Exposed! Mr. Money Mustache’s 2019 Bachelor Spending!

Purchases like this really blow my budget.

These days, I do a fair amount of informal financial coaching for both old friends and newer acquaintances. 

It’s a pretty amazing experience, almost as if I were a real doctor – people let down their guard and talk about the details of their financial lives, without the usual hangups and secrecy that tend to plague our society when it comes to the subject of money.  

Often, even taking this first step is a huge leap towards creating a more wealthy and prosperous life. Money conversations are not something we should reserve only for our paid professional advisers. We should speak about it openly with our friends and family, and support each other in a lifelong quest to make the most of our lives.

Through these hundreds of little sessions, I have started seeing a pretty consistent pattern:

  1. People who struggle with money see the whole subject as a swirling, confusing mess. Income and spending, debt and retirement accounts are everywhere. They describe the situation in a long, meandering paragraph. 
  2. People who are good with money have this stuff more mentally sorted. They can quickly list their income, their assets and debts, and most importantly they know how much money they spend each year.
  3. People who have been good with money for a long time have moved even further. They might not track it very closely, but they still maintain a growing surplus – because living well within their means is just a natural habit, which means there is no conceivable way they can run out of money in their lifetimes. People in this category sometimes need to be coached away from the habit of being too “cheap”, and towards making the most of the opportunity of a lifetime.

As an MMM reader, you are headed straight for Option #3 above.

But you may have to move through #1 and #2 to get there, which means sorting things out and tracking your spending. 

Tracking Your Spending is Fun, Useful, and Easy (Yes, really!)

I can already hear your collective groan as I give you this prescription, but adding up your past year’s spending is one of the most useful things you can do with a Saturday morning, and here’s why:

  • You can see where your money is going to waste and where you can make really easy improvements that completely change the course of your life
  • You will get the courage to switch jobs, houses, cars, and other life decisions as your fuzzy swirling financial paralysis transforms to a crystal clear understanding of money – one of life’s most useful and fun tools.
  • You can immediately see how much money you will need to retire. (just take your annual spending and multiply it by 25 as recommended by the 4% rule)

I’ll show you my spending if you show me yours.

Road Trippin’ in a Tesla. I keep this cost low by bartering carpentry or business help with Tesla-owning friends, or renting them on Turo.

Now for the fun part. I like to think that I live in “Category 3” of that list above – most of my major life expenses (housing, cars, health, food, clothing) are lower than average, because I have simple tastes and I love optimizing things.

Meanwhile, I have several sources of income which add up to many times more than my living expenses (stock index funds, real estate investments, this website, and side hustles like carpentry and operating the MMM HQ coworking space.) 

So I haven’t been tracking my spending for a while. But a couple of years ago I went through a major life change – the former Mrs. MM and I split up and moved to separate households in the same neighborhood.

With the old routines shaken up, and new things like hosting more parties, outfitting a new home and increased friend/family/long-distance-relationship travel, how has my bachelor spending been transformed?

It’s time to find out.

How Do You Track Your Spending?

My expenses are really easy to track: I funnel all my spending through a rewards credit card, which saves me about $2000 each year. (in 2019 I used the two highest-paying cards from Capital One which you can find here.)

Meanwhile, I hook up a third party financial app to automatically monitor these transactions, alert me to any unusual activity, and – the best part – automatically categorize and add everything up for me. I’ve been using one called Truebill for a couple of years*, and it has the simplest interface of anything I’ve tried – you get results like this:

Recent screenshots from my own Truebill account. (Sorry about all that cash sitting around earning nothing, I will put those little green employees to work ASAP!)

Truebill is great for tracking and improving spending, and you can also track with Personal Capital, which I have used for the last five years or so mostly for keeping tabs on all my net worth (see my 2013 article on that).

BUT you can also all this quite easily with no apps at all, just by downloading the full list of your 2019 transactions from your bank and opening it up as a spreadsheet. In Capital One (which I also use for my checking account), I just clicked on each account and there is a link for “Download Transactions” right at the top of my transactions list.

For me, it was extra easy because I used the same bank for both checking and credit cards, so everything shows up on a single login screen like this – kudos for Capital One for doing this so well since most banks have pretty bad websites:

Lots of useful stuff on my capital one home screen (don’t worry, balances and account numbers, etc. have been modified for public sharing)

So whether you use an app or a conventional spreadsheet, tracking your spending is quite useful, to know where you are now.

But the biggest message to take home from the results is this:

These are not your “living expenses.” This is your current level of spending, something that is entirely under your control.

There is always a trick for everything, and you get to decide how many of these tricks to apply.

For my part, I try to use only the tricks that save me money and make my life better in some way. For example, I do my own carpentry and I use my own legs for transportation, because these are a win/win for me. But I do pay an accountant to do my taxes for me. Your own choices may be completely different, but it’s important and empowering to use that word – choices.

Special Notes Before I Share This

Many fun and even “fancy” things in life don’t have to show up as expenses – like parties at the MMM HQ, which is actually a business rather than an expense.

The table below will shock some, offend others, and hopefully inspire you to at least consider a few new things. But because of my unique life situation, I have made a few unusual choices. I’ll explain them in advance so the table will make more sense.

Do I really have zero medical expenses?

Yes, and I have for my whole life – this is a probably combination of dumb luck (genetics) and hopefully-smart luck (I made a guess that 1-8 hours of outdoor physical work, bikes, barbells and salads every day would be good for my health and so far it seems to be working.) But I know this is not a lifelong guarantee, because there are no guarantees.

What about kid related expenses?

My little 13-year-old is pretty low-maintenance these days: he develops stuff on the computer, plays the bass and rides scooters with friends. When we are together, we do these same things along with hikes and bike rides and the odd road trip. Other kids are into more expensive activities and that is wonderful if they enjoy it and you can afford it. This table includes the half of his food and necessities that I pay for, but does not include any money that changes hands between Former Mrs. MM and myself over these final four years of our co-parenting project. However, I am infinitely grateful for how happy and cooperative our arrangement has become, and suffice it to say that nobody needs to feel sorry for either of us in the financial sense either.

How can you even sleep, with no house insurance and no health insurance?

This really depends on your personality type – and mine may be unusual in this regard. I simply don’t worry much about things like theft, accidents, fires, disasters or anything else. I certainly know they are possible, but my mind thinks in statistics and probabilities rather than emotions or fears. In other words, I’m a bit of a robot. And the robot in me says, “On average you will make a profit and you can afford any worst-case consequences, so why buy insurance?”

For people in situations where losing a material possession would be a big deal, insurance may be appropriate. But I also still like the old-school advice of “don’t buy stuff that you can’t afford to lose, and take really good care of the stuff that you do have.”

But this will all be covered in more detail in an upcoming article about health insurance, including an interesting new option I am just about to try this year.

What Else Are You Hiding From Us?

My businesses pay for some stuff (blog-related trips, this computer, tools, etc.) that happens to be fun for me too – this may prevent me from spending personal money on other fun stuff.

Charitable donations, which now total over $300,000 (see previous article), are also not part of what I consider spending. To me, these are a reallocation of a good part of this website’s income to causes that need it more than me. But I probably wouldn’t be brave or badass enough to give away much money, if I were only earning the bare minimum needed to cover my lifestyle spending in the chart below.

And I don’t include income taxes in my spending, because if someone really lived on a level of retirement income to cover even twice this level of spending they would pay no tax. In my situation, I do earn more than I spend, and pay plenty of tax on it. But much like the charitable donations described in the last article, I think of income tax as just another way of contributing a small portion of this super-lucky surplus back to society.

It’s really not a big deal – and I find that statement to be true in all areas of life: as you get older and your material desires drop away, fewer and fewer things seem like a big deal.

Okay, let’s get into it!

MMM’s 2019 Bachelor Life Spending
(all figures are for the full year)

Mortgage + Insurance0Bought the current house ($315k) with cash, and I have been self-insured on houses for the last 5 years or so. Not for everyone but it feels right for me.
Property Taxes$1735My current place is a 3Br/2Ba home in an “up and coming” (i.e. working class) central area. Downside: pickup trucks everywhere. Upside: cheap to buy, and located on creek and bike path. Walk/ride everywhere!
Maintenance and Renovation$4699Renovated my kitchen (IKEA), plus assorted painting + lights
Utilities – City$1227Electric + Water + Trash service. Average electric = $24/month including electric car charging.
Utilities – Heat$353Natural Gas service (incl. hot water)
Household Items $294Things like lamps, picture frames, vegetable peelers, wine glasses at places like Target.
Total Housing$8308
Groceries$4615Mostly fresh, organic higher-end stuff. For one active man and 1/2 time of a growing teen boy. Costco/Sam’s whenever possible, plus Whole Foods for more specialized items, and because it’s within walking distance.
Restaurants$910Many more nights out in this new life – expensive but fun.
Total “Food$5728
Medical Care
Health Insurance$0I decided to self-insure for 2019 as an experiment (because the US coverage mandate was removed), to see if I found it stressful/scary. Article on this to come!
Medical Bills$0Had a truly fortunate year again – capping 45 years with just about zero medical costs so far. Will not take this for granted!
Dentist$0Confession: I have only been ONCE in the last 25 years. Complacent because I’ve never had a cavity. Teeth are fine and clean. Am I pushing my luck?
Gasoline$22.621999 Honda Odyssey – used mainly for construction hauling. I do lend it frequently to friends, but they return it full of gas. But I walk and bike for all of my in-town transportation.
Maintenance$0She had a perfect year (although with low mileage, car breakages are rare)
Car Registration$545For van, cargo trailer, and Nissan Leaf shared with former Mrs. MM
Insurance$397Mainly for the Leaf because it includes comprehensive (long story) – this is my half of the shared policy cost. Still using Geico and it’s great.
Automotive Total$965
Travel Total$3702Plane tickets, car rentals, airport transport. Interestingly, most accommodation was “free” due to staying with friends, credit card points and AirBnb Referrals.
Entertainment$400Plays, Books, Netflix, Google Play movie rentals, even a couple Oculus VR video games.
Mobile Phone$300I’m still on Google Fi. It’s $20 per month+data, a solid value for lower data users – I like the free international coverage.
Internet$600This is expensive because we buy Longmont’s gigabit fiber internet, but well worth it for a household of blogger/video gamer/youtubers.
Total$21,470Hey, not bad!
Total “Barebones” $13,068My real (still luxurious) living expenses without the travel and $5000 kitchen renovation. Still includes restaurants, booze, cars, gadgets from Amazon, and living in a 3 bedroom detached house!

So, What Now?

Well, this was a pleasant surprise. I had felt like I was living a total billionaire’s life in 2019, because it has been so packed with interesting people and places and experiences. I always buy whatever I want – after considering whether it will really make me happier – and this leads to a feeling of almost dizzy abundance. But I guess abundance just isn’t that expensive.

2020 is shaping up to be an even bigger year of personal growth and better friendships and hard work. I’m drawing up the plans for an exorbitant second-story deck off of my bedroom. The Tesla Model Y comes out in just a few months, and I am in love with it.

It could get expensive.

Stay tuned and I will let you know how it goes!

In the Comments: do you track your own annual spending? If so, how did you do last year? If not, what is your reason?

*About Truebill: I heard from Haroon Mokharzada as he was just founding the company, and was impressed with his background of seeming to be on the “good guys” team. So I have been a casual user ever since, just to follow their progress. The Truebill service/app is now good enough that I can see it being useful for many people – not just for tracking spending. And they have a sizable development team and a large and growing base of happy users. Nice job y’all!

Affiliate notice: While I have no financial relationship with Truebill, this blog may get a commission for other recommendations within this page, including Personal Capital, Airbnb and the credit card recommendations. And many thanks if you do use them!

  • Profit Greenly January 27, 2020, 12:13 pm

    Nice stats as usual. But $1200 on utilities and $0 spent on solar panels? MMM, you gotta get this fixed in 2020! Your electric bill should be basically $0. The panels will have a higher ROI than bonds, so you’re losing money every day you don’t have them installed. Throw in a heat pump, induction range, and electric hot water heater and you can also stop paying a ridiculous monthly fee for gas service too.


    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 12:57 pm

      I agree with your message, Profit!

      The financial situation is different here in Longmont (the electric company charges a monthly fee for being a solar generator that is higher than my entire electricity bill – remember my electric use is more like $300 per year – that $1200 figure includes trash, recycling, water, parks and recreation, and all sorts of other city services).

      So instead I just pay them a few extra cents per kWh to use 100% wind+solar power from their own farms. I may however replace the gas furnace and water heater with heat pump units eventually, just to cut down on the ol’ fossil fuels.

      At the coworking space, I built a solar array just to be able to get the experience, and it generates more than enough power for the whole facility: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2018/02/07/diy-solar-power/

      Since we’re already paying THAT monthly fee, any additional solar panels I buy will just plug into that system, to concentrate the income.

      But thanks again for the suggestion – for many people reading this (especially in places like California and Hawaii with very high electricity rates) getting solar panels on the roof will indeed be a great investment.

      • Chris B January 28, 2020, 8:35 am

        I’m looking at off-grid supplemental systems. E.g. enough panels to run an electric baseboard heater and a 5k BTU window AC. Huge savings because you avoid the expensive hardware required to tie into the grid or expensive lead acid batteries that will be trash in 5 years. And because they are supplemental, it’s OK for them to only run during daylight. Where I live, AC is the big expense, and fortunately it is mostly (only?) needed when the sun is shining.

        You’d only need panels, a controller, an inverted, a thermostat, and a switch between the 2 appliances. $5-10k to kill half your utility bills for the next 25 years.

