we go, the more I realize this is a great way to live, and probably not just for us. Because a life like this comes with other changes aside from the superficial spending-related ones described above. It seems that we are sliding right into the comfortable groove of much older human civilizations, the ones in which all of our instincts are more at home: something you could call the tribe.

The Modern Urban Tribe

I’ve noticed that our life is following a pattern that echoes back to a far distant era. We wake up when our bodies feel they have had enough sleep and the house is brightening with the sky. I walk outside to inspect the sunrise with bare feet and strong coffee, and a relaxed breakfast for all of us is never compromised. Only after this routine, sometimes with music or other times with a chapter of reading from a book, do we start to think about other things like meetings or appointments or heading out for some good old-fashioned hard work.

Our house backs onto a park, which is at the center of a human-friendly community where people actually walk places. Because of this, people tend to just show up throughout the day. Little MM might run out to join some friends after seeing them out throwing toy airplanes in the park, who later join him to make mud rivers in the back yard or come inside for a round of Starcraft II. Kids wander in pairs or groups from one household to another without an armored SUV escort, or even shirts or shoes. We all climb trees and play in the creek. Adult friends might stop in as part of an afternoon walk, which ends up leading to beers and the joint cooking of a feast, which in turn attracts other adults and children, possibly even leading to unexpected tent sleepovers in the back yard.

In such a community, leisure and work tend to blur together. I might recruit a friend to help build a fence, who ends up needing my help to replace a furnace. A third friend might stop by to learn about the installation process, but mention a house he saw for sale down the street which leads to a short-term real estate investment partnership. Everybody could use some help at times, and everyone has some help to offer at other times. As a result, kids and salads, tools and books and loaned vehicles, money and heirloom tomatoes and homebrews tend to circulate freely through the crowd, enriching us all with each transaction.

Such a life is not just the quaint habit of a few lucky rich people in a friendly, safe neighborhood. It is the foundation of human civilization itself. We are meant to live in medium-sized groups, to walk between each other’s dwellings, and to collaborate and play freely with an abundance of unscheduled free time. When you start with these basic building blocks of a community, you automatically press your happiness buttons and suddenly start living a much happier, healthier life.

Lessons in Tribalism from my Summer Vacation

This summer, I had an unusually action-packed trip as I made my way through the cities of Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and surrounding spots in Canada to visit friends and family. With our own lifestyle so bright in my mind, it was fascinating to see how other people live.

Many people we know in Ottawa live in isolated suburbs, scattered 30 miles from their other friends and from work. Some chose their location because they wanted to live on a large plot of land, and others because they wanted a big house that still fit within the limits of their mortgage payment budget. But few if any made the choice based on living within walking distance of friends, family, food and work.

They have adapted to this situation by living more planned lives. A long email discussion of schedules precedes any gathering of friends, and they need to work around traffic and weather and repairs and gas prices. Over the decades, I have watched as friends bought brand new cars which have gone from shiny to dull to rusty to junkyard while my own car seems to resist aging, having yet to lose the stiff blackness of its nearly new seat fabric. Getting together is still fun, but it tends to happen less often and end earlier in the night. I couldn’t help but notice the amount of happiness this physical distance seems to subtract from the equation.

Later I ended up in San Francisco, peeking in on the lives of some new friends as an outsider. As I joined the neighborhood parties and looked at the way this much smaller, bike-scaled city functions, I noticed that the social life of these friends was much more similar to my own despite the much larger population of the city. Spontaneous gatherings and sharing of household amenities was the norm. Patios or parks would fill with neighbors and driveways would fill with bikes. The fact that people lived within walking or biking distance of friends seemed to make all the difference.

The final lesson came when I headed to Victoria, BC for three days. This is an island city of 80,000 people which happens to feature the highest rate of bicycle commuting in Canada. Meeting a friend at a the airport, we immediately went to one neighbor’s house to borrow a bike for the duration of my visit and ditched the car. Then we rode to a barbecue gathering for local business owners. The next day featured a longer ride through the city and out to the surrounding lakes and mountains, then I took a bus downtown to join a meetup of Mustachians in a public park. Afterwards we walked out for a late night dinner, and then I enjoyed an hour-long solo midnight walk back through the city to my temporary home.

I found an amazing similarity to my own life at home in our neighborhood in Small Town Colorado. More seemingly random people knew and cared about each other, spontaneous gatherings and excursions to the mountains were commonplace, and the general consensus was that this was a wonderful and happy place to live. Prosperity and good health seemed to be in abundant supply in these more tribe-oriented places.

So How Can this Make us All Richer?

I believe the close and local community is a big part of what we’ve been losing with modern life. The dual-full-time-income-plus-kids household, ivy-league preschool syndrome, car commuting and suburban sprawl in our city designs have all made it a little harder to live a local lifestyle. But it absolutely does not have to be that way.

There’s a Greek island called Ikaria that pops up regularly in health news because its people enjoy some of the longest, healthiest lives on Earth. At least once a month, somebody emails me a link to one of a few major stories about it, because they notice the parallels to the lifestyle you and I are working towards right here. Plenty of sleep. Some outdoor hard work every day. A high degree of socialization. And of course, olive oil and wine as desired. Ikaria is the Original Island of the Mustachians. Even without much money, these people are wealthier than most of us in rich cities.

Slowly but surely, the US is waking up from its suburban slumber and starting to change the way cities are designed, with groups like Strong Towns pushing and city planners trained in New Urbanism pulling as they gradually start displacing the people who were raised with nothing but cars. But without even waiting for these changes, we can start adding some Ikaria to our own lives.

Great Friends are Hiding Among your Neighbors

Some of my own tribe travels the streets of Longmont, CO

Some of my own tribe travels the streets of Longmont, CO

You just need to start meeting your neighbors. Not just one or two of them, but all of them. Not everybody will be cool or fun or have much in common with you, but some of them actually will.

When I move to a new house, I actually write down the addresses of the 10 nearest houses and then set a goal of filling in a name and summary of the details for each household. Then I keep branching out and making eye contact and meeting people from other nearby blocks, because it is a genuinely happy thing to know people who live so close to you.  Why focus your energy on traveling to meet friends who live several cities away, while ignoring those right next door who you haven’t even met yet?

Joining local groups can facilitate this, whether it’s through a school, business group, church, or bike, sport or volunteer club. Even getting a part-time job at an in-style downtown venue works well. The key to keeping it tribal is simply to keep it local – you need to mingle with people you actually live with. To create an area with a “high social collision rate” as a doctor friend of mine puts it.

Even after 10 years in my own city, I still run into a new person every week who I’d actually like to spend time with, who lives within a five minute walk. As the network grows, so does my happiness. And miraculously, the number of things I can think of to spend money on continues to drop, because a more satisfying life automatically cuts down your desire to doll it up with more toys.

The answer to a better life may be walking past you right now.

Further Reading: 

This year a busy urban neighborhood in South Korea tried banning cars for an entire month. It ended up blowing everyone’s minds for the better: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3045836/heres-what-happened-when-a-neighborhood-decided-to-ban-cars-for-a-month

Are you ready to start making this happen in your own town? The first city in the US to accomplish this feat will start a chain reaction that changes everything.

  • Robin August 19, 2015, 10:20 am

    We have been trying to create the same atmosphere in our lives in the past few years. We started by downsizing to a small house closer to where we worked, stopped financing cars, recently paid off our mortgage to become totally debt free, and spend most of our free time with the neighbors that we love. Our kids play together, go to school together, and we all help each other out whenever we can, whether it’s sharing a meal, babysitting kids, mowing a neighbor’s lawn, or loaning a tool. It’s like living a dream. :)

    • Dividend Growth Investor August 19, 2015, 11:45 am


      Your neighborhood sounds like a very nice and peaceful place to live in. It kind of reminds me of the “good old days” when neighbors knew each other, kids played on the streets, and things were much safer.

      By downsizing, and reducing commuting, you have more money to contribute to your investments, which will help you reach your goals earlier than average. And by having a strong support network of like minded individuals means you can all collectively spend less ( doing a backyard BBQ for friends is cheaper than going out to eat and spend $25 each on a meal full of preservatives at a restaurant)

      • Tetsuya Hondo August 20, 2015, 11:32 am

        You say “when things were much safer.” Despite what TV news would have you believe, violent crime rates in the US as a whole are the lowest that they’ve been since the early 60s.

        Sorry, this is a soapbox thing for me and I couldn’t let it slide by. Otherwise, I’m onboard with your statement

        • Tetsuya Hondo August 20, 2015, 11:39 am

          Correction. I should say murder rates are the lowest they’ve been since the late 60s. Most other crimes have been falling since the early 90s.

          • ConArtist August 20, 2015, 3:06 pm

            Not in DC! We’ve had a pretty wicked homicide wave lately.

            • DChan August 20, 2015, 6:19 pm

              What, really? I live in the are and didn’t even know this. I don’t like watching news, maybe that’s why.

          • M December 25, 2023, 12:51 pm

            You really have to look at statistics published by local police departments. Liberal media reports lower crime so politicians running democratic cities don’t look so bad.

        • Jim Wang August 20, 2015, 2:34 pm

          This (that crime is worse now) is one of the biggest misconceptions we have and it’s perpetuated by mainstream media because crime sells. It’s maddening.

