Frugality as a Value

in Blog, Retirement

I attended my first big MMM meetup in my hometown of Ottawa in July. It was a lot of fun to gather together with so many like minded individuals. Many folks didn’t recognize me and would later see my name tag and say: “Oh! You’re Mrs. Money Mustache!” Yes, I suppose I am.

I spoke with a lot of men and women that night and had some really interesting conversations. Many women wanted to know how I dealt with urges to buy clothing. Everyone wanted to know if I ever felt deprived.

The clothing question is an interesting one – I’ll come back to that another time, but ultimately, it’s similar to the question about deprivation.┬áDid I ever feel deprived? Do I feel deprived now? Surprisingly, the answer is no.

At first, I wasn’t sure why that was… It’s not something I had thought about much. But, as I sit here and ponder this question, I can come up with a few different reasons as to why I felt perfectly happy saving money.

There were two of us saving

Having two adults in one household brings down many costs, most notably housing costs. We shared a mortgage on a $240,000 house and we shared a lot of other things too, like all kinds of household goods. Since MMM and I met early (we were only 19!) we didn’t have much stuff when we moved in together.

We had a common (albeit lofty) goal

Our goals and dreams were big. We wanted kids and we wanted to stay home with them – we wanted BOTH of us to stay home with them. We didn’t know much about retirement at the time, but we had done the math and knew that it was possible. That, in itself, was super exciting. Once we had a common goal, there was no stopping us.

Our income averaged $61,700 each over a 9-year period

This is a pretty high salary. I realize that now, although at the time, it did seem “normal” to us since we were surrounded by people making the same amount of money as us, often more.

We were optimistic

MMM and I were very confident about Retirement. We just did it and somehow knew it would work out. Now that I can see what we did through other people’s eyes, it may seem like we didn’t think of every possible problem that might come up. It’s true – we didn’t. We were just optimistic. I felt the same way when we decided to have a child. I wasn’t ready. You can never be ready to become a parent. You just do it and know that things will work out and that you have the confidence to take care of issues as they arise. If you consider all the “what ifs”, you become paralyzed with indecision.

We were young*

We started saving at a young age, which meant we didn’t have time to get used to all the trappings of a high consumption lifestyle. My “normal” will never include having a housekeeper or flying first class.

I had a frugality and lifestyle coach at my disposal 24/7

MMM was always there, reminding me of the goal. He inspired me to bike to work in the mornings (and I was always glad I did), he made everyday things fun, he made me feel special without buying me stuff, he showed me how to do it and still be happy. He was always excited and optimistic about his plans and that excitement was infectious.

We weren’t missing out on anything

We still went out with our friends, mostly did the same stuff they did, and had just as much fun. We just made slightly different choices when we were out and also in private. We started spending more time with people that enjoyed the same things we did.

Our goals and our values matched

Ultimately, this was the biggest reason that saving became easy and continues to be easy. Our savings goals match our core values. Even without trying to save too much, we were probably spending $40,000 per year. That included our mortgage. Essentially, we were spending my salary (which averaged $40,400 per year over nine years) and saving MMM’s salary (averaging $83,000 per year).

We felt like we were spending a lot. We were spending a lot by some people’s standards. But all those little decisions were adding up to be a lot less than our peers. Why is that? How were we able to make those decisions more easily than others?

We valued our freedom, our health, and the environment above all else. Saving money naturally follows. I’m not talking about buying gym memberships and purchasing environmentally friendly products. When you value your health, you go outside more, ride your bike to work, cook food at home, and you take care of your body by not abusing it. When you value the environment, you don’t buy stuff unless you really need it, you drive as little as possible, you think about how your decisions affect the earth and affect others, you become more interested in donating money and time to causes you care about.

In retrospect, I see this relationship between our values and our savings so clearly. I was on board with my health and the environment from the beginning. The freedom part was hard to grasp at first. What does it mean to buy my freedom? Will that future life really be better? For me, it took visualizing having the freedom to care for our children together to really get on board. For you, it might be something else: time with family, traveling, doing work that you love that doesn’t pay very much, or helping others.

What are your values? Are they in line with your spending or do they often derail your savings?


* Pat Benatar will be in my head all day

Using Your Addictions for Good

in Blog, Life, Retirement

Oh hi there… I had kind of forgotten I had a blog. I was considering not posting anymore, but now I see that people have actually been visiting. Sadly, there hasn’t been much for them to read.

You see, I am a starter. I get excited, I start things, and then they die. Everything is always so fantastic in my own head. I’m sure it’s a pretty common occurrence among humans. I also have a bit of an addictive personality. I need focus and outside influence.

I’m learning this about myself in my so-called Retirement. I’m learning about my habits. I’m learning that my addictive personality is most likely just the fact that I’m a creature of habit. I can ignore most everything around me and just keep doing what I’m doing. This makes me fairly adaptable, which can be a good thing, but it can also make me lazy.

In a way, these simple habits turn into addictions: I have a hard time walking past my office without stopping at my computer. I have a hard time not checking my e-mail on my phone every morning. I have difficulty keeping my office clean. I could get used to something (like a broken toilet, for example) and never bother to get it fixed. When I clean, which is rare, I do it compulsively. I sometimes do the same things over and over.

MMM is the exact opposite. Not working is easy for him. He has goals, dreams, things to do, places to go, people to see! Yeah, he gets in a funk sometimes like we all do, but he does something about it right away. I would happily sit around all day not getting anything accomplished. I like being alone. It makes me happy. Or does it?

Nope. It turns out it doesn’t make me happy at all.

If you’re the same way as me, the solution is simple: use your addictions for good. It takes a little while to figure out, but it works. I quickly became addicted to Crossfit. I now have a lifetime of fitness ahead of me. I can learn things quickly, because I become so engrossed in them – using my addictive personality for good, I can get through a ton of Spanish duolingo courses or obsessively learn the guitar. I can learn to make a Thesis theme or learn Sketch Up from scratch. I can get engrossed in the most minute details of learning until I perfect something. I can become a master of anything if I apply the right focus over time.

I can also shed my addictions very quickly. Two weeks away from my computer and I’m cured – I never need to look at another screen again. On the flipside, two weeks away from Crossfit and I never need to do another deadlift again.

Because of my addictions (ie. electronic devices), I’ve learned that I need to start my day off with an outdoor activity in order to have a productive day. That resets my rhythm away from technology and towards nature and exercise.

I need a daily schedule. I know exactly what it should look like. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I follow it, but some good things are happening:

– I exercise regularly
– I eat healthy, even though I am still a lazy cook
– I make my bed every morning
– I never use my phone when I’m out (thanks Airvoice! lack of data plan is just what I needed)

It’s a work in progress… our lives are a work in progress. But taking the time to figure this stuff out is important. I may never figure it out completely, but knowing myself is important to me and to my relationships with others.

Don’t know what to do when you retire? Can’t imagine life without a 9-5 job? You may need to go through this exercise too. Give yourself some time off and see what happens – you may learn that you’re more interesting and complex than you think.