        • Mike P January 28, 2020, 9:39 pm

          I have been thinking of doing something similar as well. An off grid system designed to supplement my grid electric, to avoid the extra fees and costs. This would make it much easier to experiment with solar at a lower cost. I want to switch my electric bill to be based off of peak hour use, and use almost all off grid solar at these times.

        • Profit Greenly January 29, 2020, 5:04 am

          That sounds pretty cool. You might be better off installing a single small heat pump rather than baseboard heaters and an AC. That should let you have a lower Amp draw and lower kWh usage over time, so smaller batteries and smaller solar panels. That being said the smallest heat pumps I can find are 9k BTU so maybe they’re overkill for your application? Here’s a MrCool 12k BTU unit for just $767 at Home depot. With an HSPF of 9 it’ll use less than 2.5x times as much energy to make the same heat as baseboard heaters (9/3.412 = 2.638 rough COP) though it’s SEER of 17.5 isn’t great.


          If someone is thinking about off grid and does want heating/cooling over night I’d recommend they look into phase change materials. This is stuff like waxes or salt solutions that melt at a comfortable home temperature (say 70 F). The act of melting/freezing can take as much energy as heating up a solid rock 100 F, so they basically act like thermal mass, but taking up 100x less space. I’m planning an experiment where I leave some buckets of Carbowax PEG 600 from Dow near my heat registers. Then I can turn off the heat and just run the fan to pour heating or cooling from the buckets of PCM. If this works it’ll allow off grid setups to use a lot fewer batteries, which is good because batteries are probably the most expensive part of these setups right now.

          • Chris March 4, 2020, 1:54 pm

            Sorry to hear that Longmont charges a monthly fee for “generators”. That’s complete BS! I ran into a similar situation between Maryland and Virginia solar laws. Suffice to say I chose to buy in Maryland specifically due to the pro-solar laws. I think you should run for city council and get that law fixed! That would be true badassery!

      • Nico January 29, 2020, 3:44 am

        Holy craaaaap, I spend 130 eur/month on electricity, live in a Sunny Place, and have a very large and empty rooftop.

        Yet every-single time I plug numbers into a Solar planel calculator, the investment is gonna take decades to be paid off… what do you suggest??

        I could also get into DYI, work in a makerspace

      • Profit Greenly January 29, 2020, 4:45 am

        Wait, your utility CHARGES you when you start feeding sweet solar electricity back into their grid? That is borderline insane. Do they charge a fee to the natural gas and/or coal plants that generate energy for them? What if you install a small system with a battery that is totally “behind the meter” and never sends any power back into the grid? Would they still charge you a fee for lowering your own usage and not affecting their precious grid in any way other than reduced demand? If so do they also charge people who insulate their homes, upgrade their fridges, etc.? If I lived there I’d be making a huge stink about this. Let me know if you plant to do this and need some grid based talking points.

        Upgrading your furnace/water heater to heat pump is still a great choice. If you are still running hydronic heat in your new place you might consider a Sanden or Nordic heat pump. The Sanden is cool because it uses CO2 as a refrigerant. Most heat pumps use something like Puron which has a global warming potential over 2,000 times that of CO2. Not a problem if you ensure that none of it leaks, but you might not want to work with it as a DIYer. If you haven’t already installed hydronic heat in the new house you may be better off not doing so. https://renew.org.au/renew-magazine/efficient-homes/air-conditioner-vs-hydronic-heating/

        • Connor Matza January 29, 2020, 9:41 pm

          They may be charging the fee to be a “solar generator” to prevent too many solar generators from signing up and overloading the grid during sunshine hours. This is one of the fundamental problems with solar power – trying to scale out generation like that creates an immense amount of complications at grid scale so without some incredible advances in grid balancing technology there can only be so many solar generators on a given grid.

          Most solar generators also benefit from a mandated “net metering” power subsidy that exists in the legal system but not in the reality of how power is priced. A kilowatt during peak hours is worth a lot more than a kilowatt at non-peak hours. Sometimes your solar panels are going to be generating peak sunshine-powered green power when the grid needs it most, but other times your solar generation is a tax on the grid that the utility company must pay.

        • Andrea January 30, 2020, 5:18 pm

          Mr Profit Greenly, you sound like you know your stuff!
          We have an old heat pump that we no longer use (we just open windows in summer and light the wood burner in winter), and the foam around the outside pipes is deteriorating in our harsh New Zealand sun (hole in the ozone layer and all that, ironically). Could the thing be leaking refrigerant gases?! If so, that is an emergency!
          Here in NZ there was a talk a few years ago of charging those of us who are home electricity generators for exporting to the grid – in fact some electricity providers did start to charge a little bit. We were scared it would become more and that they’d all start. The national grid operator reasoned that they were losing money on us because we weren’t paying our share of the costs to maintain the grid. Thankfully our country now has commitments to the Paris agreement to meet (and we’re nowhere near getting there), so the latest talk is of home solar generators being part of the solution to cutting our carbon emissions sufficiently. I am hopeful that this will lead to greater financial rewards, not charges for the electricity we export to the grid. It is amazing how the zeitgeist can change in a few years, especially with a supportive government.

        • Miles February 23, 2020, 4:45 pm

          Profit, of course they do. It’s only basic sense. Making more power is cheap but the delivery and transmission equipment needs to be paid for. If you want to suddenly send electricity in the wrong direction that means it also needs to be upgraded because what’s there is about to wear out in 1 year instead of the expected 10.

          Coal and sunlight are cheap afteracheiving ROI on the equipment, but transformers, 100000V TVSes and the sheer amount of wire needed to get the power across town are ongoing expenses

      • luytterlinde March 4, 2020, 8:09 pm

        We are considering a cold climate heat pump for the next time around too, esp. as Ontario’s electric grid is fairly low on carbon emissions. Still will likely cost a bit more to go all electric until the carbon tax ramp up starts to bite, but longer term should be neutral to positive cost wise compared to gas. Sadly, even more positive as we lose more winter.

        But one thing that we have now that totally rocks is a tankless hot water heater. Good for the planet, fabulous for your wallet- well worth considering if you haven’t already got one.

    • Anonymous February 12, 2020, 4:30 am

      You prefer truebill to Mint? I’ve been using mint for years, but unfortunately, mint doesn’t recognize online transfer payments, so all those bill payments show up as “online payment” which now makes mint pretty useless, since I have to manually go search each transaction and change it 🤪

  • Kyle January 27, 2020, 12:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing MMM. It was a rough year for us. Our teenage son ended up in the hospital (behavioral problems at school) which fortunately resulted in a correct diagnosis of his condition. A couple months later our dog ended up in the ICU. About a month after that my spouse and 2 kids were in a car accident that totaled her car. Everyone is ok, but needless to say we had to replace the car. Overall our spending increased by about 10K over average. It’s not all doom and gloom though as my little side hustle, small home renovations, has seemingly turned into a near full time job. Our net worth increased significantly and we still managed to save a bit more money (despite not needing too).

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 12:29 pm

      Wow, thanks for sharing that too Kyle – I hope you are all coming out of it okay. And your story is a nice reassurance of the ability of the Financial Independence lifestyle to avoid unexpected shocks.

      Also, congrats on the side gig – obviously I am biased but that is a joyful way to spend some of your free time!

    • davin February 25, 2020, 3:38 pm

      I’m curious to learn more about your side hustle doing small home renovations. Are you buying properties… or doing contracted work?

  • Alex January 27, 2020, 12:22 pm

    Must. Have. Model. Y.

    7 seats, autopilot… that’s gonna be like $70k after taxes and send my insurance skyrocketing from the $3k car I currently drive. At least driving my old car to the ground made that $70k possible.

    • Profit Greenly January 27, 2020, 12:50 pm

      But have you seen how tiny the 3rd row seating is? Just get the 5 seat model. Orrrr, check out prices for Bolts in your area right now. GM is doing an $8500 discount the next few weeks and I’ve seen them advertised as low as $23k, plus you get an extra $1875 federal tax credit on them and maybe a State one too. They’re still expensive up front compared to a used gas car, but super low fuel and maintenance costs over time make their total cost closer than you might think. I have been pining for a Tesla for years now, but I pulled the trigger on the Bolt because it can handle the longer trips I need to make, powered by the sun on my roof, for less than 1/2 of the price of a new Tesla. Tesla’s are definitely better cars, but unless you’re frequently traveling over 500 miles per day they’re really overkill.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 1:05 pm

      Yep – Teslas are beautifully designed and after several looong road trips in them, I can say they just plain work well for that type of travel. And I am actually happy to see people buying them when they can afford it, because I truly support the mission of the company.

      It is shocking how many of my frugal (but wealthy) friends now have the Tesla Model 3, even though they would never even THINK of buying anything fancier than a used Honda Fit back in the gasoline car era. And it’s because electric cars are both fundamentally much better, and they are the *right* way for cars to go. So people don’t mind spending a bit extra on them.

      However, non-millionaires can benefit from this too: The Bolt is a great car as PG says, for anything other than cross-country travel. And even a used Nissan Leaf at $10k or less will replace 95% of commuting and errand trips. Get one of these and keep a gas car if you do road trips, and you have both cheaper AND better transportation.

      • Jeff P January 27, 2020, 1:28 pm

        I’ve been absolutely infatuated with the new Hyundai Kona Electric Long range, but can’t justify it yet, even though my daily driving is 150-200km (I door dash/skip the dishes for a hobby business), my 19 year old Hyundai accent is at 321,000km (I put on 160,000 of it) and has cost me a total of $3387 (excluding gas and oil changes) over 8 years. Maybe when it gets to 400,000km or $5000 spent I’ll finance that $50,000(CDN) electric … or buy another older accent haha.
        Cheers from Alberta.

        • Chuck Albacore January 27, 2020, 7:25 pm

          I think I just came up with the next $million idea: SKIP THE DISHES FOR REAL.
          I read Jeff’s post and thought “HOLD UP! You can PAY someone to come and do the dishes after you’re done cooking??” Turns out (for you Americans), skip the dishes is a Canadian food-delivery service like doordash.
          But what do you think about having me come over after dinner and clean up your kitchen? YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!!

          • EmEmEm January 28, 2020, 4:05 pm

            LOL!! You might be onto something…. you can already get that for laundry – dishes is the next logical step!

      • Cory January 28, 2020, 12:39 pm

        No love for the chevy volt?!?! Best of both worlds, 90% all electric use in town, plus no range anxiety and the ability to drive wherever, whenever without worrying about long waits charging.

        Gen 1’s can be bought easily in the 6-8k range, and gen 2’s prices are dropping quick.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 8:20 pm

          Good point Cory – the Chevrolet Volt is a great car and its batteries have proven to be MUCH better engineered than those in the Nissan Leaf (so the car remains just as useful after many years of use). Both the used and new pricing is really reasonable, and it is also a fast, roomy, stylish car.

          • Effsysbreak February 12, 2020, 8:59 pm

            Hell yeah! It brings a smile to my face when the forgotten bridge to EV’s for people who don’t live in an area with lots of charging options is remembered, particularly by people here. Mine has given me 81 MPG (equating the local cost of electricity to it’s fuel equivalent — if I lived in a different state instead of Texas where fuel is obscenely cheap it would get me over 100 MPG, and if I count gasoline only, I’d be well above 200 MPG) and I can go wherever I want without worrying about charge anxiety!

            Want a backroads trip into the sticks in Arkansas? No problem!
            Trip to Big Bend where there’s next to no electric infrastructure to be found just about anywhere? Can do!
            Need to power your house in an emergency like a tornado wildfire or a hurricane? As my fellow Volt-owners in California have learned, it’s a breeze!

            GM drives me insane sometimes — they put together a brilliant, efficient automobile in the Volt and fail to market it or put the power train into other vehicles. And then they wonder why Tesla eats them alive…. they are making the same mistakes with the Bolt as they are with the Volt.

            GM is a top-notch engineering company with brain-dead marketers and executives.

            • Nick February 22, 2020, 7:50 pm

              You forgot to mention the GM dealers that go out of their way to NOT sell EVs.

          • david wendelken April 13, 2020, 10:43 am

            I waited months for a Chevy Volt to show up within the free Carmax delivery radius. (I wasn’t in a hurry, my 19 year old car was still running, though it was starting to show its age.)

            Sat down in it and immediately got back out. Didn’t even bother to turn it on.

            I’m 5’11” and it was too short for me to drive comfortably. Every time I would be first in line at a stop light I would have had to scrunch down to see what color the light was. My wife’s car, which I drive occasionally, is like that and I had zero interest in subjecting myself to that on a more frequent basis.

            I was disappointed!

            • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2020, 2:19 pm

              Oh, how strange! I’m 6’0 and not overly narrow and found I was easily able to fit 4 of me in the cabin – in fact I had room to crank the driver’s seat UP in order to get a better view of the road.

              However I do agree there is less passenger and cargo space than either the Nissan Leaf or any Tesla model.

        • Miles February 23, 2020, 4:53 pm

          Chevys also have a well deserved reputation for falling apart. NTM the fact that their programmers seem to skip some testing steps. Of all the vehicles that come through our shop Chevys are the only ones where our music can make them beep like there’s suddenly an obstacle behind you when backing up.

    • John January 27, 2020, 1:43 pm

      send my insurance skyrocketing from the $3k car I currently drive.

      Did you ask for a quote for a Model 3 for comparison? I was expecting the price jump to be huge vs. my 12 year old car. I was shocked that it was something like $35 more a year. From what I understand it has to do with being middle aged.

    • rob January 27, 2020, 5:25 pm

      I am much more excited about the cyber-truck!
      (I literally own a (very) small farm, not a city guy and it costs ~ the same as a Y, anti truck people please don’t @ me)

      • Andrew January 28, 2020, 7:25 am

        The single engine model is my dream car. It’s completely without compromise. If you aren’t getting a cyber-truck you should just get a bolt/leaf.