          • Dividend Growth Investor August 20, 2015, 3:06 pm

            I agree crime has been in a decline over time in US overall. But there are places in the US and the world where it has been increasing. Despite the decrease in crime, we feel less safe. Why is that?

            When I was a kid ( ages 3 – 9), my parents let me go outside on my own, and I was out playing on the streets for hours without parental supervision. This was the case with other kids too.

            I am not so sure people let their kids roam free any more.

            The most interesting thing for me Jim is when people assume that the statistics they have seen for their own situation, apply to everyone’s situation. This is a misconception.

            So the lesson is to not jump to conclusions and attack people’s statements, without knowing the background behind them.

            • Briony August 20, 2015, 3:38 pm

              Personally speaking, I don’t worry about my children being murdered or kidnapped. The thing that worries me about them roaming unsupervised is the greater volume of traffic and increased craziness of the driving. It’s the big change between now and my childhood. We moved 100 miles within the UK to a calmer town and don’t have a car (I never bothered to learn to drive) so made sure we chose a pedestrian-friendly location. Also, having ALWAYS been pedestrians, our children have a greater sense of road safety than most of their (car-confined-from-birth) friends. I let them out to play and knock for friends. They often walk to and from school together without an adult (5 & 8) and they are fine. But the greater the car culture, the harder it is to be safe outside of a car within it.

              I was reading a fascinating book last year called Death on the Streets (Robert Davis) and he wrote that (in the UK) that as fatalaties of car drivers and passengers decreased with the introduction of compulsory seat belts, fatalities in pedestrians increased by a similar amount. So the feelings of increased safety within a car may have led to an increase in aggressive driving. It’s a fascinating read into car culture anyway.

            • Emmers August 30, 2015, 11:33 am

              Yes, this is what drives me absolutely bonkers about the Meitivs – I don’t think their kids were at ANY risk of being abducted; I think that younger kids are more at risk of being struck by a car that didn’t see them/that they didn’t adequately look out for. Especially in busy intersections like the region where they live.

            • The Frugal One August 21, 2015, 5:39 am

              You should see the kids run wild around here. And every other neighborhood in every state I’ve lived in for the last two decades. From subdivisions to open streets, kids who want to get out seem to have no problem escaping their parents.

        • Willis Montgomery III August 21, 2015, 12:38 pm

          Thank you for standing on your soapbox.

    • Stockbeard August 19, 2015, 4:14 pm

      robin, sounds like the right approach!
      I’m an expat and tend to have lots of expat friends. Expats tend to live in richer areas, and there are fewer of them… Whichever country I live in, my friends are splattered all around the country, making it difficult to do that kind of “local” experiment… But I’m thinking next time I move I’ll strongly consider where my friends live, to see if I can optimize based on their location.

    • Jim Wang August 20, 2015, 2:36 pm

      We’ve found this to be much easier once we have kids because now everyone has something for their kids to do. :)

  • Robert August 19, 2015, 10:27 am

    Great insight. Having a home or apartment of a reasonable (i.e., small) size encourages these types of behavior tremendously. If I want to get outdoors, I use the neighborhood park instead of a giant personal backyard. Perfect for unexpected interactions with neighbors and a stronger social life.

    • Jim Wang August 20, 2015, 2:41 pm

      What’s ironic is that you realize the fun of a large backyard or those amenities is in sharing it with friends. A large backyard by yourself is just more yard to mow…

    • Amber August 25, 2015, 3:08 pm

      As MMM said a few posts back, when you live in the city you have a “multi-billion dollar backyard” – access to so many great city-run public spaces! Less maintenance and more interaction. This is a big reason I wish we still lived in the city. :(

  • David Rosen August 19, 2015, 10:30 am

    What you describe is small town lifestyle (population under 2500)

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 19, 2015, 10:39 am

      Very true! But I’d argue that the approach scales pretty well: my city is somewhere in the 90,000 range, which translates to under a 5×5 mile land area even with relatively suburban density. Even in a big city, you can just pretend your world only extends about this distance, and create a virtual small city within a big one.

      This means you can easily live car-free.. perhaps more so than in a town of 2500 because all amenities are right here. You don’t need to drive a car 35 minutes to the nearest city to see a movie or get reasonably priced groceries.

      • Dividend Growth Investor August 19, 2015, 11:49 am


        Plenty of cities in Europe have their downtowns closed off for cars – it is a pedestrian zone where people can walk, bike, enjoy their coffee and chat out with friends. If you add in public transportation, “free/cheap” healthcare, actual work-life balance, it is no wonder Europeans consider Americans not normal.

        • Businessgypsy August 19, 2015, 2:38 pm

          I spend around six weeks in Amsterdam every year. I home exchange with friends, bike everywhere, cook and visit. After airfare, it’s as cheap for me as living at home. Love my Dutch friends, but it’s not utopia. That public transportation and “free/cheap” healthcare? Not free by anyone’s math. Try 52% of your income, right off the top, in taxes. Are you willing to let our government decide how to spend 52% of your life’s work effort? My observation is that such an arrangement stifles independent thought and action, promoting a tendency towards deferring to the state in all matters. I’ll keep the system we have, thanks, and try to make it even more independent. No argument with picking the life you like, just a note that it’s not necessarily better in all ways for all people.

          • Lisa August 19, 2015, 2:49 pm

            Thanks Businessgypsy for saying that. I live and work in Germany and my monthly health insurance premium for myself, not the family, is 635 Euros. Maybe some consider this “cheap”, but it is definitely not free.

            • LennStar August 20, 2015, 2:25 am

              Thats because we in Europa once decided that you should not stare, freeze to death or die by illnesses just because you are poor or disabled etc.

              So if you earn much you pay a big share back to the society that made it possible for you to earn much.

            • sw-de August 20, 2015, 4:11 am

              I’d say it’s because American history was defined by them freeing themselves from their (colonial) state.

              Here is Europe we either WERE the colonial state (if you’re from the western coast mostly, like the English, Dutch, Spanish, French or Portuguese) or you were jelly for the wealth they got from their colonies.

              In Europe we mostly made revolutions against the monarchs and the ultra-wealthy, and instead tried to make governments for the commune, by the commune. Behead the king, make a republic that tends to common peoples needs.

              In America they defined themselves by the revolution against the state (although also monarchies). They still stay wary of what governments do. It’s been working out pretty well for them the last couple of hundred years. Cheers to that, American friends :).

            • Pro_Amateur August 20, 2015, 8:20 am

              The 52% is the top tax bracket in the Netherlands and is not related to the cost of healthcare. That is around 80 euros a month if you have a job and shop around for the best deal.

            • Dividend Growth Investor August 20, 2015, 9:57 am


              There is a difference between your actual tax rate and marginal tax rate. The marginal tax rate in Netherlands over 56,500 euro ($63K USD) is 52%. But your total tax will likely be lower. Plus, if you are a Netherland expat living somewhere else, your income will not be taxed in the Netherlands, but in the lower tax jurisdiction. If you were a US citizen earning income abroad, you need to make sure you are filing the right forms, and reporting income to uncle sam ( there are certain exemptions for foreign earned income).

              If I were single in the US, earning $63K, my marginal tax would actually be higher – 25% Federal, 7.65% FICA (15.30% if I were self employed), plus State Tax of 10% (California). So technically, my marginal tax could be 50% and I get no free healthcare. Plus I have to drive everywhere, find parking, spend money on car depreciation, maintenance, gasoline, insurance. If there were public transportation, it would have been cheaper, due to inherent benefits of scale.

              Plus the Netherlands is ranked number four on merits of innovation: http://www.iamexpat.nl/read-and-discuss/expat-page/news/Netherlands-fourth-in-Global-Innovation-Index-2013

              So somehow, high taxes and safety net have not reduced desire for innovating.

              On the other hand in the US, the largest reason for personal bankruptcy is healthcare costs. Think about it – you spend decades of your life accumulating your nest egg, and then you have an illness which ends up bankrupting you.

              I am fine if you disagree with me. This is because you have not thought things through – you assume you will always be successful. But what if you are not successful in the future?

            • Yogi August 21, 2015, 4:38 am

              Hi Lisa,
              your health insurance is really high. Normally, as an employee we have to pay half of our health insurance (total 14,6% of our salary), since the employer pays the another half. Meaning, we pay 7.3% of our salary. With an average income we don’t have to pay more than 500€ monthly. Otherwise you have a very high income or an additional private insurance. See this link for the percentage of current German National Health Insurance https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gesetzliche_Krankenversicherung#Beitragssatz_und_Zusatzbeitrag.

            • Lisa August 21, 2015, 4:06 pm

              Hi Yogi,
              My employer pays 301 of the 635 monthly health insurance. I do have a high income by German standards – 6 figures – so I don’t actually have to purchase the government insurance but I am “freiwillig Gesetzlich versichert” (voluntarily) insured this way, mostly out of habit. Also because of my profession, I do not have to pay into the regular social security, but I do pay into the program for my profession, which offers better benefits than the government program. Coming from the US, I find this really interesting, because everyone in the US who works must pay into Social Security, no matter if self-employed or any particular profession. Anyway, my point was that everything comes at a cost (to someone) and that there are no freebies. It is also clear to me, having had the opportunity to work under different tax systems, that it is much more difficult for the average German citizen to accumulate any wealth, and thus achieve a mustachian lifestyle or retire early. It was my years of working under the US tax system and retaining more net from my gross pay which enabled me to purchase rental properties in the US and Germany. In contrast, the majority Germans rent for their entire lives and generally don’t have income producing investments.

