7 Lessons from Mr. Money Mustache

One part of my enjoyment in life is thinking about things I can learn from other people. It’s probably why I enjoy reading so much, and even finding things that my nieces and nephews can teach me things as well as my own daughters.  This is true for the good people online too.

My favorite blogger might be Mr. Money Mustache or MMM who writes about “financial freedom through badassity.”  I’m not in the vicinity of financial freedom or even facing that direction, but the things he writes about strike a cord with me in almost every post.  Last Saturday morning I was the first one up and while the girls slept and I enjoyed my coffee and read through the MMM archives.  I came away with seven ideas where our experiences overlapped and like a coach correcting a basketball player’s footwork, MMM’s writing took my understanding a bit further.

Don’t buy things you already have

MMM writes on a laptop missing the ‘B’ key. I was thinking of this recently when I listed to John Gruber’s podcast and his discussion about Apple buying Beats. Gruber’s angle was to think about what Beats had that Apple didn’t have, because “you don’t buy what you already have.”  This led to my thoughts about not buying any clothes last year and some small recent purchases of things I probably don’t need. I was also thinking about getting a new computer, even though my ‘B’ still works fine. It was good to think about what upcoming purchases might fall into this category.

Chores pay “double-time”

MMM writes, “Some people complain about the time it takes to ride a bike to work, or to mow their own lawn or create a garden. But they don’t realize that these things actually take no time at all, because they come with free exercise.”  It’s the spring season here in Ohio and that means that my pent up energies from winter are looking for any project and boy, do we have some projects. While mowing the yard I was struck with a bit of project fatigue, thinking that maybe I could pay the neighborhood kids to mow for me until I remembered why working is good.  Here are a few instances of double-time

  • Raking mowed grass = exercise + garden fertilizer
  • Washing dishes by hand = cleaning dishes + meditation
  • Mowing the grass = good looking yard + time alone + meditation
  • Riding our bikes to school = exercise + time for podcasts + moving kids from point A to B.

After writing this post I’m going to start moving 500 sqft of pavers from piles in our yard to a trailer and then back into piles.  Very good exercise.

Being around good people matters

A key point of the MMM lifestyle is anti-consumerism. A long time ago MMM found that it’s not the things in your life that make you happy, it’s the people. This is proved to me at every campfire I’ve ever been at.  For Easter we traveled to the east coast and visited with family and it was a wonderful trip. We also went to my brother’s wedding, a friends birthday party, and had a weekend without the kids in Columbus Ohio. The common theme for each trip was being around people I love being around.

Detach from your lifestyle

Unsurprisingly, MMM’s writings line up with other philosophers I enjoy like Seneca and his view of stoicism.  Each of these men writes about testing yourself to remember that you aren’t defined by and don’t depend on, the things around you.  Seneca, despite having great wealth would sleep on a cot without a blanket to remind himself that one day he may  not have everything he had now and it would be all right.  MMM will occasionally write a post about what would happen if his “fancy-pants” lifestyle were wiped out and he was no longer a millionaire. It’s made me consider taking some similar actions, thinking about how to test my own.

When starting over, start from zero

In an interview with Jesse the founder of You Need a Budget Founder, MMM takes his badassity view of the world one step farther than what even frugal Jesse is thinking.  When the two are discussing how you can adjust your budget, Jesse suggests tearing things away to a $100 a month level and then adding things back to that point.   MMM though says to think in terms of 0. Get creative and think about how you could have a $0/month food, internet, or clothing budget. His ideas include being a work-hand or living with family and doing housework in exchange for food.  These may be extremes but it’s in these extremes that the creative solutions lay.  The secret sauce to the extremes is that our own limitations and biases don’t want to go there.

My only domain is the six inches between my ears

In his new book, Ryan Holiday tells the story of Vietnam POW. In The Council of Dads, Bruce Feiler writes about father who will teach his daughters things if his cancer is terminal. In each of these instances the subjects have discovered that the only thing we really control is what we think.  I can’t control the stock market, crime rates in Chicago, or whether or not my kids clean up their rooms when I ask – for the third time.  I don’t let these things bother me, and instead start to find solutions to the immediate things in my life.  For the kids, we’ve instituted a rule that before any screens get turned on for the day, their rooms must be picked up.  It’s a system that works.  MMM shares his thinking in “How Big is Your Circle of Control.”

I can’t fail at life

That’s not to say their won’t be failures, but in life I can’t fail. I’m thirty-two years old and have completed college.  I don’t do any drugs and I’ve never been convicted of a felony.  The worst case scenario for me is finding a  job making $30,000 a year.  James Altucher and Chris Brogan talk about this and Brogan says that, failing at life is an irrational fear that most people have. MMM writes about this when he talks about his life resetting and him having to go back to work. What if MMM woke up broke?

Do you read MMM? I would love to hear what you’ve learned, @MikeDariano.



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