  • Grg January 27, 2020, 12:30 pm

    $203 on Beer and Wine for the ENTIRE year?

    I dunno, man.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 12:32 pm

      That’s about right according to MMM rules – I think you should stick to about five drinks a week or less, at a buck each.

      But I also have a confession: my HQ coworking space has four kegs of (free) beer and cider on tap at all times. So I’ve had a few of those during happy hours as well.

      • Grg January 27, 2020, 12:42 pm

        OK, whew, that makes sense. I’m all for frugality, but there has to be a line somewhere!

      • Caryatis January 27, 2020, 1:12 pm

        How are you finding decent beer and wine at a dollar per drink?

        • Mr. Frugal Toque January 27, 2020, 1:49 pm

          Look around where you live for “Brew your own” and “Make your own Wine” type establishments.
          These often require very little work on your part and make some fine beverages.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 2:42 pm

          Wyatt’s Wet Goods, right next to whole foods here in Longmont. And remember that’s an average – a Bota Box of wine is less than a buck per glass, as is a 16 pack of local Oskar Blues craft beer. Fancy scotch and refreshing Proseco are higher. But as long as you don’t drink too much, too often, it doesn’t really add up.

          • Ben D. January 29, 2020, 11:17 am

            With a little attention and patience, it’s fairly easy to drink *very* good wine for around $2 a glass, made by small family-owned wineries who farm their own grapes organically or biodynamically. You mainly just have to avoid the trendy wine regions and learn your local retailers’ discount rhythms.

            I know $2 a glass is twice as much as $1, but the wine tastes way more than twice as good. And for me the social impact of buying artisan wine, rather than mass-produced stuff that’s available at every Costco in the world, is well worth it.

        • Andrew January 28, 2020, 7:27 am

          My local Costco occasionally has Stone IPA at under a buck a can (including taxes and deposits). The cans last for at least a year, and at 8% ABV + gobs of hops it’s a very ‘big’ beer for a buck.

    • Marcia January 28, 2020, 12:56 pm

      Yeah, I live in wine country, and my wine bill is closer to $700-750 for the year. I could claim that it’s for the household, but husband doesn’t really drink. I don’t drink all that much either. TBH, most of that is shared with the neighborhood at our neighborhood potlucks. So yes, it’s far more expensive than $1 per drink. ($7.25 per drink, approx.) I do like supporting the local economy. And it’s very good wine. Much like I buy local produce I guess.

    • No Soma January 30, 2020, 6:08 pm

      I think being sober can make people’s lives better. Ignore the significant health benefits. Socializing can have so much more substance when there’s no alcohol. I think Brave New World really expresses how I feel about alcohol the best with the book’s drug called soma. I think facing the miseries of life without any reprieve helps you to do something about your problems and achieve a psychological clarity and perspective that people who still drink just consistently seem to lack.

  • Amy January 27, 2020, 12:31 pm

    I have been using YNAB for about 5 years. I think we are moving toward #3, but tracking our spending gives me so much peace of mind. Now that we have a third kid I am quitting my part-time job to spend more time at home, and having a long-time budget gave me the clarity and confidence I needed to make that decision.

    • Sarah January 28, 2020, 10:13 am

      Seriously. We’ve been tracking our spending for many years and I feel comfortably in camp #2. Your comment resonated with me because we have two children and in 2019 after returning from maternity leave to interview for a new position and ultimately to accept a job with much better work/life balance but with a very very large pay cut. But we didn’t lose any sleep or need to “run the numbers” — we just knew we could do it because we have a handle on our finances and expenses.

      • Sarah January 28, 2020, 10:15 am

        Should say: after returning from maternity leave I decided to interview for a new position and ultimately to accept a job

  • Robert January 27, 2020, 12:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing the spending. Too many people downplay the importance of tracking what you spend. We did it for our fifteen years of working to lead to a happy and healthy early retirement!

    • cubert January 29, 2020, 4:53 pm

      Agree! Thanks to MMM our situation has gone from uncertain to rich. I owe this frugal bachelor several beers at LEAST. (Though I am pissed about my Honda Fit hatch latch no longer working…)

  • Opportunity Cost January 27, 2020, 12:51 pm

    You should include the market rent on your house as a cost to you. If you don’t, this would be similar to prepaying for your groceries for the next x number of years and saying you have no grocery bills. Now of course there are offsetting items here (appreciation) and you have included home improvement expenses which would more rightly be spread out over time as depreciation. You should also include the depreciation of your vehicles (again, prepaid transportation expenses).

    For most people, housing and transportation are probably in their top 3-4 expenses so excluding major parts of these makes an unfair comparison.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 2:47 pm

      Yeah, you are probably right – I have done this the spending reports of past years, although I explain it separately rather than putting it right in the table.

      Why? Because a house is just a material object, and it’s a spending choice just like a car or a computer or a piece of furniture. And I don’t include the cost of renting or mortgaging that stuff, so should I account for the house differently? (After all, I could theoretically live somewhere for free if I were creative and enterprising enough)

      But for comparison’s sake, the rent on a house like mine (in its current upgraded condition) would be about $2000 per month or $24k per year. I’m sacrificing LOTS of potential investment gains by tying up this money in the house, but on the positive side I will probably be able to sell it at a substantial profit whenever I move next (probably 4-5 years). So it is kind of free, and kind of expensive all at the same time.

      • Grant January 27, 2020, 3:39 pm

        You mention moving in the next 4-5 years. Were you thinking a different Longmont location, or are we going to get that car free city started? ;)

      • Patrick January 30, 2020, 6:44 pm

        Yes, they are absolutely different. Housing fulfills a basic human need. Economist sometimes look at this housing need as a net lifetime debt – every year for the rest of your life you have to pay something for access to housing. 

        You’re currently paying for that cost through loss of implicit rent and possible opportunity cost of the 300k being invested in the stock market instead (this part might be zero, positive, or negative though, depending on RR vs stocks). 

        Yes you could live “for free” somehow, but that is not likely very comfortable in Colorado winters. And people look to you as a role model for living cheaply at some bare minimum of comfort – if you want to try free survivalist living it would be a great experiment but you’d have a different target audience.  

        I’ve said it before, but I think these comparisons would be better including the implicit rent. Ideally we shouldn’t even compare totals at all, but inevitably people do. There’s a lot of machismo in the community where people brag / compete to get the lowest numbers. I think it’d be more interesting to tally the numbers showing “here’s my moderate amount of spending, accurately tracked and including housing costs, which affords this thoroughly comfortable lifestyle.”

        • Phil March 10, 2020, 8:48 am

          I can see both points of view here, but I think I’ve got to side with the way it’s presented in the post.

          This is what he spent in 2019. To borrow your analogy, if he had prepaid for groceries three years ago, we could go back and see that. He shouldn’t factor it in to this year’s spending — he bought it already.

          In the same vein, MMM might want newcomers to understand more clearly that this is an ideal budget after his house is paid off.

          I don’t know. I think he just respects his average reader’s intelligence. It’s not rocket science to figure that out anyway.

          • david wendelken April 13, 2020, 12:19 pm

            “I think he just respects his average reader’s intelligence. It’s not rocket science to figure that out anyway.”

            No kidding! After all, line #1 in the budget told us he paid for his house in cash and how much.

            Anyone who wants to do that calculation was given all the data they needed to do it. Anyone who lives in a lower cost of housing area (like me) would use housing numbers that fit their needs. Same thing for folks in higher cost of living areas.

            Frankly, it makes things more complicated than it needs to be and adds no useful value to the person who is actually calculating their spending!

            What’s spent is what’s spent. The past is the past. The reason for doing this calculation is to figure out where you have recently been spending money so you can cut back on things that you don’t really want to spend that much on. The other reason is to verify that your spending is within your chosen expense level so you don’t draw down your investments and savings too fast.

            How does imputed rent help that even one tiny bit? I don’t think it does.

            It’s also

  • mockginger January 27, 2020, 12:58 pm

    Does Personal Capital work the same way as Quicken or Microsoft Money? I see Quicken is moving to a monthly payment system, which I have no interest in, so I’m looking for a better way to track all of my accounts (not just my investments).

  • Tyler Lloyd January 27, 2020, 1:07 pm

    Inspiring as always! I’ve really be focusing on my grocery bill recently, since it ends up being very high to what I see on various frugal living blogs–I currently budget $400 a month for just me. I do live in a high cost of living area and I strive to buy organic and local whenever possible, but I feel I can at least shave $100 a month off that with some more optimizing.

    Also, awesome that you use the co-working space for so much entertainment. I need to figure out a similar business structure to fold some fun stuff into business expense ;-) .

    • Andrew January 28, 2020, 7:31 am

      To piggyback, I seem to remember a MMM experiment with Mint (which lead me to try Mint). What ended up driving you away from Mint? I have only found one or two annoyance with it, but am open to trying something that doesn’t have these bugs.

  • Sarah January 27, 2020, 1:13 pm

    Nice! Thanks for sharing!

    We spent just over $10K for my family of 4, and it was an amazing year! Not totally sure how this happened, but I do service work rescuing good food headed for the landfill and getting it into bodies instead, so our food spending is real low. House paid off, solar panels, etc.

    And…I track my budget in a notebook. I might be embarrassed if it didn’t work so well for me.

    • Milosz Kowal January 27, 2020, 1:55 pm

      Would you mind sharing a breakdown of what you spent it on? I’m VERY interested in seeing how other families handle their expenses, and 10K seems impossible for my brain to understand!

      • Sarah January 27, 2020, 2:47 pm

        Sure :)

        4106.28 home–property tax (mostly) and insurance
        305.54 electricity not covered by solar
        562.96–natural gas for heat, cooking, water
        600–2 phones with 2GB data each
        559.54–transportation=insurance, reg, maint for 1 vehicle, tubes etc for a fleet of bikes
        1949.80–groceries (I get a lot of free food, and grow some too)
        23.07–medical (insurance currently employer based, for the last time!)
        23.13–misc=clothing etc
        513.82–entertainment incl home internet and purchase of new/used computer
        101.05–maintenance=new battery for sump pump, very exciting!
        44.74–pet food/litter
        38–school pics for the kids
        795–vacation cabin rental
        10368.93 total

        Not included a few hundred in charitable donations.

        One big factor for us is bartering and sharing. We share our vehicle, I’m in a clothing exchange, etc. I’m active in waste reduction projects from food to clothing to household paint, so I rarely buy anything. It’s an amazing life!

        Oh and I bought cork flooring for my kitchen on Craigslist for $100, used what I needed and sold the rest for $100 😆. That kind of thing.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 2:49 pm

          WOW! $10k for a family of four is some next-level lifestyle efficiency. Thanks for sharing those details Sarah!

          • juan January 29, 2020, 1:47 am

            In Spain it is usual.
            Your blog talks about frugality for rich Americans.

            Here your blog can teach us little. I see waste in much of your frugality.

            • Ryan H February 4, 2020, 12:18 pm

              Juan, it sounds like you folks in Spain have a great handle on your finances! What ways do you see that Americans can improve? Every culture is different which is why other points of view can be so helpful!

            • Lesa February 5, 2020, 3:07 am

              I am in Eastern Europe – same here. Prices for common items and food are at least the same as in USA, but average salary in capital of my country is 1100 USD net. Top salary for software engineer is maybe 2500 USD per month.
              OK rents are much cheaper, but 650 sqm condo is still 120k USD minimal.
              Just just cant afford a lot of things US residents see as normal (mobiles, iPads, vacations, boats, cars) and you get by. Retirement from salary alone is almost impossible unless you have place to live inherited from someone.
              But – we get by :) i just think a lot of Americans are not aware how rich they really are (or can be) compared to almost everyone else (some EU countries have simillar salaries but taxes enourmous)

        • CB January 27, 2020, 4:05 pm

          Oh my god Sarah, where is your blog!?! You are amazing!

          I am deeply shamed looking at everyone else’s grocery bills and lack of spending on fancy sports equipment and vacations. God, I’m such a yuppie.

          • Kevin January 29, 2020, 7:38 am


            Don’t feel bad. We’re a family of 4, and travel/vacations are hugely important to us as well. It’s the one “no limit” spending category we have (within reason, of course).

          • Sarah Hazzard February 7, 2020, 10:25 am

            Lol, I do have a blog but it is me telling everyone how to fix climate change. If that’s your bag, check it out :) climateneutralliving.com/blog

            There are some finance related posts. But turns out that while trying to fix the planet we spend very little money :)

        • Milosz Kowal January 27, 2020, 5:11 pm

          This is amazing stuff, Sarah, thanks for sharing (if you have a blog of some kind, I’d definitely binge read it). One thing I noticed here is that there is a lot of upfront investment that pays dividends over time. Things like solar, growing your own food, and even owning a big enough house/yard to grow all this stuff costs money. You are the embodiment of Big Picture Math, and we all admire you for it.

          Your bartering/sharing set up is also something that’s completely missing from today’s world. Gotta get those urban tribes to get wealthy!

          • Sarah Hazzard February 7, 2020, 10:27 am

            Thanks! And yes, some investment for sure, though my yard is 0.1 acre and the house is small-ish. But enough for some veggies for sure!

        • GMW January 28, 2020, 3:25 pm

          This is awesome. My partner and I are somewhere around $20K/year. We live in a paid-for condo so we still have a HOA and taxes. I’d love it if our HOA would approve solar but that’s a stretch, plus we’d have to eat the cost of the equipment & installation which, in my neck of the woods, is ungodly expensive.

          We currently have an extra (completely paid for) gas-powered car which I’d like to sell this year – that’ll save on gas, insurance. Anyone need a nice, old Lexus?