            • Yogi August 24, 2015, 1:41 am

              Hi Lisa,
              I’m glad to read that you are on the way to FI. Congrats :).
              After I checked again, I do pay the health insurance exactly the same as you due to the limit “Beitragsbemessungsgrenze” at 4125€. I wasn’t aware about it :). Thanks for your comment that I’ve checked my salary printout again :).
              [quote]Anyway, my point was that everything comes at a cost[/quote]
              Yes, you are right. That’s why frugal and simple live is a great lifestyle nowadays.
              I heard that many people who earn over average choose to have public health insurance rather than “freiwillig Gesetzlich versichert”. What is your opinion about that?

              Regarding your social security, did you mean the “Betriebsrente” or it’s a special program in your profession only? Last time I refused to have “Betriebsrente” and “Riester”, even my colleagues recommend them.

            • Lisa August 24, 2015, 5:02 pm

              Hi Yogi,
              In my experience, the vast majority of those who do earn enough to opt out of the gov’t insurance nearly always do so. The main reason is that folks believe that better service will be obtained with Private insurance (1st class patients). The downside is that for older retired patients, the premiums can rise too high to manage.

              Referring to social security, if you currently work in a certain profession (physician, lawyer, architect, pharmacist) and are a member of these societies, you may opt out of the government social security and pay into the plan that the particular professional society provides.

              Others who are not obligated to pay into the German social security are civil servants, judges, soldiers, and business owners, among others…

              Betriebsrente is basically a company pension and Riester is much like an IRA. Both are good and you should take advantage of them.

          • Kenoryn August 20, 2015, 2:06 pm

            On the other hand, the Netherlands and other socialist-leaning countries are routinely found to be the happiest countries in the world, with the highest quality of life and longer lifespans than the US. This could suggest that the every-man-for-himself approach valued in the US is not actually effective at promoting wellbeing among its citizens compared to the more social approach used in progressive countries.

            • Mark August 21, 2015, 3:24 am

              I also live in Amsterdam, now for 3 years. I was car free for the first 2 years, but have owned a car for the last year. My centre of town apartment has parking so I wouldnt own it otherwise. However, I have just bought my first tank of diesel since June! and have only done 10,000 km this year, that mostly for business. You can easily live without a car in Amsterdam (I have 8 bikes!) I get all of what I need within a 3 km radius of the house. Public transit is cheap and plentiful. Yes taxes are higher, but average work weeks are shorter. My American collegues get 40 days paid vacation a year? I think not. Due to low oil prices I might be forced to return back to Canada…I am already dreading the idea of giving up my lifestyle here and returning to the North American way…funny I am also looking at relocating to Victoria! Mark.

            • Olli August 21, 2015, 8:12 am

              A lot of European cities also seem to try to foster the community feeling. The different sections of the city have their own groups, community recycling/composting, car sharing, secure bike parking on the street, etc. I do think however that what makes the biggest contrast is that in so many cities and towns it is much more normal to live in apartments rather than big separate houses. This necessarily requires more interaction and community support, more time outside in the parks (as there are only small private gardens) and means people actually get to know their neighbors, even in the biggest cities!

            • expatinAMS August 28, 2015, 7:59 am

              another amsterdamer expat! nice! I had two bikes until one got stolen :/ alas, if bike theft is the only downside I’ve noticed in my yr+ being here :) 30+ days of vacation, great work life balance, walking/biking everywhere, great markets, the list goes on…

        • Victor August 21, 2015, 9:18 am

          So true. I’m from Europe and when I lived in the US for a short while I refused to live the silly american style. I just walked most places. People did look at me in a weird way when I walked 1-2 hour distances and they keept taking the car whenever it was more than 3 min walking distances.

          I remember one time I was one a date with a girl and we were going to a place 500 meters (1700 feet) away and she said: “Lets take the car” and I laughed until I realised she was serious about taking the car…

      • Just Stop Spending Seth July 17, 2018, 3:17 pm

        This is exactly my approach. I live in Houston, TX, which has an absolutely absurd population. However, if you just limit yourself to the actual neighborhood you live in, you find it’s got quite a small-town feel to it.

        Moving to all-bike transportation helps this. You’ll be surprised to find you can probably do everything you ever wanted or needed to do within your neighborhood, too. And if you can’t, that’s something great to plan for the next time you move!

    • Tim August 19, 2015, 12:31 pm

      I live outside of Boston (pop. 700,000), in Somerville (pop. 78,000), just adjacent to Cambridge (pop. 100,000), and we live the same car-free lifestyle. Walk to the doctor, the dentist, the movies, the bowling alley, restaurants, schools, grocery store, etc. etc. I think it has more to do with when your neighborhood was developed (pre-1950, ideally) than the size of your city.

      • Laura82 August 19, 2015, 12:57 pm

        I live just south of Boston in Quincy (population 94,000) and enjoy the same lifestyle. It is very hard for people in other parts of the country to understand how one can live without a car. When I tell them that I know many people without a driver’s license, they can’t even conceive of it.

        • Elizabeth August 19, 2015, 6:00 pm

          I loved Quincy! But I was there in my late 20s, and all my friends/work were downtown. Still, with the Red Line metro, a bipolar life (working/socializing downtown, chilling at home) wasn’t bad.

          • Jo August 20, 2015, 5:38 am

            Hi Boston-area Neighbors! I’m in Cambridge and share the car-free lifestyle. When I travel abroad, people are surprised to meet an American who doesn’t have a driver’s license. It feels good to go out to do errands and run into folks I know (and like) all the time.

          • Laura82 August 20, 2015, 7:55 am

            I’m in my 3os, so I don’t really have friends who live right in the city anymore. Sometimes we’ll meet downtown, though, since it’s convenient for everyone. It’s amazing how Quincy and some other cities like it are often passed over by people looking for housing, simply because they’re lacking the “hip factor.” It’s on the subway, is way cheaper than most of the area, and is safer than many of the trendier areas.

      • Luigi August 20, 2015, 11:25 am

        I moved from Texas to Boston a few years ago, I first lived in the Southend and then in Brookline. After three months I sold my car and enjoyed riding the T (subway), taking buses, walking and ocassionaly using zipcar if I needed to drive. Having no car was a great way to live. I would save money, read about 2 or 3 books a month when taking the greenline to work. I lost about 10 pounds from all the walking and many other benefits. Boston is a great city for this, you see people from all walks of life taking public transportation. Now I live in Dallas and the thought of public transportation or walking is impossible, I havent regained the 10 pounds I lost in my 4 years in Boston, but 5 have managed to make it back. I cannot remember the last time I walked somewhere here.

      • Sam August 20, 2015, 4:11 pm

        I’m in Cambridge, right near you. My wife and I love the exact same walkable life you describe, and we’ve been building up a good tribe of other young parents in our area.

        How are you handling the very high cost of property there? We want to buy a place so that we can stay in this area that we love, but even a small place (1400 sq ft) is still $700k – not very mustachian! I don’t expect that you have the answer, but I’m curious how you are handling the cost of housing.

        • Jo August 20, 2015, 5:56 pm

          Sam, I know that buying Cambridge is impossible for most these days. I’m afraid I don’t have anything to offer. I bought my 1-bedroom condo in the early 90s shortly after rent control was abolished. The owner had just gone through a divorce and moved to Europe and was looking to sell quickly. The bank required a 20% down payment, and even though I was working for an art nonprofit, the fact that I was born with a mustache meant I had the money to put down. Being probably the only first-time home buyers with the 20% was key. I couldn’t even afford what my condo would rent for nowadays.

      • Suzi May 31, 2018, 3:50 pm

        I don’t suppose you have a tiny room to let for a car free Mustachian?

  • EarlyRetirementGuy August 19, 2015, 10:36 am

    When I moved to my village after having grown up in the big cities the first thing I did was register to become a member of the local parish council. This was one of the best thing I’ve ever done, not only did it allow me to help shape my new community.. it meant that I met a huge variety of people I’d have never known before.

    It’s strange to think that after just a couple of years living in this villiage I now know more people from it then I did spending the rest of my life living in a big city surrounded by many more people.

    Getting to know your neighbours is awesome, its such a shame people are almost afraid to do it these days.

  • Scott August 19, 2015, 10:36 am

    I wish my neighborhood was conducive to this, but it’s really not. I live in suburban hell because believe it or not, that’s where my job is. I don’t know anyone here, and everyone goes from work->car->garage, so the only time they’re ever outside is in the work parking lot! The sidewalks are mostly empty, although occasionally I’ll run into a couple out for a walk, which seems like an odd time for an outsider like myself to try and butt in to make friends. It also doesn’t help that I’m not exactly a social butterfly.

    But I agree with your general point– overall, the worst thing about this job is not the job itself, but rather the location. When I go job searching next, I’ll do it right: I’ll settle on a few locations I’m okay with living in FIRST, and find a job in one of those locations AFTER.

  • Anne August 19, 2015, 10:38 am

    I moved to Ottawa four years ago after having lived in highly walkable (and more affordable) neighbourhoods in Busan, South Korea and Montreal. Even living centrally in Ottawa, I find it difficult getting everything I need (groceries and household items) on foot or bicycle – amenities are just to far apart. Driving is almost a necessity and there seems to be an almost instinctive urge for people to move to the suburbs after a certain age/stage in life. Add to that the somewhat introverted nature of your average Ottawan, it ends up being a real challenge to find people to hang out with. I do like your idea of trying to chat up your neighbours and have been working towards that. I have to say that the people who leave in the immediate vicinity are not super friendly, but I will persist!

    • Patrick August 19, 2015, 11:07 am

      I won’t pretend Ottawa is some sort of paradise of walkability, but I’m living just north of Chinatown and I find it very walkable and bikeable. I haven’t needed a car for anything yet, and I’ve only taken the bus when going past Blair or Baseline (very rare).

      There are better places, but there are many more places that are much worse, at least on this continent.

      • Des August 19, 2015, 11:25 am

        I’ll chime in and second this, but about Old Ottawa South in particular! I lived there without a car for over two years and I never had to go that far for anything. It was actually a lovely neighbourhood to get to know your neighbours as well, especially if you went to the locally owned grocery market – although it definitely skewed towards very wealthy people who could afford to own in the neighbourhood.

        And in a small defence of those far-flung suburbs of Ottawa, I now live in one of them and am walking distance to all necessities, and I can bike to work. I also know my neighbours a lot better than I did when working/living downtown, and am on a first name basis with almost every single dog in the neighbourhood thanks to the friendly folks who are out walking their dogs in the parks. I guess my point is that it’s possible to create this kind of urban tribe anywhere!

      • MG August 22, 2015, 10:03 am

        I would guess I live very close to you (LeBreton Flats) and I love how many non-car options I have. Ottawa is fine if you’re in the right area.

    • AnotherOttawan August 20, 2015, 2:18 pm

      Anne – It is the cold winters, and the desire to own a monster home that is a problem here in Ottawa.

      I live in an area where I walk/cycle as much as I can, and know the neighbours, and often walk to friends houses.

      I don’t know what to suggest; only that you keep at it, and you may find that you are that magnet that draws others to you, because you have become the social hub.

  • CincyCat August 19, 2015, 10:41 am

    We share our awesome lawnmower with a few close neighbors. As long as it comes back with a full tank of gas, we don’t care who wants to use it. It’s funny when we go to mow our own yard, and it isn’t in the shed, and we have to sit and think for a minute who borrowed it last. :-)

    • TXLimey August 19, 2015, 10:51 am

      Lawnmower that runs on…. gas? I don’t understand!!! ;-)

      • Mr. Money Mustache August 19, 2015, 1:36 pm

        Yeah, seriously! We may need to address this here on the blog someday – ALL gas lawnmowers have got to get the hell out of cities and suburbs – NOW!

        Check out the 40 volt/ 20″ cordless electric mowers that Kobalt and Ryobi have these days. Wicked powerful, able to cut a huge lawn, and yet nearly silent and non-polluting. Ideally I’d like to share one of these with the nearest few neighbors.

        But since my lot is reasonably sized and I don’t have a huge amount of grass, I just use an old Scott 20″ push (reel) mower that I reclaimed from a friend’s recycling pile and sharpened nicely. Most other people on the street still own their own gas mower.

        • Evan August 19, 2015, 2:21 pm


          What do you do about the tall weeds? I’ve been using my push mower for about a year, and using an electric weedeater to knock down the seed stalks from the Dallas grass that the reel mower won’t cut (it just knocks them over). It’s not a very elegant solution, but it works. And when the grass gets out of control, I have to do a once over with the gas mower to get it back under control. I’m thinking there’s gotta be a better solution. Thoughts?

        • megak8 August 19, 2015, 3:00 pm

        • Jim August 19, 2015, 3:54 pm

          As a new homeowner, I picked up the Ryobi 16″ cordless electric. I picked the smaller one because we have a lot of trees in tight quarters and I can fit in more spaces than with the 20.

          Wow, it is nice. The biggest thing for me is how quiet it is (string trimmer too). I can walk around without ear protection, chat with others, and just enjoy the outdoors in a way I couldn’t with a gas mower.

          And should the battery run out… time for a beer.

        • Joe Money August 20, 2015, 6:50 am

          I bought the Kobalt electric mower in April 2015 from Lowes. It’s the best mower I have ever owned! It makes less noise than our vacuum cleaner, and the best part is I don’t have to mess with putting gas and oil in it.

        • Ethan August 20, 2015, 12:42 pm

          I don’t know what you consider “huge”, but I have just over an acre and the best electric mowers I have seen would take at least 3-4 charges to mow it especially as I like to keep it taller than most.

          I currently use a gas-powered mower, but I am looking into ordering a scythe and learning to mow with that. My neighbors may think I’m insane, but I don’t mind.

          • Mr. Money Mustache August 21, 2015, 8:46 am

            Yeah, I’d consider even a quarter acre of land HUGE for a non-farm dwelling (I’m on 6400 SF or 1/7 acre and you could still fit an apartment building on this plot!).

            But maintaining it with a scythe is an awesome and badass idea.

        • RH August 20, 2015, 2:43 pm

          The old owner of our house left his plug in lawnmower. I replaced the beat up blade and it’s as good as new. The cord is a PITA….but the mower is quiet and it does the job. I’ve been using it for 6 years now with no issues.

        • Stephen August 23, 2015, 12:37 am

          I actually caved. After a year of using a Scott 20″ push reel mower (maybe even the same model you have), I got tired of the poor job it was doing on my yard. It cuts maybe 80% of the grass and refuses to cut the rest. I would spend time mowing it twice or thrice from multiple angles, but I would end up spending a lot of time, and the yard looked hardly better than not being mowed at all.

          So I bought a powered mower, a gas mower in fact. With similar prices for basic electric and gas mowers, I considered both, but ultimately settled on the gas mower because there is a strong probability that I can perform or learn to perform all the necessary maintenance on a gas engine . If the electric mower breaks or if the battery dies, then it’s more likely that I will need to order expensive parts (e.g., batteries) or pay an expert to fix it.

          The mower works great. It’s noisy and dusty, and makes me sneeze, but it’s faster and cuts everything I expect. As an added bonus, it takes care of fallen leaves. With the reel mower, I would first have to rake the leaves (which start falling in August) to keep the mower from getting stuck on a twig.

          Am I no longer Mustachian?

          Of course, I would love to live in a place where it is socially (and legally) acceptable to have a native lawn. For now, I feel obliged to help keep up appearances and land values for whenever we decide to sell.

          • MallaryS August 23, 2015, 2:54 pm

            Where do you live? And why can’t you think of another way to make your own house and yard(!) more to your liking while still not upsetting your neighbors – are there so few choices? Seems a little Stepford Wives (overly conformist) to me.

            • Stephen August 24, 2015, 5:58 pm

              I don’t want a yard in the conventional sense. What a waste of water and time. However, there are reasons for maintaining one. The city would send us letters and fines if the front yard was not maintained.

              The solution to my yard dilemma is to move into a rural area. But we don’t want to do that until we reach financial independence. Jobs (which we still need) are in the cities where the yards are.

              In the meantime, the next door house is going up for sale. My yard is going to look the best that it can this week because the more appealing our street is, the more my neighbor’s house will sell for, and thus the more we can sell ours for.

        • CincyCat August 23, 2015, 10:46 am

          My bad.. I thought I was commenting on a blog post about saving money by learning how to share resources with neighbors. I did not realize everyone would be so upset over the “g” word as to miss the point I was trying to make. (I wonder how this comment thread might have looked if I had simply omitted that sentence…)

          • Mr. Money Mustache August 23, 2015, 11:37 am

            No worries Cincy Cat, I think your point was still well taken. We Mustachians are just known to have a fetish for non-gas lawn care.. don’t take it personally!

            • David September 1, 2016, 7:18 pm

              Reel mowers are great if your lawn is level and smooth. If the ground is full of rocks , ruts and rough areas a reel mower doesn’t work very well. When I bought my gas mower in the early 90s there were no good battery powered options. When E-10 fuel caused annual carburetor repairs I converted it to propane. I still like using muscle power when possible. I don’t have a snowblower and I split my firewood by hand.

        • WageSlave August 24, 2015, 1:14 pm

          So are we certain that the total carbon emissions per area of cut grass is worse with a gas-powered mower versus electric? I suppose if you’re lucky enough to have “green” power available in your area, then the electric mower wins. But if you’re only option is coal-fired electricity, how efficient is it really to generate, convert to AC, transform to high voltage/low current for transmission, transform back to lower voltage/high current for household mains, then convert back to DC for battery charging? And to be completely comprehensive, what’s the carbon footprint for manufacturing the batteries and chargers versus a gas engine?

          I tried the Scotts 20″ reel mower for a year (bought on CL for $40, sold on CL for $50!), but ultimately bought a battery-powered mower. The reel mower just didn’t cut it (figuratively and literally). In my area, gas-powered mowers were way cheaper than battery-powered mowers. I went the electric route because I didn’t want to have to mess with small-engine maintenance and keep cans of gas in my garage.

          • WageSlave August 24, 2015, 4:14 pm

            I forgot, on the gas side, there is oil extraction, transportation, and refinement. Though coal must be mined and transported (not sure if it’s refined in any way or not).