          Question: How is everyone (except MMM) keeping their food costs so low / getting free food? That’s a big one for us, and we don’t even drink aside from this year’s holiday eggnog when we splurged on a very cheap bottle of spiced rum ($8 maybe).

          • Josh February 3, 2020, 9:00 pm

            Hi, I might be interested in that old Lexus. Where is it located?

          • Sarah February 7, 2020, 10:33 am

            Thanks! Re: food costs, I volunteer with a couple of groups that rescue good food that is headed to the landfill and give it away no questions asked. Food comes from restaurants, grocery stores, food pantries, and even sometimes urban gardens. Usually this is food that just needs rotated out of the shop so they can bring in the next shipment, but sometimes it is going off like spotted bananas etc.

            It can be very random, for example I just had to offload 3 boxes of frozen garlic bread on craigslist because we don’t have the freezer space. But a lot of it is produce. You can check out Food Not Bombs to see if they have a group in your area, it is a global umbrella organization but each chapter is independent and does different things.

            So I support that because it keeps it out of the landfill which cuts methane emissions etc. And folks that need/want something to eat get it free at our two weekly produce serves. We also do a monthly meal serve for our homeless community. And as a side benefit, I get loads of free fruits and veggies :)

            The groceries I do buy mostly come from ALDI, and we don’t really eat processed foods, so it is pretty cheap.

            And. . . my in laws gift us wine pretty regularly, which keeps my husband happy.

          • Aiden Wright March 4, 2020, 6:48 am

            Definitely check your state/city regulations regarding solar. Where I live, HOAs are legally not allowed to deny solar installations.

        • Samantha January 29, 2020, 11:12 am

          Wow I am in awe! I love the idea of re-using as much as possible. Great for the wallet and great for the planet. Go Sarah! :))

        • Johan January 30, 2020, 8:25 pm

          Incredible! Where does your family live?

          You may be able to cut your phone bill in half by switching to Mint Mobile if there is coverage in your area.

          A very interesting life you have!

          • Sarah February 7, 2020, 10:34 am

            Thanks for the tip, I’ll check it out!

            We are in Columbus, OH, which has pretty low COL except for housing and property taxes in man areas.

        • Laura February 5, 2020, 8:57 pm

          Wow. How do you spend so little on pet food and litter? Plz post your website!

        • sam February 15, 2020, 8:22 pm

          Very nice job, Sarah. Spending less is a game I enjoy playing. I love my life in percentages not dollars and cents. I bought a bag of pinto beans for $1 today that were $.92 for my last purchase.
          It’s not the $.08 (seams trivial to some), but an 8.69% (not so trivial) increase.

        • Bria Q October 11, 2020, 6:37 pm

          Sara – love this. Before I moved I was in a ‘home stuff share’ group as well. My long-term pack went off to Europe without me for a month and while she was gone I grabbed her ladder etc.

          One thing I do once a year is throw a swap party.

          It’s gotten a bit out of hand and we’ve actually had to limit the number of items people can bring, but I literally have traded a Target t-shirt for Lucky jeans.

          It’s a great way to refresh your wardrobe or change it up completely if your work or life circumstances change.

          We’ve also added home times, so we have an entire room dedicated to things for the house. You wouldn’t believe how many non-frugal people buy something like 4 mirrors bc they don’t know which one they want and then just never return them – but they will swap them!

  • Gwen January 27, 2020, 1:14 pm

    Looks good, Pete! Thanks for letting me eat some of that food you purchased. Turns out breakfast of nuts and dark chocolate is delectable.

    My own spending was about 3 times higher than yours. A solid third of that was rent in HCOL DC! I also moved 4 times so that added a fair amount to the bottom line. I’m looking forward to lower expenses now that I’m staying put in St Louis! Here’s to a great 2020 for both of us!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 2:53 pm

      You’re welcome – and you have a good point!

      So much of my food, utilities, booze and other things were really for other people, because I have had so many guests staying here at various times over the past year (and this year I happened to spend a lot LESS than that amount of time at other people’s houses and eating their food )

      Anyway, since the total number – even with all this decadence and even with a full quarter of it being for this one-time kitchen renovation – is way lower than my retirement income, it doesn’t really matter. Therefore, I ate another chunk of fancy dark chocolate even as I was typing this reply to you. TO ABUNDANCE!!

    • sam February 15, 2020, 8:28 pm

      Nuts and chocolate are normal breakfast fare for me. I call it my Reeses Cup breakfast. Prepare oatmeal as usual, add cocoa powder and a spoon of peanut butter. I do not like just oatmeal but this is to die for.

  • JH January 27, 2020, 1:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I was very inspired by reading back all the archived spending reviews of the past when I first discovered your site a couple years ago, and I took a lot of inspiration in thinking about how I spent my money! For the third straight year I’ve tracked, my “retirement spending” number was less than $22k as a single guy – “retirement spending” being calculated excluding the mortgage (which I intend to pay off by age 35) and excluding my charitable giving. The first time I saw that number I thought it was a fluke, but I’ve proven to myself for 3 years now that I can live on about $20k a year (plus whatever it costs to replace my employer healthcare) when the time comes to leave work behind. And I certainly didn’t feel like I missed out on any happiness to spend that little – I had everything I needed, I just didn’t see any reason to spend money on things that wouldn’t change my quality of life in any real way.

  • Darcy January 27, 2020, 1:40 pm

    I look forward to these every year as a neat barometer for comparison. Looking back at your other spending posts I’m surprised to see your $21k is only a little down from your average. Then again, costs per person can go down dramatically when you’re shacked up.

    And in answer to your question: yes, I think you ARE pushing your luck with that dentistry ;) You don’t need to worry about sugar from the processed crap, but the sugar in fruit might get ya unawares.

    • Andrew January 28, 2020, 7:39 am

      This one is tough. Some people’s teeth (with a decent diet) don’t even require brushing, much less dentistry. Some of us will get cavities no matter how much we brush/floss/dentist, and fillings create little hiding places which lead to more cavities, etc.

      Dentistry is also pretty bounded in terms of risk. If MMM really let a cavity get bad he might need a root canal and a crown, which after some comparison shopping would set him back $3k or less. Medical has less upper bound (and sometimes cannot be ignore / deferred / comparison shopped), but the odds that he would have an expense in excess of $100k is very very remote.

      I would buy a policy and throw it under charitable giving since your super health would be lowering the premiums of less fortunate people in your risk pool :-) — unfortunately this isn’t a really effective charity because the overhead is insane…

      • Mary February 8, 2020, 12:47 pm

        This lack of seeing the dentist surprises me because in all honesty it is not that expensive and cavities aren’t the only concern. A dental visit without insurance can easily be less than $100 if you opt out of xrays. Two visits would be good but one visit a year makes a huge difference. To me the cost savings on this don’t remotely justify the lack of proper care.

    • scientist February 8, 2020, 12:17 pm

      The skipped dentistry makes me uncomfortable too. Many people don’t realize they have periodontal disease for years, and periodontal disease affects cardiovascular and general health. You can get periodontal disease even if you brush twice daily, floss daily, and use mouthwash. It’s not identifiable through pain, the way cavities are.

      The $0 medical expenses will similarly not be for long. I’m not just talking about nCoV but entering middle age. As a dude, MMM already has an easier time physically in the first half of his life, excluding accident risk. The preventive maintenance is great, but ultimately, none of us gets out of here alive.

      Someone above posted that their pet expenses (including food) were <$200. It's one thing to fly by the seat of your pants with your own health, but it's another to neglect another being.

      I'm highly skeptical of lots of medical care (despite training MD/PhDs in my lab), but damn, basic medical diagnostics are useful. And there are externalities to all of this. MMM, do you get flu shots? People who think they don't get the flu tend to be the ones who go around with mild symptoms and shed virus on everyone.

      • MKE February 15, 2020, 10:01 am

        I skipped the dentist for about seven years while I was flat broke. I eat well and have clean teeth, no cavities, etc. Brush 4 to 5 times a day and floss every day.

        That first trip after seven years was DISGUSTING! The stuff she scraped from my teeth and gums was repulsive. My teeth felt glossy and slippery after I left. I would never believe it had I not experienced it. Man, all those chunks of plaque sitting on my bib.

        I will never let my teeth get like that again. Like all forms of American medicine, dentistry is a ripoff that borders on criminal and is definitely immoral, but I take it in small doses. Hold your nose and go the the doctor and dentist now and then.

  • Bob January 27, 2020, 1:47 pm

    Not counting the house purchase in the budget? I dunno man, maybe you bought a place far larger than required… What if you’d bought my neighbours 6 bed house with built in cinema for $2m lol.
    What if you’d rented, then it’d be in the budget?
    Thanks for the cool updates, enjoy the new projects!

    • Jo Parks January 27, 2020, 2:26 pm

      Bob: some people include the “implicit rent” in their expenses calculation. Implicit rent is the rent you effectively pay for living in the house you own. It is the amount of money you forgo by not renting out your house to someone else. It helps to reveal just how much a house really costs.
      Another way to look at a house purchase is as “prepaid rent”. You prepay $300K’s worth of rent in one swell foop by buying a house (or $1,000,000 in my city!) so you don’t have to pay $20K/year in rent. In 15 years you break even. You could prorate the cost over the 15 year term in your expenses calc like a rent. It’s hard to predict though. You may not stay 15 years, or the house might appreciate or depreciate.

  • Jo Parks January 27, 2020, 1:51 pm

    Thank you for addressing whether to include taxes as an expense. I read your paragraph here and the link. Most financial sites don’t cover it. I’ve gone back and forth on whether to include it for expense calculations. The 1 year emergency fund of expenses they coach us to hold is based on job loss, surviving until you can get a job again, but once you achieve F.I it’s a whole ‘nother story. I have structured my portfolio as: 1 year of expenses held as cash, 3 years of expenses as near-cash, like a GIC, the rest as diversified investments based on my long term needs/risk tolerance. That way I don’t have to touch the long term investments until I plan to. I do include the taxes I pay on the investment income as an expense because it doesn’t go away in retirement like the tax on earned income would. Once the portfolio gets legs, the investment income can be significant. It’s a good problem to have! I need me some of your write-offs…but I’m not getting married and having kids…I’d rather pay the taxes!

  • Curtis January 27, 2020, 1:57 pm

    Great job and thanks for posting! Only thing that stood out to me is the dental…how do you know you don’t have cavities if you don’t go? I’ve also been lucky to have only 2 cavities over the years, both of which displayed zero symptoms. Having family that have dealt with later-life teeth issues that seem absolutely horrible, I don’t think this is something I’m willing to compromise on, but interested to hear your perspective.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 2:57 pm

      Yeah, this is definitely not a compromise due to frugality – it is due to my own lack of motivation/organization to do anything that requires me to research unknown practitioners and to make and keep an appointment. If a dentist friend invited me to come visit her practice and I could just bike over at my leisure, I would gladly pay for some X-rays and cleaning and whatever else was in the recommendations.

      • Francis January 27, 2020, 4:09 pm

        In the uk everyone goes to the dentist approximately every two years. For me it’s like the gym, going prevents teeth issues later in life, going to the gym and cycling prevent heart attacks. By going regularly I’ve picked up stuff meaning it’s prevented me from paying a fortune later on in life. Apologies if I come across as a complainy pants though!

        Your low sugar diet puts you at a low risk though of dental disease though.

      • rjpope42 January 27, 2020, 4:36 pm

        I’d recommend asking around, and finding someone who unfortunately was not blessed with as nice of teeth as you (and I).

        Because THAT person has already done the research and trying of various dentists to find one of high caliber. If they’re a frugal person, and this dentist is not on their “insurance network” but they pay out of pocket anyway, then you know you’re really on to something!

        Market rate is like $200 for cleaning, inspection, and x-rays – expensive, but you can’t x-ray your own teeth, so well worth it!!

        Pro-tip – if you don’t feel like making an appointment a year out, just call and see if they can let you know of any cancellations that come up in the next week. Seems like there always is!

      • Eli January 27, 2020, 4:38 pm

        I’m also going to have to jump on the preventative oral health train – how you’ve managed to maintain no cavities (or even know that there’s none there) over that length of time is beyond me. But whenever someone tells me they haven’t been to a dentist in several years or more, I reply that’s a hair-on-fire situation! And of those that have then gone, they’ve always discovered something worth knowing (often caught in the nick of time, sometimes not).
        I appreciate that Australian healthcare makes going to the dentist once or even twice a year quite affordable, but this is an errand you simply must mobilise for MMM! Thanks for sharing your personal information, I’ll stop nagging now.

        PS: I’m not a dastardly dentist trying to drive business towards my fellow US practitioners, just a concerned global citizen!

      • Tim Nelson January 28, 2020, 5:51 am

        I haven’t had any cavities in over 30 years and had only been to a dentist once in that time (it was for a friend who was going through dental hygienist school).

        However, it’s more about the gums than cavities. I just went through a “deep cleaning”, and am still in the process of getting my gums back to normal. It’s not real fun, but if I hadn’t done it, I would have started losing teeth.

        I highly recommend you go have them looked at.

        • scientist February 8, 2020, 12:27 pm

          Stated this above but want to reiterate this excellent point: Prolonged periodontal disease, which most people don’t notice for a long time, is really, really bad for your overall health. And good habits do not reduce the risk to zero.

          Cavities are not the real risk. Most people I know who grew up with fluoride supplementation and regular dental care as kids don’t have cavities as adults. I’m 40, FWIW.

      • Caryatis January 28, 2020, 9:27 am

        I skipped the dentist for about 14 years. Went recently, no cavities, no issues of any kind. That’s probably an extreme, but if you don’t have symptoms you definitely don’t need to go to a dentist every six months as they claim. It’s one of those myths (like “you must shower every day”).