          • fester October 18, 2015, 6:16 am

            Yes, 100% certain. Gas lawnmower engines (in the US) are not subject to any kind of emission standards at all. In many areas smog/air quality warnings are issued in the summer because of the increase in mowing. Even if your electricity comes from coal, it’s much easier to control the pollution from a single power plant than a million small polluting gas engines.

            It’s long past time gas mowers were kicked to the proverbial curb.

  • Dan August 19, 2015, 10:57 am

    I couldn’t agree more with this. We had it a few years ago when we lived in uptown New Orleans. The lots are about 30 feet wide and the houses are designed around the front porch… spontaneous gatherings were normal and it made life so much slower and higher quality. After we traveled the world for ten months, we moved to Dallas for jobs… and now we’ve built 8 ft fences (literally) to match all of the compounds around us. We don’t hang out with friends as much because it’s not easy to plan a 25 min drive vs a 25 ft walk and our quality of life is much lower. We will get back to what we had before… just a matter of time.

  • Insourcelife August 19, 2015, 11:14 am

    Wait, your house went from around a quarter million a couple of years ago (IIRC) to half a million after the remodel? Nice ROI there!

  • BenjaminButton August 19, 2015, 11:17 am

    I am hoping these same kind of trends exist in Boulder, CO. We are moving there from Iowa over Labor Day weekend. Going to be quite a culture shock…

  • Alexander August 19, 2015, 11:20 am

    That really sounds like a great “tribe” you have and you are living the good life! Congrats on that. I can’t believe you are only on your third tank of gas all year. That is amazing! I hope you put some fuel stabilizer in it to make it last and not ruin anything.

    Random question, are you going to FinCon this year?

  • brian August 19, 2015, 11:27 am

    An insightful and useful post, as usual.

    We live in a great house, but our cul-du-sac is populated with people that tend to keep to themselves. While we spend time outside daily, it hasn’t translated into daily fun get togethers as I hoped it would.

    I like your idea of making it a goal to get to know all the families around you, and I’ve done something similar, yet I haven’t focused my time on expanding my network. Our neighborhood is starting to turn over and my oldest is heading off to kindergarten soon, so hopefully that will be a turning point that will help us better connect with more local families.

    • Timmeh August 19, 2015, 1:15 pm

      I think the idea is to be around like minded people- you CANNOT just plop into a neighborhood and hope to convert everyone after years os conditioning that everyone is real life is evil and reality tv people are the best so watch them and buy their hype and products but avoid the guy 200 feet next door.

  • Jennifer B August 19, 2015, 11:29 am

    I have discovered a group with micro neighborhoods specifically designed to get people to meet their neighbors and build a community.

    It’s called “Buy Nothing Project”. http://buynothingproject.org/

    The idea is that you “give” and “receive” locally, without expectation of a return, and without money changing hands. The idea is to keep groups to a “population” of about 1,,000.

    From this group I have borrowed a pop up canopy, lent a table, received almost brand new shoes for my daughter, got a bagful of fresh cherries from a neighbor. I’ve given away items my family doesn’t need anymore but others could use. I’ve seen people helping to fix a car, get furniture donated for a single mom starting over, had people take care of pets when someone is out of town. Last night there was a class for people who wanted to learn to make cards, and there are plans in the works to start up a book club and teach those that want to learn to knit or crochet.

    They have a lending library of DVD’s and portable DVD player, board games and puzzles and party item like cake stands, party decorations etc.

    Though I’ve lived in my rather suburban community for 15 years I feel more connected because of this group in the few months I’ve been involved.

    It’s internet/facebook based, which I find a bit ironic, but at least in my area it’s working.

    • Stacy August 19, 2015, 12:42 pm

      I’m an admin/founder of my local Buy Nothing group. It is a great way to build community AND flex our mustachian muscles!

    • Jacob August 19, 2015, 3:18 pm

      Buy Nothing has been life changing for us. We were part of the original uprising (our group in Seattle area has an admin that was one of the Buy Nothing founders). We don’t buy anything these days without checking Buy Nothing first. Got a free fridge, and dishwasher (stainless) for our kitchen upgrade, have gotten almost ALL kids clothes and toys for over a year for free, and have given a ton of things we no longer need. it’s an amazing community, ours has split 3 ways because it got so big (3,000+ members).

      It’s also a place I’ve seen amazing generosity (helping single moms, giving to those who are less fortunate, even giving away A CAR one time). The community is all about building each other up and helping fill the need of others, whatever it may be (not just stuff). Plus, it gives our things second and third lives that they may not have had before.

      Incredible community, one of the best things our family has even been a part of.

      • Marisa November 7, 2015, 8:45 pm

        Buy Nothing is an elitist yet social unconscious organization. My experience has been the administrators are vapid and pretentious. The organization completly ignores the fact animals given away for free end up with as test subjects for medical testing. They have completely ignored many request from pet lovers in the area.

        Freecycle is much better!

  • Dan August 19, 2015, 11:30 am

    This was a nice uplifting article. I have been hauling my kids around on a trail-a-bike plus bike trailer to parks but not spending a lot of time with the neighbours near me.

  • Patrick Dixon August 19, 2015, 11:36 am

    The best thing about being close to your neighbors is that you can all band together in the event of zombie apocalypse quite easily.

    The disadvantage of being close to your neighbors is that when their damn car alarms go off, the zombies will know where to go.

  • postscript August 19, 2015, 11:38 am

    Since discovering this blog a few years ago, we’ve moved to a smaller house in a totally walkable neighborhood, I’ve been biking to work every day for a year, and we’re going down to one car when our youngest starts kindergarten next year and my husband can bike to work as well. The local public school has been a great source of diverse new friends and getting to know neighbors of all kinds. And all of this in the expensive, traditionally car-oriented city of Los Angeles! Even without early retirement as a near-term goal, Mustachianism as a way of life has been full of abundance. Keep preaching, brother!

    • Tumbleweed August 20, 2015, 10:23 pm

      Where are you located? My family is in LA too and always curious about fellow mustachians and here especially fellow parents.

      • postscript August 21, 2015, 2:26 pm

        Hail fellow Angelino! Los Feliz. Where are you?

        • Tumbleweed August 28, 2015, 10:45 pm

          Echo Park and have found it to be similarly walkable!

          • aznyellojersey March 27, 2016, 2:28 pm

            Would y’all be interested in forming an Eastside LA MMM group? I’m in Boyle Heights.

  • Evie August 19, 2015, 11:43 am

    I live in San Francisco and you’ve nailed it. Your advice is spot on, too. When we moved from one neighborhood to another a few years ago, we found our block (and surrounding ones) full of wonderful people. We all talk, share beers, have a block-level earthquake plan of who will do what and how we’ll share food. I also joined the board of the local neighborhood association, so I organize community meetings with various city departments, quarterly neighborhood meetings, and so on. I hardly need to leave my neighborhood at all and, when I do, everything else is within a few miles. Sometimes I worry I’m becoming provincial, but — in one of my gardening books — I read that one person can ever really only know, deeply, down to the water and the soil and the people and the bees and everything else, a span of about 20 miles, and I agree. I’d rather know this place and its people really deeply than lightly skirt others.

  • mikey g August 19, 2015, 11:45 am

    Nice to see the shout-out to San Francisco. I can vouch for having seen and participated in many of the gatherings, events, and festivals generally mentioned here. I will say that the major disadvantage is that the startling and increasing density makes it a challenge to spontaneously make friends with neighbors in my experience; it’s more necessary to find groups, activities, volunteering, etc, so it does require a bit more work than a smaller town, although that’s probably balanced out by the sheer massive diversity of things going on everywhere.

    That all said, I didn’t get in here early enough to make FIRE a realistic short-term possibility and so am looking to relocate to (literally) greener pastures up north in Sonoma County somewhere, or even further depending on my research and people I meet.

    For those still looking for cities and towns like Longmont, Victoria, etc., has anyone found certain strategies effective when visiting to determine how much “tribal” potential there is?

    • Christopher August 19, 2015, 4:29 pm

      Since you mentioned Sonoma County, we live in Windsor, between Santa Rosa and Healdsburg, and we love it here. It’s a bit warmer than Sebastopol and Rohnert Park/Cotati (and the city!) but not as expensive as Healdsburg. Very family friendly town, a great green in the center, I encourage you to check it out.

      • mikey g August 19, 2015, 6:54 pm

        Cool, thanks for the tip! Looks like a great town and very reasonable housing costs.

        For fun n’ games I compared Wikipedia demographics between Windsor and nearby Sebastopol. I realize Sebastopol is kind of a Berkeley-like anomaly, but wow, almost twice as many married people in Windsor — not a place for singles like myself!

  • Steve August 19, 2015, 11:46 am

    The more people that you know and regularly talk with, the happier that your life tends to be. We lived on a cul-de-sac when I was younger and the ability to make friends with your neighbors was practically built into home ownership on that street. Far different than where we currently live now, unfortunately.

  • HTC Car August 19, 2015, 11:47 am

    No TV! That is quite something, MMM. I’m a big fan, and I’ve been pondering cancelling Netflix purely to save more money, but… I just can’t seem to take the plunge.

    • Jay August 19, 2015, 2:40 pm

      MMM’s got a sweet home theater system with projector, running off a computer IIRC. And a Netflix subscription. So “No TV” doesn’t equal “no moving picture entertainment”.

      But a setup like that (I have one myself but with a large TV bought on craigslist, old laptop + HDMI, no cable) does reduce the urge to switch on the TV and mindlessly channel-surf. You have to plan out your entertainment.

  • B August 19, 2015, 11:48 am

    Someone in our neighborhood signed up for nextdoor.com a while back and now nearly every home in my neighborhood is active on the site. A great way for neighbors to get introduced to each other and keep in touch, but it’s still just virtual. We are now making the transition to using the site to coordinate in-person events and truly get to know our neighbors.

    However, it’s still not and will never be close to the town of 3,500 people that I grew up in.

    • Becky August 19, 2015, 1:12 pm

      I just checked nextdoor.com and there is a group for my neighborhood! Thanks for the tip – I’m signing up now :)

    • Julia August 19, 2015, 8:50 pm

      NextDoor is a great program. Our neighborhood uses it for borrowing items, for setting up get togethers, and for offering services and advice.

  • Free Money Minute August 19, 2015, 11:49 am

    I love your idea of meeting and getting to know the people in the homes directly around you and then continuing to branch out. Would love to settle down and know most everyone on my block.

  • Money Saving August 19, 2015, 11:50 am

    Very good advice! We live in a small neighborhood of maybe 50 homes. We recently through a back to school cookout and invited everyone in the neighborhood. We had ~50 people show up. Some neighbors had been literally living next door to each other for over a year and never even met! We had two guys that lived 3 houses down from each other that worked at the same small company!!!

    I really hope things for our neighborhood can get much closer to the way you described things are for your home town. It’s getting harder and harder for people to meet and talk to each other these days. It only takes a bit of effort to reverse the trend!

  • Rob August 19, 2015, 11:54 am

    What if you generally don’t like people? Can you still have early “retirement” bliss as a recluse?

    • businessgypsy August 19, 2015, 2:44 pm

      Brother curmudgeon! I nod slightly in your direction.

    • EcoCatLady August 19, 2015, 3:27 pm

      Ha! I was just about to say, this seems like the extroverts guide to neighborhood bliss. While I do know and love my neighbors, I’d sooner be tarred and feathered than forced to socialize on a regular basis!

      • HeadedWest August 19, 2015, 4:46 pm

        I don’t dislike people, but I’m not the biggest socializer in the world either. I have thought about the above question, and I believe it just makes it easier to FIRE in a smaller town with a lower cost of living. My wife and I are currently looking for a home in the greater Seattle metro area, and we are considering many of the smaller surrounding communities (Whidbey or Vashon Island, for example) to avoid the sky-high home prices close to the urban core.

        • EcoCatLady August 19, 2015, 8:52 pm

          I live in Denver – in a working class neighborhood that has a lot of immigrants. I “retired” about 10 years ago at the age of 39, and it was largely made possible by the low cost of living here – the mortgage was only about $450/month back when I had one, now it’s paid off completely. My neighbors are all wonderful down to earth people, though we do face the added challenge of the language barrier. I’d guess about 30% of the people in my area don’t speak any English… it’s sorta like little Mexico with mariachi bands regularly practicing and/or performing in various backyards, and the guys pushing little hand carts of ice cream and treats in the summer time. I suppose if your idea of a quality neighborhood experience involved frequent and regular socializing then the cultural divide might be seen as a huge barrier – but for me it’s perfect. I’m just the crazy white chick with all the cats! :-)

        • Dōitashimashite August 26, 2015, 5:19 am

          I know someone looking to sell in Gig Harbor, is that too far?

          • Kim August 26, 2015, 8:00 am

            We moved to Gig Harbor last summer from the I5 corridor north of Seattle. We LOVE it! So many free and fun family activities almost every weekend in the summer plus many throughout the rest of the year. Plus there is always the beautiful water front to walk (people are always out no matter the weather). And we are hoping once the kids are old enough we can stand up paddle board while they sit on the front of the board.

    • Stacy August 22, 2015, 11:52 am

      I agree. Although I do like people, I describe myself as an outgoing introvert. My husband and I are definitely not what you would call “joiners”. We like to socialize infrequently and prefer a smaller group. I love the ideas poor forth in the article, just not sure I would like the actual practice as much. That being said, I much prefer spontaneous gatherings to long-planned ones. And the only way to achieve this is through turning the neighbors into your friends.

    • Justin August 30, 2015, 4:14 pm


      I like people but my wife is extremely shy. She has to meet people by virtue of the fact that we are living in a small former fishing village of about 100 people but I’d be happy to have something similar to what MMM describes going on.

      Listing our vegetables on http://ripenear.me has helped us integrate into the community a bit.

  • Steve August 19, 2015, 11:55 am

    Hey MMM, can you watch our kids for us while we go to work :) This is the one problem we have had on our way to both going unemployed. My wife felt like she was taking on too many ‘volunteer’ positions. People just love to slough off the task to folks that ‘are doing just fine’ and maybe even calling themselves retired while they are still young and healthy, not that I view my 40 y.o. self as all that young anymore.

    • Anonymous August 20, 2015, 9:23 am

      To reach early retirement, you need to get comfortable saying “no”. The same applies after you retire.

    • CincyCat August 26, 2015, 11:23 am

      My standard response: “Wow, that sounds like a great cause/project. Unfortunately, I am booked solid with other things right now. May I suggest you contact __? If she can’t help you, she might know someone who can help.”

  • Ted August 19, 2015, 11:56 am

    There is a great podcast from the Strong Towns organization (mentioned in the article) about meeting neighbors: http://shoutengine.com/StrongTownsPodcast/dave-runyon-4691.

    I live in a cohousing community in Michigan, which has a nice tribal vibe. Like anything, it has its ups and downs but there is a lot of the spontaneous interaction and sharing of skills and resources like MMM describes. It’s not for everyone (my best friend could never deal with it, for example) but it can be great for some people.

  • Russell August 19, 2015, 11:59 am

    This post really resonates with me, MMM. I live in Longmont as well, work down at IBM currently. We are taking baby steps toward financial freedom, tribal lifestyle, and constantly readjust our balance of life. Having 3 young children makes such changes more difficult, yet we keep moving forward. Always appreciate your posts and inspiration, keep them coming! Hope to meet you one of these days!

  • Paul August 19, 2015, 12:05 pm

    Hey…wait a sec. There was a meetup in Victoria?! How did I miss it? How do I connect to other Mustachians?

    • Ryan August 19, 2015, 12:58 pm

      It was on August 5th. I found out about it too late as well, and only knew about it at all because of the Twitter feed on the MMM homepage. I was even in Cook St. Village at the time of the meetup, too. So disappointing! I hope everyone who did make it had a great time.

  • Marcia August 19, 2015, 12:09 pm

    I really enjoyed this article, and it brings back the conundrum from a recent blog post “If you wouldn’t buy it you should probably sell it”.

    For me, it refers to our house, which is 10 miles from work. (Which is bikeable, but not daily with the 2-jobs, 2-kids life). I had a lot of recommendations to sell the house and move closer to work.

    What we DON’T have is that easy walk or quick bike ride to work.

    What we DO have is friends – friends across the street with 3 girls who play with my boys, have sleepovers here, carpool and walk./scooter to school.
    Friends who swap dog-sitting, kid-sitting (including overnights during family hospital emergencies).
    Friends up the street with 2 girls.

    Friends in the hood who gather every Sunday for a potluck in the park at the end of the dead end street. “The best restaurant in town”, where we eat, drink wine, play with the kids (wiffle ball, playground, frisbee). This “tribe” watches kids during crazy times. Recently, one of the dogs inhaled a sharp item at the park. The Dad of that family was on a business trip, the mom doesn’t drive.

    Next door neighbors drove mom and the dog to the Vet. We took the two girls home with us for movie night until she came back.

    These are people I didn’t know at first, and I’ve gotten to know by living here. I love my tribe.

    • Wobblydeb August 21, 2015, 7:19 am

      This is my dilemma. We live in a city, within walking distance to work. But other than work and our local park, we don’t actually make much use of the city facilities. There aren’t a big number of families in our area – they are mostly students and 20-somethings with lots of bars and expensive socialising. A lot of the accommodation is rented and the people living around us changes at a high rate.

      We’ve now got a young son and having more families around the doors has become more important. So….. do I move closer to family and into a smaller more stable town? That would then mean 2 of us commuting 15-30 miles per day!

  • Bryan August 19, 2015, 12:11 pm

    I enjoyed the post, it certainly generated some ideas for me with making new friends. Hearing about Little MMM and his friends is one way that it has been easier for you meeting people in your city. Our kids are out of the house and we moved out of state.

    Complainypants excuses aside, I am going to make a list of my neighbors and branch out in my area meeting new people!

  • Seth August 19, 2015, 12:25 pm

    My partner and I have designed our lives to be somewhat similar to this. I walk to work and she bikes to work. Our grocery store is about a mile away. The exception is that we love to visit places we drive to on a regular basis. Surfing at the beach, windsurfing in the gorge and hiking in the Cascades. This adds up (gas and auto) but we find it to be worthwhile for us.