        • David Ann Arbor January 28, 2020, 12:48 pm

          I just wonder whether there is plaque buildup, which is what a dental cleaning removes.
          Even if you don’t spend money on x-rays, and other things, just getting a good dental cleaning might be a good idea.

      • Aukse January 28, 2020, 12:50 pm

        yes – definitely take care of your teeth! they can also tell the dentist if you are having any other types of problems as well. and if your teeth go, it leads to compounding issues too. Its not that expensive to get a check up even without insurance. Plus, when i turned 40, even though i had perfect teeth til then, i got a cavity, then a cracked tooth… i try to maintain good health, but i think proper preventative oral hygiene is mega important for so many reasons, especially as you get older!

      • TennisPro January 28, 2020, 11:45 pm

        I recommend Dr. Maurer, by Longmont Hospital. It’s $140 for cleaning, exam, and x-rays. Because you have a low-sugar diet with good genetics, you may never need to go. But I think the preventative maintenance aspect is worth considering, even if you only go once a decade or so.

      • Ms Blaise January 29, 2020, 7:45 pm

        I think a lot of it is genetic. My partner has great teeth and almost never goes to the dentist. every 5 years or so I nag him, he finally goes, no problems. I however have genetically problematic teeth and have had various levels of work done over the years ( about $25ks worth paid from my pocket). So I go once a year and figure its my health issue to keep an eye on. If its work for MMM, that’s cool. Maybe his family have great teeth.

      • Felix January 30, 2020, 3:14 am

        I was in a similar boat Pete. I left it 15 years but in my case, the longer I left it the more stupid I felt for not going, and the idea of admitting the situation to the dentist put me off. Also, the dentist at my previous appointment (15 years ago) was very complimentary about my teeth but recommended a cleaning / polishing which I went ahead with. My teeth hurt a bit afterwards and they weren’t stained beforehand so I was suspicious that the polishing was unnecessary and perhaps did more harm than good. I’ve never had cavities or any other problems so that polishing was the only time I’ve had dental discomfort that I can remember. Anyway, I finally got round to going (to a different dentist) and it took only 10 minutes to be x-rayed and checked, I had no problems which was a big relief. All the best.

      • Chaz Vittitow February 4, 2020, 6:00 pm

        As a dentist, I obviously agree that prevention is the best practice. However, I routinely see people who come in after not going to the dentist for years and everything checks out fine. Good oral hygiene and low sugar diet (especially not drinking soda/juice) go such a long way. Don’t have the attitude of “I’ll just wait till it hurts” if you want to save money. Losing your teeth and the letting the supporting structures break down is preventable and less costlyt than a more reactive dental routine.


      • Julie Threatte February 17, 2020, 9:10 pm

        We go to Dental Aid in Longmont. A cleaning with no insurance is $68. All of their prices are on their website. They have been great!

      • Frederik October 16, 2020, 9:54 am

        Pete, I have similarly good teeth and eating habits and no desire either to waste time at the dentist. However I found it’s worth going every once in a while. You only realize this when you go. If your last visit was too long ago or too recent, you’ll realize it too. If you go, I promise you that you’ll find it worthwhile.

  • Joe D January 27, 2020, 1:58 pm

    We don’t track our spending right now, as all of your great advice from this blog has curbed a lot of our frivolous past spending. We still live in our “starter” home, have no car payments, drive smarter cars, cook most of our own food, and I just booked two vacation flights with reward points. My immigrant family taught me to appreciate “peasant dishes” so our food costs are kept in control (with the exception of the occasional foray into Whole Foods).

    All in all, pretty good shape – even with paying for 2 tuitions (community college and state school, of course). ;)

  • Juan January 27, 2020, 1:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing! And brace yourself for all the comments/complaints to come for not having home insurance & health insurance :) I’m really curious on the upcoming post RE health insurance!

    My own spending for 2019 was $27,000 for a family of three. Biggest expense was daycare/pre-school for a 3 year old. Other than that we have a modest house on a 15-year mortgage so the interest we pay is minimal and since the rate is 2.65% we are in no rush to pay it. Other than that it was a pretty good year of good health and no emergencies (very grateful for that).

  • Mr. Bo Dangles January 27, 2020, 2:00 pm

    Always inspirational, Dr. Eagle (sounds like a superhero name :P )! Every time I start thinking I’m doing all I can do to cut costs, you give me a much needed dose of reality. The MMM HQ looks like a blast. I need to get down there again, but the drive from Loveland is soooo long. I’m working on building up my biking muscles though. I’ll come hang out again.

  • Matt January 27, 2020, 2:13 pm

    You should probably get your Honda an oil change.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 2:58 pm

      I’ll surely do one this year! You’ll see the 20 bucks or so on next year’s spending report :-)

      • Stephanie January 27, 2020, 8:18 pm

        Getting teeth cleanings every year is like an oil change! Good oral health is linked to other areas of good health. But don’t let them do xrays more frequently than every two years unless there’s a good reason- no need for the extra radiation. Also, if you don’t floss every day they’ll know and if you’re lucky your bossy dentist will shame you into doing it!

    • Chuck Albacore January 27, 2020, 7:43 pm

      I love this guy’s videos:
      Will Annual Oil Change Damage Your Car? Let’s Find Out!
      (Spoiler: Not at all!)

      • Mr. Money Mustache February 4, 2020, 6:28 pm

        Haha.. the funny part is that I interpreted the title the OPPOSITE way at first: “how would changing the oil too often possibly cause any damage – other than wasting oil?”

        That’s because oil changes are good for at least 7500 miles, which is 5 years of driving on my construction van these days. As a compromise since oil does break down with time, I have been doing a synthetic oil change every 2-3 years with the hope that synthetic break down more slowly. Which is still probably superstitious and unnecessary.

        It has now been 2+ years, and I just checked my oil – it is still well within the healthy fill range and is crystal clear just as if it were new.

  • Ryan January 27, 2020, 2:39 pm

    Awesome expenses for the year. I cannot wait until my house is paid for so mine get closer to this.

    I hear you when it comes to people and their finances. I work with a lot of people who struggle with money and see it as a confusing mess. It takes all they have to reach out to people. So, everyone, when people are reaching out to you make sure you help them.

  • Kayote January 27, 2020, 2:50 pm

    I’ve tracked my spending for a couple decades, though I don’t have the oldest records. It’s something I convinced my SO to do after we got married. We look at it now and then–at least once a year but usually every few months–to see if the spending is lining up with our values.

    Honestly, I find the hassle of having to record it discourages me from spending money on silly things. Not because I don’t want to admit I spent it, but because I am more aware I am spending it, and because I don’t want to have to go through the bother of putting it in! So even if I could/was willing to fully automate it I wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be as effective.

    We spend a lot of stuff not on credit cards (and do not carry debit cards). Sometimes because using the credit card has too nasty of a service fee and for others because I try to encourage the survival of my small local stores–and one way I do that is paying cash so they don’t have to pay a fee to the credit card companies.

    Our tracking is via a google sheet with a form. We set up our own categories and whenever we buy something it’s a simple bookmark on our phones to type in the amount and pick the category. The sheet records it and sorts it all out automatically for us, by month, providing a nice ongoing summary as the year goes on.

    • Lindsey January 27, 2020, 6:48 pm

      We do the same thing—if it is a locally owned store, we pay in cash so they don’t have to pay a fee. We get our beef and pork from a local farmer, twice a year, and he was stunned the first time we paid a rather large bill in cash. Since then he always throws in a few dozen farm fresh eggs in thanks. We tried to pay for them but he said that especially during the winter he cannot sell what the hens lay so sometimes throws them into the compost heap if the dog refuses them! Win/win for both of us. If we pay in cash, our local dentist gives 2.5% off the bill, splitting the difference of what the credit card company charges in fees. It is small way and painless way to help the community builders like small businesses.

  • Joel January 27, 2020, 2:51 pm

    Our two-person household spending for 2019 was around $28,000 which includes our mortgage interest, but not principal. This is only 24% of our net income! Thanks, Mr. Money Mustache, for helping us get on the right track in early adulthood.

    One of the biggest things we’ve done is any time we want to upgrade something in our home, or fix something that breaks, is trying to learn and fix it ourselves. My DIY skills are increasing, but I still have a long way to go. Any chance you’ll write on your $5,000 kitchen remodel? I’d love to learn more specifically about cabinet installation, and curious to see how you did it!

    • Tom January 29, 2020, 7:36 am

      Joel, you can pick up just about any skill these days from YouTube videos – I built a wood-fired sauna that way a few years back. Obviously, treat this advice with caution if you are thinking of really dangerous stuff – for example, home dentistry! :) But for cabinet installation you should be able to find some really good-quality instructions out there. Good luck, and great work on your spending and goals!

      • Mary February 8, 2020, 12:58 pm

        I really appreciate how many people out there are willing to write blogs or make videos showing how to get things done. I have zero skills but once buying my own place I am loathe to hire anyone so I have fixed things I never thought I could. Of course it takes probably 1-2 hours of research and then each job takes at least 5x longer than the online person says it will. But hopefully I will get better each time!

  • Liz January 27, 2020, 3:09 pm

    Interesting. I am curious to know if you plan to continue to self insure both your house and your medical/dental. I think at a certain point, if my wealth were to continue to grow, I would considering self-insuring my home even considering the potential earthquake. I haven’t put a ton of thought to what amount I would want to feel comfortable being in that position, however.

    Have you done any math to decide what price on a monthly basis is medical insurance “worth it”? I have a fancy, high-end, health care and policy due to my partner’s insurance offerings which I access through his employment so it makes the decision rather brainless for me. But, I’ve thought about how cost vs. expected expenses would change the decision making process. You know you are an extreme outlier for having $0 in medical costs for as long as you have, right? :)

    My solar panels were a great investment but I live in a net metering state (CA), produce my energy at the highest rates, and use more (like charging my car) at the lowest rates. The cost of panels is continuing to come down and eventually the math might work for a house in Colorado. Until I bought the electric car, the math never made sense even in higher energy cost SoCal.

    2nd story deck – interesting! I did some research on how ppl use spaces in preparation for my upcoming AirBnB project and decided against a deck because the research showed that ppl hardly ever use them. Everybody wants them in their homes and the “heat map” data shows how rarely they are used. That being said, you probably have already thought it through. For me, it helped me decide against building any sort of deck area.

    Finally, I’m a bit jealous of your property taxes! So low!

    • scientist February 8, 2020, 1:24 pm

      “Have you done any math to decide what price on a monthly basis is medical insurance “worth it”?”

      The lack of transparency in medical pricing (in the U.S.) guarantees this is a fool’s errand.

  • Marlena January 27, 2020, 3:34 pm

    Yes – I track via my financial institution’s app and YNAB. I started on YNAB about six months ago and it has made everything better. We are nowhere *near* MMM levels of awesome frugality – but speeding through dumping debt and saving our emergency fund. I imagine in about five years we can be closer to where you are. Living in a HCOL area and seeing others’ low property taxes also floors me. We will pay close to $9K on a 1,700 square foot home on a 5,000 square foot lot. MMM, YNAB, and Paula Pant have given me the knowledge to get my rear in gear.

  • KMcSparin January 27, 2020, 3:36 pm

    I think “single-dad” is a more realistic article title (instead of Bachelor). Two completely different lifestyles.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 5:13 pm

      Hmm, very good point and more accurate to the way I really live. It’s mostly dad, most of the time rather than anything glamorous and Austin Powers-ey.

      However, being separate coparents gives each person about 50% of their time off, which allows some nice trips and hosting of boisterous groups of guests, inlaws, etc that may have been controversial unless both partners agree on everything :-)

  • Ron Cameron January 27, 2020, 3:49 pm

    “I funnel all my spending through a rewards credit card, which saves me about $2000 each year.”

    Can you help us understand how that $2k comes about? On $20k of spending that’s a huge, huge, benefit.
    Also, health insurance is a toughie. On one hand, statistically you’re absolutely correct that you should come out ahead without it especially taking into consideration -your- health history. On the other hand, I’m a big fan of only insuring things that can absolutely destroy you, and a health issue is unfortunately one of them.

    For our spending we use Mint, and it works fabulously. We FIRE’d in 2018 and it’s been helpful to see what’s gone down but more importantly what’s gone up (groceries from entertaining and trips). We don’t have a “budget”, but a general target. We missed last year by quite a bit from catching up on home maintenance/improvements. No biggie but something we look forward to being a short term issue.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 5:22 pm

      Sure thing – the most competitive credit cards typically offer a $500 bonus if you spend $5000 within the first 3 months after opening the card. With around $20k of spending, you can work your way through four such cards and collect four bonuses. Plus, you’ll get an additional $400 on the spending itself, if you use a 2% card like the ones we recommend on this website’s credit card page.

      Extra bonus: if you own a business that has to spend money on equipment, services, etc., you can get rewards cards for that too, and it can really add up. A friend of mine has a software company which spends thousands per month on Google advertising, for example. But the advertising increases company profits by far more than it costs, so he effectively has a cash printing machine in so many dimensions. Fun!

      • Aukse January 28, 2020, 12:52 pm

        yes! rewards credit cards are key! because i will never give up my millionaire lifestyle way of traveling, i use credit cards that give me mega travel rewards. this means many free business class trips around the world, just because i am smart about what credit cards i use and what i spend on them. http://www.thepointsguy.com is a great resource to learn about credit card perks – not just travel, but the cash rewards cards too!

      • Nick January 29, 2020, 1:14 pm

        One of the things that has prevented me from using one of these tools like Mint and True Bill is that I was changing credit cards so often to take advantage of reward bonuses. It’s been a few years since I did this, so maybe the tools are better now? I’m a little OCD about missing data, especially when relying on that for a very important part of the FI equation.