    • Renee Puvvada December 18, 2019, 9:41 am

      I think if MMM blogs about his awesome cheap vacations in nature with his family and his car, I think you get to be off the hook for this one ;)

  • Sophia August 19, 2015, 12:27 pm

    After reading MMM for the past year I knew that during our next big move for work which arrives at exactly 11 months that the best thing we could do is choose a community where we did everything…work, learn, play. now the issue is we have four kids going into middle school and high school and I believe that you become the friends that you Spend the most time with so I think the best schools well unfortunately by outside of the community where my husband will be working. the ones within the community are not terrible… they’re just not the best and I am really having a hard time making this decision. Any insight would greatly be appreciated. The Job is in lake Nona Orlando Florida.

    • EmEmEm August 19, 2015, 11:39 pm

      The quality of the schooling is more to do with parental involvement than the “quality” of the school, in my opinion. Unless the local school is physically unsafe (crime, drugs, gangs, etc), I would send them to the local school & encourage your friends & neighbors to do the same. The school is oftrn the heart of the community, and if your kid ago elsewhere then you’ll likely miss out on connections with local families. We do local school, local after school activities, etc & are constantly running into the same families time & again (many of whom I would now call friends).

      • Emmers August 30, 2015, 11:39 am

        Strong +1 to the importance of parental involvement – most people on this blog (i.e. the people MMM is talking to – he generally ignores the rest, which is one valid option) are educated enough to help their kids out in school. Unless the school is actively dangerous, your kid will be fine at the local public school.

    • Konjeet September 2, 2015, 9:50 am

      Hi Sophia,

      If I may, could I suggest you involve your kids in the decision? I say this not as a parent but as a child who grew up moving a lot. But my parents made a point of involving us in the vision and reasons for the moves (mostly voluntary). We didn’t really get much choice per se, but we knew what the vision was.

      I think it’s really admirable that you and your husband are working together towards a more localized and community oriented lifestyle. I think if your kids know that because you discuss it together, they will also be more conscious of making a go of it in a local school and also choose friends more wisely.. You are being deliberate and careful in your choices, it stands to reason they will follow their role models.

      Mr. MM’s community will eventually, if they havent already, face someone who is there and just receives rather than gives.. Its inevitable. There are unhealthy people everywhere in all walks of life. I love my small town lifestyle but I don’t love every single person in it…

      I’ve also learned that no matter where I’ve moved (and trust me, that’s a LOT of places) there are gems. There are people you can and should learn from and emulate and help and be community with no matter where you go.

      I think in a similar vein to what others have said about parental involvement – go for it! Make the move towards the local school, involve the whole family in the vision of financial independence, and if the older ones and you decide you want better/different schools, perhaps there are compromises that can be made such as them bussing it? Arranging a carpool at their new school? Or whatever practical resolutions work for your area..

      May you have wisdom to negotiate this life shift with joy and confidence..

  • JessDarb August 19, 2015, 12:37 pm

    I grew up on army bases around the United States, and what you’re describing here is exactly what I experienced as a child in military housing. When my parents got out of the army and we lived in a small civilian town I was really baffled about why our neighbors didn’t seem interested in building friendships. Now that I’m an adult living in a large city, I have a little more control over building relationships with my neighbors and choosing neighborhoods where my friends already live, but it’s still not quite the same. I think it helps to have a lot in common with your neighbors re: life experience when building these urban tribes, and being the only childfree couple in a neighborhood filled with families raising children has made us kind of the odd ducks. We’ll keep working on it though!

    • MEL810 August 19, 2015, 3:49 pm

      We have that same problem. Childless in an area where family (children, grandchildren,etc.) is everything and people tend not to branch out from the family for social relationships.

    • Chris August 24, 2015, 5:24 am

      Another childfree couple here. I have found that many (most) families with children only want to socialize with other families with children (to keep the children occupied). Any offers of hospitality on our part are met with suspicion. For retirement, we’ll need to find any area with a higher percentage of child frees folks, or ones with already grown children.

      • Marcia August 27, 2015, 1:22 pm

        Unless you want to offer to babysit! :)

        Really we have two children, and it is MUCH easier to hang out with people with kids, because then the kids play. We do often get together with a “group” of people, some with kids and some without.

        I think one of the hard parts about interacting with childfree couples is the difference in how you interact. Many of my friends want to have “adult conversation”, which is super hard with kids around, so you have to make an extra special effort to see them on the side (without kids). Or if you invite them to your home, then the childfree couples/ people have to have the patience to realize you almost never finish a conversation.

        It’s nice when childfree folks interact with my children – talking/ games, because it’s a different experience. And before we had kids, my husband was ALWAYS hanging out with the kids at other peoples’ homes.

        As far as going to other peoples’ homes, there is always the concern of whether or not it is childproofed (safety) or the worry that they will break something.

        Add to that sheer schedule exhaustion…it’s hard to schedule ANYTHING, which is why the combo potlucks seem to work best for us.

        Pre-kid, we did a lot of stuff like hikes on the weekends, and volleyball with friends, followed by dinner at one of our homes. We’d meet friends at the gym, or go for bike rides, or have people over for BBQs.

        Post-kid, we meet at the park for playdates or potlucks, or we meet at the beach, or we meet at the zoo, or we go to the free concerts in the park.

        I have to make an extra special effort to do anything else. I have a full time job, plus a bunch of meetings for the PTA.

        If I want to see my good friend (a SAHM with 3 kids), we meet at the gym 1x a week in the morning. I get together with my quilting friends about 8 Saturdays a year. If I want to have a glass of wine with my childfree friends, we text each other, but then I either have to have my husband pick up the kids (so he has to leave work early), or I have to leave work early and have a quick glass before getting them.

        If I want to have people over for dinner, then I have to do serious planning. Because most of my weekends are full of chores, including cooking chores, so I have to do those AND plan the meal for the group. And honestly, I’m pretty much too tired to do that. I love getting together with friends, and I enjoy hosting and doing it, but it’s pretty draining.

        I have friends who are childfree, and we’ve been trying to get together for dinner. They have a house with an awesome sunset-over-the-ocean view. I would like to take my family over there (we’ve been invited generally), but actually provide dinner because my friend has had multiple surgeries and is using a walker. So I want to treat her. But it’s hard to find a “day”. She is susceptible to getting sick because of the injuries/ etc., and I just got over a cold and now my kid has it.

        I guess this was long – don’t give up! If you want to hang out with neighbors with kids, you just have to figure out what they do. Understand that the ones with really small kids are too tired. The ones with teenagers might be a better shot, if they aren’t in a million activities.

  • ChrisHa August 19, 2015, 12:39 pm

    The piece that is missing in the attempt to create community is actual interdependence. The thing is we (speaking generally, not me personally) don’t need our neighbors. We don’t depend on them for food, help in our fields, to watch our kids, to learn from, succor us when we’re sick, entertainment, etc. We don’t need the shop owners in town, and the professionals like a butcher or backer anymore. We can travel miles to get what we want, or just let it travel miles to get to us. Sitting around with like-minded people sharing a homebrew is enjoyable, but it isn’t community.

    I’ve thought about this a lot lately. How do we increase our mutual dependence on those around us?

    • Vince August 19, 2015, 1:29 pm

      Maybe the first step in creating community is to volunteer to help someone who doesn’t ask for help but you see is struggling with a project. Next thing you know, they ask you if you would like a cold beer. The house to the north of me is up for sale, so when it does sell, I intend to introduce myself to the new neighbors.

    • Amber August 19, 2015, 1:54 pm

      Totally agree, ChrisHa. I have thought about this, too. Our society’s high value on independence is what also causes us to feel/be isolated from each other. We need more interdependence!

      As to the question you posed about how to increase it… I think just small steps! Spreading the word, being an example to others. Obviously that’s vague, but I think it’s largely how we make an impact – a little at a time.

    • Crazyworld August 25, 2015, 10:47 am

      This was my thought as well; we live in a very nice neighborhood. But honestly, everyone is so well off that no one needs help – no one is struggling with anything. Some folks here are old money (and I have no idea what they even look like – gorgeous old homes though – beautiful to walk around here). Others are well-off 2 income executive type couples, usually with kid(s). So they don’t quite have time to be sauntering around. We don’t either, to be honest.
      There are some committed exercisers here – I see platoons of lycra clad cyclists in the early am or late pm, or on weekends, especially around the time of year when we have a very famous local fundraiser for cancer. They look super-serious. I do know almost all my neighbors though and catch them with a hi/bye every so often.

  • Tonya August 19, 2015, 12:42 pm

    (oops missed the rule about not using your website) You can delete that one and use this one instead..
    I’m actually writing a post for Monday about my love/hate relationship with living in Los Angeles. While much of what your’e talking about can be accomplished within certain bubbles of LA (I live in the South Bay bubble), the city as a whole makes me feel very disconnected at times, and aside from the beach, beach volleyball (my passion) and the amazing weather, I don’t really like this city. I love my friends dearly, but I think they feel as disconnected and sometimes trying to get together with them is like pulling teeth, especially the ones who have little ones or just started having babies. So I really feel torn. I love the IDEA of what you are talking about, I just have to ask myself what it will take to get to that place…what might I have to sacrifice (like beach volleyball) to get something, perhaps better? I’m still way on the fence…but you paint an oh-so-lovely picture!

  • Josh August 19, 2015, 12:48 pm

    Those are awesome cargo bikes, does anyone know what brand/model they are? Is it a Surly Big Dummy?

    • Fuzz August 19, 2015, 8:08 pm

      I’d guess the orange one is a yuba mundo and the one in the center shot is an xtra cycle of some sort.

      Pretty sweet – and also extremely hard to find on craiglist. :)

  • kyle August 19, 2015, 12:49 pm

    Great article MMM. Interested to see if you put Sea Foam or any other fuel additive in your car’s gas tank since it isn’t being used very much through out the year.

  • Mara August 19, 2015, 1:03 pm

    To add to the further reading list: A Pattern Language. I’m sure you e read it, MMM! Half of it is about urban planning and hits all of the topics you described. The other half is about designing personal dwellings. All of the small- house books that have come out in the past 15 years reference it with reverence.

    • Paul August 19, 2015, 3:18 pm

      I second this. A Pattern Language was written with breathtaking insight into how people connect with each other and how to build health spaces, homes, neighborhoods and towns. Anyone ready to dig into the subject of healthy community living? Read this book.

    • chc4444 August 20, 2015, 12:22 am

      We have loved Pattern Language for years and several years ago my husband redesigned and rebuilt our deck keeping in mind the principles of that book. It is so interesting to watch people using the new deck and where they choose to sit and how they interact with others. Of course they don’t realize that the deck was designed to enhance interactions. People simply love our deck and it has so much to do with the way the space is laid out. If just two people are using the space it works and if 40 people are using the space it works. And all because of the ideas we learned in Pattern Language.

      • Mara August 20, 2015, 6:49 am

        Would love to see your deck, any way to post a pic?

    • Anemone August 22, 2015, 8:50 am

      Thanks for mentioning this. I went straight to the library, and am reading it now. It’s really got me thinking.

  • Chris August 19, 2015, 1:03 pm

    How is it that you seem to write posts at perfect times in my life?????

    The family and I recently moved to South Florida and used mustachian logic to purchase a home. It’s 3 miles from my work. There is a paved walkway to my daughter’s elementary school, and all the frequent destinations (Trader Joes/Whole Foods/Costco/Library/Recreation Center…) are only a mile or so away. The one problem is that the people in our neighborhood skew much older than what we are used to, and the people that are our age are pretty standoff-ish. I’m going to take your advice and befriend them anyway. Old people like beer just as much as I do, and I will annoy the hell out of the neighborhood assholes until they lighten the fuck up.

    Thanks MMM.

    • businessgypsy August 19, 2015, 2:50 pm

      Older people are awesome! If you want to know how to fix things, win fights, outlast hard times, etc., they are your source. Guessing you’re in Bonita/North Naples, great spot.

      • PawPrint August 19, 2015, 8:22 pm

        Yes, older people are awesome! I say that as an older person, of course. When I looked at the photos here, I thought, hmm, nobody has grey hair, which made me wonder if the tribes MMM is talking about include only people in their 30s.

        • RetiredAt63 August 21, 2015, 5:29 am

          I retired at 63, and I don’t have grey hair. Those in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s do exist over on the Forums.

      • Chris August 20, 2015, 6:38 am

        We’re in Palm Beach County, which is an odd place for a cheapster like me. People like to show off, especially with their cars. My Saturn is sandwiched by one driveway with a $50K sports sedan that I guarantee will never see 75 mph and a Range Rover, and another driveway with some luxury brand of WWII battle tank that makes the Range Rover look like a golf cart.

    • Amy May 1, 2016, 3:51 pm

      Have you had any luck? I’m considering a move to Florida & am fearful of the fancy lifestyles more than age gap.

  • B.C. Kowalski August 19, 2015, 1:06 pm

    I live in a similar situation – we’re the southeast side of our city and many of the neighbors know each other. I have plenty of friends there to borrow from, to hang out with. There’s a block party every year. I almost always wave to at least one person I know when I bike to and from work (or wherever else). The neighborhood has a Facebook page and monthly meetings, and many of the houses are affordable (in a city where houses are already on the low end). I think that even in bigger cities, there are small neighborhoods that one could focus on in order to get to know one’s neighbors and build these kind of relationships. It’s the place where I want to stick around for awhile.

  • Sean August 19, 2015, 1:09 pm

    These are some great insights and leads me to a semi-related follow-up question for MMM or Mrs. MMM. Are you all still home schooling your son and, if so, what impact has that had on your schedules and ability to do things as you please? As someone nearing FI and 2 kids approaching school age it has a lot of meaning for me, but I think it will also be an interesting lesson for your followers. Teaching school is certainly a job, but probably the most important one there is!

  • Jo August 19, 2015, 1:22 pm

    I’ve lived in Chicago since 1980 and in this neighborhood since ’98, when my kids were small. I’m now divorced, my kids are grown and I plan on moving to another city next year. My neighbors around here, incidentally, are not conducive to being friends with, though some are cordial. My next door neighbor to the south is downright hostile. Would love to find an area surrounded by people similar to my frugal lifestyle and lefty politics. I’m thinking of Pittsburgh, if anyone out there in MMM land lives there and wants to comment. Time is running short—I’m pushing 60!—and I want to make the right choice.

    • Vicki August 20, 2015, 10:48 am

      Hi Jo,

      I’m a lifelong Pittsburgher and I love it here. It’s an especially exciting place to be right now, too – we seem to be topping all sorts of lists about livable cities. It’s very affordable to buy a house here. The city has added a lot of bike lanes in the last couple years, with more on the way! Downtown has really revitalized for the better, too. It’s been really fun to watch all of the great changes being made around here. I highly encourage you to visit and check it out!

  • Meg August 19, 2015, 1:23 pm

    This community based living is something my husband and I really wanted – we wanted to know our neighbors, live in a walkable area, and share resources (I didn’t want to own a lawnmover for a 20 sqft lawn!). We found it through Cohousing – its a more structured format of an “old fashioned neighborhood” (just how someone described this lifestyle above!). There are established and forming cohousing groups all around the country (http://cohousing.org/directory). But how great when it can happen naturally!

    • mikey g August 19, 2015, 4:36 pm

      wow, great resource, thanks! so many options in the SF Bay!

  • Erin August 19, 2015, 1:28 pm

    I live in central Toronto in a neighbourhood with a VERY high social collision rate and I’ve never owned a car. During the week I bike or take transit to my job (about 6KM away) but evenings and weekends we hardly ever leave the ‘hood. I’d love to get out from under my large mortgage (see previous MM post) (and I’m working like crazy to pay it off fast) but I really like the feeling of living in a village and I especially love that my son is growing up in a place where we stop all the time on the street to talk to people.

    • Joan August 20, 2015, 3:13 pm

      Hi Erin! What area of TO have you found this oasis? I hear you on the crippling cost of real estate. Arg! Joan, from toronto

      • Erin August 27, 2015, 11:19 am

        Hi Joan! We’re in Roncesvalles/Parkdale/High Park…how about you??

  • Peter Jeong August 19, 2015, 1:29 pm

    I enjoy reading your blogs. You’re like an extreme version of me. LOL. I like what you said about taking notes on neighbors. I don’t even know my neighbor’s names. I would like to make 3 tanks of gas last a year. But, you’re making a good point. It’s about community. Relationships. and finding what makes you happy (not stuff, but relationships). Look forward to your next blog.

  • Steve Miller August 19, 2015, 1:36 pm

    I grew up on a farm with about 500 people living in our small community. Although we did not have bike paths to connect us, we certainly felt the tribe mentality. If someone was sick, you can bet that people will calling to check on them and bring them lunch and dinner. If someone got into financial trouble, others would pitch in. And everyone left their doors unlocked and the keys inside their car.

    I think its cool that many cities are bringing back that small town atmosphere by creating parks linked together by bike paths.

  • Justin August 19, 2015, 1:38 pm

    Sounds like an amazingly wonderful minimalist (in some ways) life. We found a sweet spot in Raleigh with rather low cost houses ($120-$150k) and some cool neighbors that have become friends. I’d much rather hang out with a few of these folks in my backyard around a campfire, maybe sharing a few beers than go to a fancy restaurant or loud bar.

    Guess I found my own urban tribe! :)

  • Amber August 19, 2015, 1:41 pm

    LOVE this post, Mr. MM. My husband and I recently moved to the suburbs (to be closer to our jobs) and have found it to be very isolating. People seem to keep to themselves much more than I thought would be the case. I am trying to take steps in this direction though – I put out flyers on my street to start a neighborhood book club, and 7 people responded! Thanks as always for your inspiration toward a smarter, more intentional life! :)

  • Edward August 19, 2015, 1:44 pm

    After a few days of staying on the small island of Murano in Venice, I began wondering why I suddenly began to feel so peaceful. It struck me as soon as I went to the train station after the stay was over. There’d been no cars in Venice! No cars for a glorious 4 days! No exhaust stink, no waiting at intersections, no dodging aggressive drivers. It really was heaven. If Longmont ever went car free, I’d move there in a flat second.

  • Bethany August 19, 2015, 1:44 pm

    I think there is something to be said about the simple life. So much more fulfilling. From the outside it may look dull and boring, but those who live it understand it for what it really is – freedom of unscheduled time. You said it perfectly! The freedom to let life happen.

    • Kathy Abell August 21, 2015, 12:20 am

      re: Freedom of unscheduled time

      One of the best things about being retired.


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