        Another thing that is tricky about changing cards are recurring payments that can take awhile to setup. This gets further complicated by the fact that my wife and so both try to take advantage of these reward cards, but we have to alternate because we wouldn’t spend enough on our own.

        I’ve taken my family on many free vacations over the last few years doing this, so I don’t envision stopping. But it seems like it’s a lot of chaos to manage and keep updating. Do you have any advice for smoothing this process out? Thanks!!!

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 7:33 pm

          One thing that Truebill tells me they are about to release is a feature that allows you to manually update your own account with any missing data by uploading a .csv that you grab from any overlooked credit card accounts.

          They helped me do this with the help of their developers who is working on the feature (I emailed them my files manually), because I was in just the situation you describe: The Capital One Yodlee feed only goes back 3 months, and I wanted to import transactions from a full year.

          There is a solution!

          • CanadianFI@45 July 30, 2021, 9:40 am

            just wondering if TrueBill is available and/or usable in Canada?

      • Chris February 4, 2020, 1:32 am

        Anyone aware of similar UK credit cards? I use cashback credit cards, which results in about £200 cashback every year. However, I’m not aware of any UK cards that give a cash bonus upon reaching a certain level of spend after signing up?

  • Joe C January 27, 2020, 4:10 pm

    I must live on another planet, for 2019 my daycare for two kids was $33.5K, my mortgage (including principal and escrow) was $31.1k, and additional education services for one son was $12.6k, wife’s minivan was $7.9k. i don’t even want to say what everything else was. HCOL area, but dang…:(

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 5:24 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Joe – I know those high expenses are probably not fun, but situations like yours are exactly why I share numbers like these!

      I’m sure you are doing great in your careers, which makes that area worthwhile for you, for now. But there are always ways to streamline things over the years, and your end destination can easily be a total cost under $40k per year once the kids are older and/or you scale back to an affordable area. People email me with similar success stories at least every week!

    • Marcia January 28, 2020, 12:48 pm

      Ah yes…HCOL area here also. My kids are past daycare age – and now the older one is only the cost of whatever summer camps or summer school we put him in (generally a few weeks of beach volleyball). The younger one should come in around $2k next year for after school care and summer camp…2 kids in daycare is no joke, but if you play it right, over the space of a few years costs will drop like a stone!

      Also, the minivan will be paid off eventually (our cars are from 2006 and 2009, our kids from 2006 and 2012, ha!)

      Housing/ mortgage/principal/ escrow for us is more like $50k a year, so I feel you.

  • Chris K January 27, 2020, 4:10 pm

    You mentioned being able to withdraw X amount of funds while still paying essentially zero in taxes at a certain income level. In my area, a modest mortgage is close to $3k/month.

    Is that a scale tipper in the pay off mortgage early vs invest argument? Would the taxes on another $36k/yr in withdrawal make it worth closing out the loan early instead?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 5:11 pm

      Yes, that is an excellent point and the answer may well be “yes” depending on how many people are in your household and your spending on other areas of life.

      A house can definitely be a big, legal tax loophole:
      – the interest deduction on the mortgage can be useful if you have a high income and large mortgage (otherwise, the standard deduction will nullify this benefit for most people)
      – the appreciation on your primary residence is TAX FREE when you sell it
      – the rent you save by having a paid-off house is tax free, even though you have to pay taxes on any money you would earn to pay rent on an equivalent house.
      – you can rent your OWN house out for up to 14 days per year without owing taxes on that income
      – if you do rent out it out more than that, you can use depreciation deductions to shelter most of the income until you sell it
      – or you can move back into the house for at least two years, and erase even this portion of the taxes you would owe.

      Plus, the primary residence is generally immune from bankruptcy, so if you are cleaned out you can still rent out part of your house and live off that income, meaning you will never really be bankrupt.

      • Karen January 28, 2020, 2:04 pm

        “Plus, the primary residence is generally immune from bankruptcy, so if you are cleaned out you can still rent out part of your house and live off that income, meaning you will never really be bankrupt.”

        Well…., maybe I don’t understand how bankruptcy works. The reason I pay for health insurance is a serious medical situation would probably force me into a medical bankruptcy and I would lose all but $75,000 of the equity in my paid off $425,000 home. (I live in the same HCOL county you do (i.e., Boulder) and my $425,000 house doesn’t even have any extra bedrooms to rent out anyway.)

        From the website, coloradobankruptcyguide.com
        The Colorado homestead exemption allows homeowners who file bankruptcy to protect $75,000 of
        equity in their home ($105,000 if they are 60 or older). Unlike other Colorado exemptions, you cannot double the Colorado homestead exemption by filing a joint petition with your spouse.

        So, am I working under a false assumption? Isn’t it true if I went bankrupt my house would be considered a $425,000 asset that would have to be sold, or I have to come up with $350,000 to stay in my relatively modest house?

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 8:30 pm

          Thanks for that correction Karen. It looks like I am probably way off – my knowledge was second-hand from a friend that had supposedly researched it but I think the source you cite looks much more accurate.

      • Jake January 29, 2020, 12:29 am

        Very slight clarification, it’s 2 years of the last 5. So if you were to sell this year, and lived there in 2015 and 2016, you don’t need to pay taxes.

        • Chris Care January 29, 2020, 7:30 am

          Yea, I feel like I should jump in here. There are definitely nuances to take into account for the primary residence tax exclusion – including whether it was a primary first and then a rental, or if it was a rental first and then a primary.
          Definitely check with a pro, or make sure you understand the IRS rules, before making any decisions based on the tax ramifications.

          • Morgan February 17, 2020, 8:59 am

            I would love to know more about these nuances. I lived in my first house for 3 years, have rented it out for 7 years. I have thought about moving back in for a couple of years then selling. I would definitely talk with a tax pro to see how the personal residence exemption and depreciation recapture would play out in this case.

  • Dan January 27, 2020, 4:55 pm

    Since when do you advertise for Capital One? What you need the money for anyway?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 5:27 pm

      I’m not “advertising’ for capital one! This recommendation and praise for them came free of charge, just because I use them and like how their system works for me. Nobody at the company even knows I wrote this post.

      This website does earn money from credit card recommendations, and the reason I still enjoy earning money is because it it’s fun, it allows me to be more generous, and it lets me take on interesting projects.

  • Jason January 27, 2020, 5:23 pm

    How do you like Truebill compared to Mint? I’ve been on mint since nearly it’s inception, and have several dozen accounts, so there’s a lot of momentum there which makes it hard for me to try other options. But mint has been on life support for years, so I’m starting to look seriously at alternatives. Free ideally, but would be willing to pay a small subscription if something really impressed.

    • PunchyBass January 27, 2020, 8:33 pm

      With you Jason. Been using mint for the past 8 years. Would move to another service if it was superior and I could export my data.

      Looks like truebill is 4.99 per month?

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 9:12 pm

        Truebill has a completely free basic mode, and that is all I have used so far.. But they have some tiers of higher service which include things like automatic cancellation/negotiation of your bills on your behalf.. plus an investment tracking mode.

        There are some pretty neat options and I would be interested in exploring more, but none of them apply to my situation specifically. Ideally, I could peer over the shoulder of a friend who uses and benefits from ALL the features.

        • Jason January 27, 2020, 10:03 pm

          Can truebill act as an aggregator like mint does, and let you download ALL transactions at once?

  • BC January 27, 2020, 5:55 pm

    Wow great post – and double wow, I underspent Mr. Money Mustache! My grand total including mortgage this year was just a touch under $20,000 (closer to 15,000 not counting mortgage principle). I figured out the actual number but I don’t care enough to remember it; under $20k is good enough. All I know is that I am 8-10 years from packing up this whole 9-to-god-knows-when lifestyle. Fair enough, I’m a SINK so that reduces spending, but I still have friends whose jaws drop when they learn how much I spend in a year.

    I’ve turned things around so much I sometimes forget it was less than five years ago that I didn’t have a penny saved, lived in shitty apartments I hated and spent everything I earned. It was this blog that turned things around for me, and all the ones I read subsequently. I’m out to prove that someone can retire early in a small US city with a less than US median salary. I owe a big part of that to you, so thanks Mr. Money Mustache! The year I retire I am going to bike to MMM Headquarters from Wisconsin to celebrate.

    • Kevin January 29, 2020, 7:56 am

      Happy to see it’s possible in WI! I love here too, and our property taxes this year alone we’re just north of $6k. We get a lot in return for that, but still…

    • Ms Blaise January 29, 2020, 7:53 pm

      Well done BC. That’s a great post.

      • B.C. Kowalski January 30, 2020, 10:20 am

        Thanks Ms Blaise! The cost of living is low here and it really helps. But as I’ve noticed, one can overspend just about anywhere, even here in little ole IceTown, Wisconsin! I appreciate the compliment!

  • Mike January 27, 2020, 7:13 pm

    I understand the whole self insurance concept, but when it comes to catastrophic care do you really want to risk your entire net worth if you were to come down with a serious illness like cancer or internal injuries in a construction accident? When you don’t insure your home, the maximum loss is your house and you can get a new one. That’s fine. But, the medical bills could run into the millions.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 8:10 pm

      No, I definitely don’t want to risk my whole net worth, or even my status as a retired person!

      But even $1M medical bills for a single incident are way more rare than we might assume. One friend who is researching the back-end of the reinsurance market right now shared a stat that there were only a dozen or so seven-figure bills in the entire COUNTRY of 300+ million people last year.

      So it’s much more rare than, say, getting instantly crushed by a falling refrigerator, killer bees or a sudden swarm of 30-50 feral hogs. Low enough that it’s not something to think seriously about. Most big medical bills that cause bankruptcy are in the six figures rather than the seven.

      And while I’m no Jeff Bezos, I *could* afford to lose more than $1M without having to sell the house or even cut back on my full-size bags of Costco Shelled Pistachios.. so there really is some self-insurance going on here rather than just “wing it and hope for the best” :-)

      • Ada January 28, 2020, 2:44 am

        The reinsurance market is not the same thing as “bills presented to uninsured patients.” A hospital may bill $7000 for a consultation that an insurer will pay $250 for. For back-end insurance folks, the $250 is the important figure. For uninsured people in America, they will be approached with the $7000 bill.

        I don’t know what data your friend is working with, but I can tell you that there are 2000 heart transplants per year in America, with an average cost of $1.4 million per transplant. There are many other thousands of transplants per year with averages nearing $1million per person (just for the event, not the specialized care that can be required for weeks to months).

        Your risk of an organ transplant in the next year? Certainly low, but not as low as being killed by a swarm of bees hiding in a refrigerator that was just dropped on you.

        I’d love to see your explanation for how not having health insurance works with your finances and world view; I’d hate for those aspiring to FI think that cutting out health insurance makes sense for most people.

        • Embok June 29, 2020, 9:25 am

          The need for catastrophic health care is to a large extent a matter of luck. Though I had never had any serious illness, when I had my daughter, she had a difficult birth that resulted in major complications and over $1 million in medical costs. Later, again after many years of good health, I had a pulmonary embolism, then contracted breast cancer in a short period of time. Although the all in cost did not compare with my daughter’s hospital bills, it was substantial and would have significantly hurt my family’s finances had we not been insured. The thing that was most frustrating was that these two events came out of the blue and did not seem to be triggered by anything other than fairly ordinary work stress.

          • CAW August 27, 2020, 12:16 pm

            I am frugal and have good genes, health, etc. But when my first son was born, he had serious health complications, including intestinal and heart surgeries. Later, when he was 2, he was diagnosed with Leukemia, which required a 7-month hospitalization. Hospital bills were routinely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars–I never had to add them all up because as Embok points out, the negotiated rate that the insurance company had to pay was far lower. Then, because my son has Down Syndrome, Medicaid helped pick up the remainder that my insurance couldn’t cover. Then there is ongoing costs following these events. I have no doubt that the out-of-pocket, uninsured losses would have been in the millions, if not exceeding ten million (a month-long NICU stay, 2 pediatric open-heart surgeries, multiple intestinal surgeries, 7-month chemo treatment, multiple ICU and emergency room stays, and all the out-patient care).

            It borders on ridiculous to suggest anyone could survive financially this low-probability, high-risk event outside of the extremely rich, and we all face such risks. I look forward to the article on health insurance, but this is a dangerous game that people are playing if they do not insure against catastrophic loss.

            I agree completely with Embok that property insurance is entirely different because it is possible to put reasonable caps on your high-end liability.

      • Ren January 28, 2020, 8:12 am

        I expect the risk is less about the single year 7-figure scenarios and more about the multi-year 6-figure scenarios. I don’t know how much more prevalent those are, but I suspect it’s a few orders of magnitude.

        I would hope that there are still catastrophic policies available, but I suspect those are less helpful for the multi-year scenarios. The ACA requirements presumably don’t apply to such policies, since they wouldn’t offer free preventative care and such, but I don’t know if that means they don’t exist, or that they would just substantially raise premiums after the first year of a multi-year issue.

        • Michael January 28, 2020, 1:30 pm

          For anyone out there who is relying on the medical industry for good health is in serious trouble. The medical industry is all about profits, they are not in the business of moving anyone into good health. They want to put you on drugs for life, so they can get their profit stream.

          All of the major chronic diseases are lifestyle based, meaning correct your diet and the problem goes away. See “Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death”

        • calliope January 28, 2020, 2:01 pm

          Agreed. But the MMMs are Canadian, so presumably they can go to Canada if they are in need of expensive, multi-year care. Additionally, they would be able to buy into the ACA next open enrollment. For those without such robust savings or a Canadian exit plan, this strategy is probably a bit more fraught with risk.

          I’m surprised there are less than a dozen seven-figure bills every year. Does this include bills paid by insurance? I would imagine our local trauma center sends out more than a dozen million-dollar bills annually- would love to be proven wrong.

        • CapitalistRoader January 28, 2020, 6:07 pm

          My Obamacare policy has a $6500 deductible. The monthly rate was ridiculously low last year (thanks, fellow taxpayers!) but this year have climbed to $120, although I’ve pegged my income $10K higher on the Colorado exchange website so I’ll get probably half of that back when I file 2020 taxes.

          I’m basically very healthy 62-year-old, riding my bike several times/week and get good grades at annual physicals, but last Summer I got a freak brain infection which cost Kaiser $300K for four MRIs, two brain surgeries, and three months of home IV antibiotics. Yeah, I could have eaten that if I had no insurance but I would have had to liquidate many of my investments, probably even dipping into my IRA.

          If I had $10 million I’d probably self insure. But I don’t.

      • Just FYI January 28, 2020, 8:15 am

        that there were only a dozen or so seven-figure bills in the entire COUNTRY of 300+ million people last year.

        His numbers are way off.

        The study examined 62,000 medical stop-loss claimants from Sun Life’s database and found that, in that four-year period, a total of 643 individuals submitted claims for medical expenses over a million dollars; the number of such individuals on a year-by-year basis has been growing rapidly. In 2014 there were 104 such people; in 2017, there were 194. While these people made up just 2.1 percent of total claims, they accounted for 19.9 percent of total payments made in this time period.

        And that’s just out of SunLife’s 62,000 stop-loss claims, that’s not out of all 300,000,000 Americas.


      • DuckReconMajor January 28, 2020, 3:22 pm

        “30-50 feral hogs”

        LOL I never expected to see that here.

      • Stefan January 28, 2020, 6:54 pm

        How about the liability aspect of home insurance? As well as an umbrella to cover non-house relared liability?

        Are you not concerned about losing more than $1M due to liability, e.g. hitting someone with your bike?

      • Fergus January 29, 2020, 9:20 am


        Your friend should investigate not just the initial bills, but also the continuing bills that pile up if one has surgery or a serious medical condition. Rehab, drugs, home health–these are all very costly if one cannot walk or ride a bike. :)

        Here are a few tips:
        Fee-based surgery centers: https://aapsonline.org/surgery-centers-with-cash-friendly-pricing/
        One surgery center that has offered transparent pricing and no price increases for 20+ years.

        cheers, Fergus

      • Kate January 29, 2020, 10:07 am

        Additionally, even with such catastrophic bills, it’s extremely unlikely you’d just suddenly owe $1M. You can get extremely far by negotiating with your health care provider – it’s just most people don’t bother to because the insurance company simply picks up the tab/does negotiating they never see. If this DID happen (or if multi year 6-figure scenarios happened), that might be the price on the bill, but probably not what you’d end up paying. It’s easy to get scared by the “$1M horror stories,” but like anything else, those stories are designed to get clicks.

        • Nobody February 4, 2020, 7:17 pm

          Exactly, Kate. Looking forward to MMM tackling this shibboleth. The US health industry has people running scared, they use fear to manipulate us and enforce compliance. It’s a business, yet sacred and unassailable (like higher education)? F that! The bills are negotiable, there are a multitude of options for care, the profit margin is ridiculous…

  • Reade Barber January 27, 2020, 8:07 pm

    Great article MMM and I’m glad you are back at providing your yearly spending. I would suspect as a bachelor your ability to not have house insurance etc. is much easier now. I can’t imagine my wife being on board for that choice :)

    It would be interesting to showcase a few of your readers to see how they fair in various cities across the world. Your lifestyle design seems idyllic for Longmont. but how do you think you’d do if you moved back to Canada. Perhaps (gasp), in Toronto?

  • D.C. April January 27, 2020, 8:18 pm

    Uh oh, well, since you asked, brace yourself–

    Food: $6171
    Local transportation–car, bike, train expenses (new bike this year!): $2283
    Unreimbursed travel: $1371
    Cell phone: $614 (since optimized to $18.75/month plus tax on a company plan)
    Internet and cable (mostly for guests! SORRY): $1481
    Health, beauty, clothing: $2312
    Health insurance: $663
    Charity and gifts: $7925
    Entertainment: $1767
    But the HOUSE is the big budget killer, until I sell the much-appreciated thing to redeem itself–
    Mortgage interest, insurance, property taxes: $20925
    Electric, gas, utilities: $3189
    Yardcare, cleaning, Orkin ( a bird started nesting on my rooftop and subsequent animal control was needed): $2041
    Supplies, furnishing: $756
    TOTAL (leaving out business expenses and $24283 income taxes): $51,498 :-0
    I targeted and am definitely doing better this year in the categories of entertainment, food, gas, and gifts

    • Reade January 28, 2020, 6:11 am

      Cool is this Toronto, if so you are doing very well especially since you still have a mortgage.

      • D.C. April February 1, 2020, 9:07 am

        Thanks, Reade! No, not Canada! Actually Salt Lake City now. It’s true, I could FIRE at will if I committed to MUCH humbler housing. I believe I would have to commit to no Teslas or extra nice bikes, too. :)

  • Nick January 27, 2020, 8:24 pm

    2020 will be the first year actively working to optimize my spending. I’ve put together a budget that projects about $19k in spending (excluding paying off the remaining balance on my car, which I am viewing as an investment with an 8% RoR), hopefully I’m able to stick to it!

    I’m going to calculate my spending at the end of each month and compare it to my projected budget, so I should notice any trends early enough to correct them in the first few months of the year.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Janiel Martell January 27, 2020, 8:25 pm

    Hi MMM, I’m rather young (20) and my career in tech just started.

    I come from a rather poor background and am absolutely terrified of debt and credit cards, why do you pay everything with them, do the benefits really matter that much at the end of the day?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2020, 9:17 pm

      I can see how this perspective would come about – credit card debt is a terrible thing!

      However, like most Mustachians I have never run a balance or paid interest on any credit card. To this type of person, a credit card is just a convenient way to aggregate purchases and have them automatically tracked. Plus, it’s necessary for most online shopping, which is the vast majority of my spending.

      The ideal solution would be if we all used debit cards, and they didn’t charge the huge 2.9% fee that credit cards currently charge to retailers. That would make everything cheaper, plus people would have no possible way of spending money they didn’t have – which I think is the way things should run on the consumer side of things. (I feel differently about things like business or public debt – bonds to fund big but profitable capital investment projects)

      • Janiel Martell January 28, 2020, 8:28 pm

        I currently live that “ideal” but am wondering about how this might affect me in the future. Given how I have no debt and no credit cards, I have no credit. Do you think it possible for me to live my life with no credit or is it an unrealistic expectation from my part?

        • Irina January 28, 2020, 11:50 pm

          Hi Janiel, if you live in the U.S., you should work on establishing credit history. It will help you qualify for loans (car loan or mortgage). When I bought my first car at age 19, I had one credit card and was paying it in full every month. However, I still had to get my mom to co-sign my car loan because the credit union said I didn’t have enough credit history. When I bought my next car 5-6 years later, I used the same lender, but did not need a cosigner because I had enough credit history. As far as credit cards go, find ones with cash back or some other incentives where the credit card company gives you money. Pay off credit cards in full every month.

        • Fergus January 29, 2020, 9:26 am

          I have paid cash for years. I use electronic checking to pay for utilities and monthly expenses. My debit card or cash is used for everything else.

          I opened two credit cards two years before I wanted to buy a house (with a mortgage) to establish my credit (for mortgage lending agencies). I spent about 2k on the cards and then immediately paid these off. :)

          I paid 20% down for my house and secured a 2.75%, 15-year mortgage (and I currently have 9 years left). These payments are linked to my checking account. My investments make much more than 2.75%, so it makes little sense for me to pay off the mortgage now.

          If I am ever uncomfortable with my mortgage debt, I can easily pay it off.

          Cheers, Fergus

        • Jason September 22, 2020, 3:52 pm

          You can live without a low credit score but it is harder and more expensive. Car insurance is more for people with a low score. Utilities will want deposits to turn on the power, water, etc. If you ever decide you want a car loan or mortgage those will cost more. It is hard to rent a house or apartment with a low score.

          It is easy to establish a good credit score. Get a credit card, set up a repeating bill using that card, and then set up auto pay from your bank to pay the credit card bill. Then put that card away and pretend you don’t have it if you are concerned you cannot use it responsibly.

      • Ishmael February 12, 2020, 5:53 am

        One technique I use is to pay off my credit card every week, and not wait for the monthly bill to come in. I found that I lost track of purchases over that period of time, and would get surprised too often for my comfort. Weekly works good for me though, and I frequently check the balance online too.

    • RichardP January 28, 2020, 1:14 pm

      I use a credit card whenever I possibly can and have been doing so for many years, even before cash-back rewards were as widespread. To me, the benefit is built-in tracking. When I get my credit card statements each month, I plug all the numbers into my finance software (I use Quicken) and it makes it so much easier to track. On the rare occasions that I use cash, I have to remember to make a note of the transaction.

      And, similar to MMM, I have never carried a balance or paid interest.

    • nadir January 28, 2020, 1:34 pm

      One other benefit. It’s pretty easy to get a credit card with no annual fee but still gives money back. If everything you buy costs 1-3% less just by choosing a different payment method, it’s an easy win.

      As MMM said, the key is to never carry a balance on it.

    • Rob January 28, 2020, 4:23 pm

      Hi Janiel,

      I commend you on joing FI and MMM so young. I wish I started when I was 20. I want to say a word of caution. When I got married my wife didn’t want a credit card because she got in trouble spending in the past and realized that debit cards or cash is best for her. I talked her into it and guess what? She knew herself and set up a good self rule and I messed it up. After lots of tearful conversations and such we canceled her card. So be careful. Rewards cards only work because some people can’t handle them and subsidize the rest. 1 month of missing a payment or paying interest will negate the whole year of benefits. So don’t feel like a failure if you have to work up to it! Good luck!

  • Kolhoznik January 27, 2020, 8:52 pm

    I don’t even track my expenses now. When I first stumbled on your website five years ago, I had around 10k net worth. As of now I consider myself financially independent with around 250k net worth for the family of three. Mine is more similar to Jacob Fisker’s 7k per year lifestyle. In this country it is super easy to save and invest a considerable amount of money on a regular and sometimes sporadical seasonal income. The most important thing is to never pay “official market prices” for anything, refuse to drive and ride bicycles for all errands. This give you a huge saving rate, the money is funneled into investments instead of buying stuff. What also helped me a lot is that we are immigrants from Russia. This gives me a great perspective, because people live there on 6k per year and believe me they still lead nice decent lives, that even includes travel. Besides, many, many things are much cheaper here than in other countries, but the income can be much greater here too.

  • Matt January 27, 2020, 9:45 pm

    Would you please go into a bit of detail on your eating out expenses being $910? With tax and tip that brings your food consumption to around $725. About how many times did you eat out all year? With a family of 4, one night out can easily cost $60, this would allow us to eat out about 15x a year. Did your eating out include your son and dates? Been following you for years and have enjoyed your insights and bluntness about our money habits. Still having a hard time reigning in the SO especially with food and travel.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 9:01 pm

      My son doesn’t like restaurants, so these meals were all just with friends. On average, in this situation you pay only for yourself because people tend to share these costs back and forth if they are not explicitly splitting the bill. So if my average bill is $30, it means I ate out an astonishing THIRTY TIMES this year. Probably more.

      This is way more than normal for me! (and for anyone with credit card debt or car loans, it should be about 30 times more than they go to restaurants until everything is paid off ;-))

  • Effsysbreak January 27, 2020, 9:45 pm

    Howdy, MMM!

    Glad to see you’ve done another year staying strong and car free, living as a fantastic role model for us all once more! I for one in 2019 have enjoyed the benefits of ending a relationship with a girlfriend that just couldn’t understand the FIRE movement no matter what I’d try (the first warning sign was her saying “you need to understand that $100 just isn’t THAT much money, so why do you care so much?”, a statement that left me completely speechless). Finding ANY good relationship is a very very hard thing to do, so look back on what you had with fondness, but don’t regret anything.

    While it’s obviously different for you because of your kid, and it’s fantastic that you are able to still have a very good relationship with the ex-missus, I will gladly welcome you back to the joyous and fun times of being single. There’s some damn good benefits — you can go anywhere to do anything at just about any time. The freedom itself is so exhilarating that sometimes on a Sunday morning I just stand back for a moment and bask in it, suddenly overwhelmed at the dizzying array of ways I can spend my time. It’s incredible. I can only dream of what freedom from employment is like on top of that… but at my 2019 savings rate of 69% (hehe), I needn’t dream for more than another 5 or 6 years at most!

    I want to thank you again for showing us all that regardless of the circumstances, you can make your own future, and live a full and luxurious lifestyle without paying obscene amounts of money for it. All it takes is a little thinking. I forget who said it, but the best quote I heard in 2019 was “spending money to solve a problem in your life indicates a complete failure of imagination to come up with a better way to solve it”. Keep doing you, and don’t give into the temptation of buying a Model Y — as much as you believe in the mission, it’s very important to some of your readers that you show you can get it done EVEN BETTER without one. The ultimate environmentally and financially friendly decision is to not consume the product at all.

    BTW, It’s very bizarre being in the space that I’m in. In your “roaring 2020s” article, you mentioned how Longmont was “trapped in the 1980s” and all that, yet here I sit in a small town in Texas where I’ve gotten dip (tobacco) cans and beer cans thrown at me (let alone all the times I’ve gotten “coal rolled”) on the road for riding my bike to work before. There are times I get weak and drive my 81 MPG Chevy to work, but I’ll regain the courage after a little while. I think your little town is a lot better than you might think, and your perspective might be skewed by being so close to Boulder…

    • Becca Niederkrom January 28, 2020, 1:21 pm

      omg, whomever you are, I love this comment to MMM so much. I am a Dallasite that gave up my car and the way people respond to that here, I believe that they think I am the devil. Bizarro world. =)

      • Effsysbreak February 4, 2020, 8:24 pm

        Based on your other comment, it looks like you live in Richardson/Plano. Must be nice having bike paths! I do like that area as far as DFW suburbs are concerned. I would balk at the rent prices around there, though! My town is a good deal further into the country (towards Texarkana), which means it’s inexpensive to live in, albeit rather poor relative to even lower-class Dallas suburbs.

        You’d think Dallas would be an excellent city to make bikeable, since it’s reasonably flat, but alas… it’s certainly one of the most cycling hostile big cities that I’ve been to. Gasoline being stupidly cheap ($1.89/gallon out where I live these days) certainly doesn’t help, although you would think maybe this would be a good time to raise fuel taxes to improve the suspension-eating condition of some of the state roads.

  • Donovan Walker January 27, 2020, 10:45 pm

    Great post! Long-time lurker. Thinking on the Model Y – DO NOT get it in 2020. When I read your post about being close to buying a Model 3, I’d *just* ordered one. My thoughts were the same as yours, except I had a 30-mile each way commute, so I bought one (I had to extend my definition of responsibility from that of “financial responsibility” to “responsibility to the planet” to get over the hump. And, frankly, though all my previous vehicles were bought at the junkyard or with 80K+ miles, I have no regrets)

    Why you shouldn’t get the Y *yet* – the short version is that it’s short on range. I have the long-range 3, and it’s an amazing road-trip car, but there have been a couple situations in cross-country driving where it’s only _just_ gotten me where I need to go. In 10 years with 20% battery degradation I’ll be sitting by the side of the road or taking a more charge-full route.

    The Y, even in long-range form doesn’t go quite as far as the 3.

    Recently there have been hints at a larger battery pack for the 3 (and that implies the same for the Y).. a battery pack with 33% more capacity (75->100kwh) imagine a Y with a 400 mile range. That’s definitely worth waiting an extra year for.



    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 8:56 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement, Donovan!

      I must admit that my Tesla sentence was really just sensationalism – what possible use could I have for a Tesla in the next year when I only drive a few hundred miles per year?

      BUT, a couple of corrections: Tesla batteries are usually much better than that. I rented a 2013 Model S (far older technology, 7 years old, with a super high 85,000 miles on the odometer, and hit had lived most of its life in HOT Florida) – still had 98% of its original rated range on its first battery pack. And that was only the 60 kWh pack, which is subject to more cycling. Oh, and the owner had done almost entirely supercharging, which also increases wear. This is a fairly typical situation with Tesla batteries – they last forever!

      Second, at 315 miles rated range, the model Y is good for about 4-5 hours of highway driving between stops. I am perfectly fine with stopping for 25 minutes for a stretch at this interval. Sure, I’d prefer a 3000 mile range so I could cross the whole continent without thinking about fuel, but 315 is already very practical.

      I’m only mentioning this because I don’t think anyone ELSE should wait for a Tesla, if they can afford it and are currently wasting gas in an antique pollution car.

      Also, Teslas allow battery upgrades and they are very reasonably priced. Just trade in your old pack if a new one comes out and you are feeling wealthy and strong-bladdered :-)

  • Paul January 28, 2020, 2:12 am

    Wow, $24/mo on electricity.
    Here (in NZ) we have to pay more than that just on a ‘lines charge’ – basically the cost of simply being connected. As for consumption, there’s a large fridge/freezer that eats $50/mo all on its own (fan cooling the small radiator, rather than passive). I’d ditch the thing if it would only break down.

    I am also lusting for a model Y, or dropping my sights to a 3 if the price is too rich for my tastes. Lets face it, they’re both too rich for my tastes, but Tesla has got right into my dreams and my psyche.

    Anyway, I mostly want to report a similar issue I’ve had with actually cutting the frugal habit. I’ve been decades in saving mode, and it’s proving to be a very slow process to break that habit. Every potential expense (wish/want) goes through a mental filter still, which typically results in me rejecting the impulse purchase.

    There’s also been the issue of realizing I’d got so wound up in the habit of saving and investing for my future, that I overlooked the potential to revise my retirement goal line. I chucked almost everything into very long term investments, when I could have realized that I’d already hit a point of having enough, and investing more was only pushing my eventual point of being cash rich to a more distant point. If I’d drawn a halt to my investing earlier I could have quit my job sooner.

    I guess the take home point from this for any other wannabe FIRE folk is to constantly reassess your needs and your total assets as you go through those decades of working and saving.
    I’m spending LESS now that I no longer go to work. Those daily work and commuting costs (petrol, parking, lunch), although less than $15/day, still added up to a significant drain. Other work costs (training, registration, clothing) while still relatively small also seemed to play a surprising role in supressing my savings… something I was only able to appreciate once I’d escaped these expenses.

  • Calvin Ong January 28, 2020, 5:16 am

    Awesome spending breakdown. Personally I would still recommend yearly health and dental check ups just to catch anything in the early stages.

  • Terry January 28, 2020, 6:13 am

    I might be missing something, but I think your total is $20,003 not $21,470.

  • Xailter January 28, 2020, 7:01 am

    Wow that’s some really low numbers (converting back to £ for me). Housing seems really cheap in the U.S. (aside from big cities obviously). If I could clear my mortgage I could probably live on less than you but argh… UK house prices are so high! Would you recommend keep socking money into the stock market or paying off a mortgage right now?

    All the best,

  • RafaelG January 28, 2020, 7:05 am

    Hi MMM, I was wondering how you figure that “if someone really lived on a level of retirement income to cover even twice this level of spending they would pay no tax.”.

    The way I see it, a single person with no children, who needed to spend $42,940 (2x $21,470) would need about $50,000 in income. This is assuming MA flat tax rate of 5% (I know it would be different in other states but the results are somewhat negligible).

    Wages: $50,000
    Standard deduction: $12,000
    Taxable income: $38,000
    10% Tax rate up to $9700: -970
    12% tax rate remaining $28,300: – 3396
    5.05% MA tax: -2525

    Net: $43,109, $6810 paid in taxes (as compared to $42940 in spending).

    Am I doing something wrong?

    • Brianne February 9, 2020, 9:22 pm

      He’s assuming all your income is coming from your stock investments. If you’re only selling stocks held more than 1 year (qualifying as long term gains), you can pay 0% tax on up to $40,000 of income for a single filer. And that’s just for the gains, so your total usable cash from selling the stocks will be higher than $40k. State and local taxes typically don’t have this favorable treatment of long term gains, so yes, it wouldn’t be totally tax free, since you would still need to pay your MA taxes. There are a half dozen or so states that don’t have an income tax though, so it is possible for the money to be totally tax free.

    • Madeline February 12, 2020, 6:57 am

      My husband and I retired 7 years ago at age 59. We have no real tax bill because our investments and Social security pay for most of our bills plus travel (we don’t travel much and we go cheaply when we do..). We have not had to take any $ out of our IRA’s yet. We’ve always been frugal by nature so we managed to save along the way. We rented out a vacation cabin we owned, till we sold it last year (we weren’t using it anymore, since after quitting work we did not need to escape so often!!)..and my husband has a side hustle business where we make some extra $$ but can write off quite a bit as we have a home office… so, our tax bill has been almost zero in retirement. Years ago we had set a goal of paying off our mortgage so we have very low living expenses.Here in Arizona our property tax is very low, but other expenses are going up some.. I pay considerably more for utilities than MMM! We do a lot of road trips so we do keep one car, an SUV that we use often, we don’t use bicycles much. We allow ourselves to “splurge “ on stuff that’s really fun/important to use: I spend $100 a week on groceries, as cooking is a hobby and we LOVE good meals, but hate restaurants.. We also upgraded a few things around the house this past year such as a new refrig and a new mattress. We have an older hot tub that we use DAILY,often TWICE A DAY and had to do some expensive repairs on it this year.. but my husband checked out YouTube and so it only costs us for parts.. a frugal retirement that’s also abundant and FUN with little or no tax is entirely possible!! I use a lot of MMM ideas but some are not a good fit so we do it our way. Great blog!!!

  • John January 28, 2020, 7:23 am

    Great post. It’s good to see you living large on a relatively small budget! And yeah, those teens eat a LOT!

    I agree with much of those choices… but two questions about health insurance, specifically immunizations. Your kid is of the age when they’re still getting immunizations. And you’d also need boosters and things like the flu shot. For years I refused to get these things because I had a similar healthy lifestyle. But a doc friend convinced me that it’s more about the herd immunity. Libertarianism aside, I was being selfish by not getting them.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 30, 2020, 9:03 pm

      Yes, we definitely follow the full immunization program, of course! Science is real stuff and vaccines are the biggest reason that human lifespans have expanded so much in the last century.

  • Tina January 28, 2020, 7:52 am

    Thank you for sharing your perspective on CHOICES. This is something I’m currently working hard to instill in my 14 year old daughter while avoiding perceived judgement (much more difficult when communicating with a teenager!) She constantly makes comments about how boring I am because all I do is save money vs other friends/family who enjoy frequent shopping, eating out, constant electronic upgrades, and the latest fad shoe. I hope someday she’ll see the benefit in my choice and the options it provides, but for now I’m happy to have the confirmation that she’s acutely aware of how much money goes into savings vs spending – a sign she’s listening!

    I am honored to say I was able to enjoy some of that free beer at the HQ and one of those sporadic nights out after for a sandwich (still can’t believe Carl ate that grape jam with jalapeno thing!) so thank you for sharing a bit of your life!

    As for me, my spending seems to hover right around the $50K mark (including taxes) with groceries being my highest category. I’ve come to accept that I’m ok spending more in this area though because I enjoy trying new recipes and cooking up big concoctions a few times a week. Also, I brought this way down one year by decreasing the amount of convenience food available to teenagers both for health and cost, and I discovered this just drives them to eat crap elsewhere. I would much rather use some food like substance (ie – ramen) to entice them to hang around our house a little more often as the days are dwindling the older they get! My estimates show a $25-$30K spending rate when I’m no longer working a corporate gig and my daughter gets to start making her own adult choices.

    • TC February 2, 2020, 12:40 pm


      100% agree as parents we should be teaching our kids critical thinking skills and the ability to understand that the more CHOICES they create for themselves, the less boxed in they will be in life. It is hard. Sometimes I feel like all the little lessons fall on deaf ears. Especially in the teenage years where acceptance of peers is so important. I have a wise friend whose children are now out of the house. Her motto is “keep shoving good things in and they will eventually start coming out”. Two examples of this:

      #1) I gave my boys allowance equivalent to their age from the time they were 5 (5 yrs = $5/ week etc.). For years I wondered if this was a good strategy. Over the years we spent hours in the toy section of our grocery store each week having conversations about whether buying cheap toys now or saving for more desired toys was the best CHOICE. Sometimes they made what I thought was a good choice, sometimes not. One day on the way home from the store my then 10 yr old said “Mom, commercials lie to you don’t they? They tell you if you buy the toy you will be happy and that the toy will do more than it really does”. From that day on he has been, in general, a saver. He shops sales, looks for used items etc.

      #2) There is a certain shoe that is ‘hot’ with the teens right now. Youngest son desperately wants a pair. We told him we would give a reasonable amount for shoes equivalent to what we normally spend. He had to come up with the difference between that and the ABSURD $300 the shoes cost. We didn’t tell him no but asked him to consider the CHOICES he had available to him. Take us up on the reasonable shoe or work the next several weekends to buy the $300 pair. In the end, his older brother (see example #1) encouraged him to see if the same shoe was on ebay. It was…for $100. Shoes were slightly used with one very small stain. 14 year old thought his options for several hours before deciding his CHOICE would be to work to pay the difference between what we would fund and the $100 ebay shoes. He is very happy with them and I am happy with his CHOICE.

      As parents, we can dictate spending or teach good decision making. Sometimes it feels like we are failing. Being able to make good CHOICES when we are not around will serve our kiddos well in life. In more ways than just spending!

      Just “keep shoving good things in”.

      • Tina February 5, 2020, 2:35 pm

        What great examples; thanks for sharing and well done! I live for those little statements when you know a little of the stuff you shove in comes back out at some point :)

  • Mrs NoDoubtFIRE January 28, 2020, 7:55 am

    One of the points you make I agree with 100%: we need to be more willing to talk about money! I’ve started the dialogue with my sister and it’s been very eye-opening – she’s been sitting on a huge stash of cash for years because she doesn’t know where to start with investing! She wanted to wait until she had a certain amount before going to an advisor for help. Thankfully, by having conversations we can help the people we love make better decisions for their future.

    I only started tracking my spending as of last year. I would get super excited about it and then it would peter out around March. I’ve used the graph suggesting in Your Money or Your Life, I’ve tried Mint, Excel and regular old pen and paper. None of it was particularly inspiring, so I’m trying a new method: after taking out my rent costs, I know I have $600 for the month to spend on everything else in order for me to save 40% of my pay. I simply subtract expenditures from that $600 and voila! For some reason this has just been a better fit for me. Thanks for another great post, my husband and I always appreciate them.

  • Stella January 28, 2020, 7:58 am

    Thanks for everything, Mr. Money Mustache. Read your blog straight through in 2019, when we woke up to the fact that we had a serious money problem. While I grew up with parents who were wise and frugal with money, I somehow missed the life lesson. Thanks in large part to your blog, and remembering my roots, the debt that’s been crushing us for more than a decade will be gone by this spring. The whole process has changed our lives in ways we never expected. Best of luck to you in 2020, MMM. Our family’s future looks bright, thanks to people like you.


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