Confessions of a Bad Mustachian

A brief introduction before we begin: Mr. Money Mustache is arguably one of the biggest names in the FIRE sphere. He retired at the age of 33 and has been writing his blog for the last 6 years. You can find him at www.mrmoneymustache.com.

Mr. Money Mustache, or as I and many others know him, Pete, is in the top 5 of most influential people in my life. Right up there with my favorite teachers, Girl Scout leaders and camp counselors, and former managers.

I first found Pete's blog sometime around my junior year of college (2011-2012 ish). To say it immediately blew my mind is a very mild understatement.

He literally changed the course of my entire life for the better.

If I hadn't found his site, chances are I wouldn't have stumbled across this financial independence world until much later. Who knows how many dumb mistakes I would've made before that!

Funny neither of us have changed much in 2 years!

I met Pete in the very-tanned-flesh for the first time at my first Chautauqua. You can read the linked post above for a quick over view of why the trip was so amazing, and get a small inkling of the reasons I'm eagerly awaiting this year's Chautauqua!

He was a big part of why I enjoyed the trip so much. Everyone who goes on the trip gets a one-on-one with one of the “Big Bloggers/Speakers”. Mine was with Pete. We went over all my financials, talked about future plans and what I should do in a few different scenarios, and then spent the rest of the time gossiping like little old ladies about various things in life.

I was a little over 2 years into my FI life at that point. Having someone, let alone Mr. Money Mustache himself, review my finances and help me plan for the future was HUGE. It was all the validation I needed and more to keep going with this crazy financial independence idea.

He has impacted so many different aspects of my life that I'm not sure I can list them all [but of course I'm going to give it a shot anyways]. Note that these all fall under the blanket of things I'm doing to work towards early retirement.

Housing

I was heavily influenced to live close to work to lessen the costs of gas, maintenance, and wear and tear on the car. I have picked out housing for 4 different locations now, and none of them were further than 3 miles away from the office, with the exception of my current place but we'll cover that later. Why would I live so close to work? So I can bike there!

Biking

I have a beautiful Cannondale Quick bicycle. Her name is Jacqueline, or Jack for short since you know, Jack be nimble, Jack be Quick! Hah puns are the best. I rode my bike to the gym, to work, and even over to the nearby state park to run instead of driving over there. I probably wouldn't have done so without his guidance and examples that it can actually be done.

Bodyweight Fitness

That whole “ride my bike to the state park” thing was another way I was influenced. Why pay for a gym membership to run on a treadmill when I have a thickly wooded, rolling 208 acre tract of land to run around for free? Now that I no longer live there, I instead bike up to the nearby outdoor fitness set at the park and work out there.

DIY

Seeing his posts on all the work he's done to his house, other people's houses, and his backyard studio inspires me to do my own handiwork. With my house being old, there's a lot of work to be done on it! Unfortunately it's not in the best shape, so I'm paying other people to get it back into good shape and then I will maintain it from there. This one might actually be more of a wash at this point.

Car

My practical self bought my 2005 Pontiac Vibe even before I knew it was listed on Pete's Top 10 Cars List. It goes to show you, though, how Pete's philosophy on life enhances my view on life. If I hadn't found his site chances are high I would've bought a new car 1 or 2 years after graduation, instead of keeping my trusty car for as long as is practical. I've also done a lot of DIY maintenance on the car whereas before I would've just left it at a shop and paid someone else to do it. YouTube is a wonderful thing!

I think that about concludes the list of things I've changed in my life because of his influence.

Pete's unique take on FI is known as Mustachianism. It goes from people who use it in some areas, like me, to people who live and breathe everything he says. Those on the latter end of the scale can be more than a bit fanatical. (Some people- including Pete- joke he's created a cult). The vast majority of Mustachians I've met in real life have been very cool, very interesting, and very laid back.

Not so much in the comments of his articles.

Good thing I was ready for it!

It became readily apparent after reading his latest article Houston Attorney Thrives on Doing the Impossible – Daily that there are still some things I disagree on.

AC

I am a huge fan of AC. Stepping inside a cool NOT COLD house is the best feeling on a day that is 98 degrees with 90 percent humidity for a heat index well into the hundreds. Fun random fact, the dew point in the Midwest gets pushed up several degrees by all the corn drying out later in the summer. I learned that a few years ago and it totally made sense.

Anyways, my point is, it's gets gross around here. I literally cannot sleep sometimes without AC. I'm not a Stoic by any means. I appreciate being able to continue my life in cool comfort during the apex of the summer.

Same goes for AC in the car, minus the sleeping thing. Having your window down on the interstate at 70+ mph is a sure way to go deaf.

Speaking of…….

Car

“Wait wasn't this further up?” Yep.

Funny how you can agree and disagree on a point. One of Pete's catch phrases is “clown cars”. He does not like it when people drive.

The floor enjoys AC too.

My response? Too damn bad.

I live approximately 12 miles from work. I can get there in roughly 20 minutes driving my air conditioned car. The route to bike to work is roughly 14 miles long, covers nearly 300 feet of elevation drops AND gains, and would take well over an hour.

Part of the bike route is on a bike path….. but that's if it's not flooded or closed due to a major road construction project happening over it.

My job is also something that prevents me from biking. I go where my users are, and that means if they're doing something offsite, chances are I am too. Which means traveling from one location to another. Not something they're willing to let me take so much time for, and not something I want to do attired in professional clothing in weather that could range from -10 plus windchill to 100+ degrees.

Mr. Money Mustache lives in a temperate area of Colorado. It's usually very dry, sunny, and doesn't get too cold in the winter despite having a mountain range in his figurative backyard. If they do get snow, it's gone a few short days later.

Us sorry schmucks that live in the Midwest often have snow linger around the entire winter. We can go an entire week without seeing the sun due to snow/rain/general gloom.

“Gwen why don't you just move closer to work so you can ride your bike?”

I live and work in two different states. One of the states is a financial mess with high taxes. I save more by living in the other state and driving in every day than I could if I lived close and biked in.

“So….. where does this leave you now?”

It leaves me unashamedly driving to work everyday.

When I finish up this chapter of my life, I will be sure to move to a walkable area with better weather.

Until then, I'll continue to be a “complainy-pants, ‘soggy' Millennial”!

To those of you who reached out after seeing the comment section of MMM's article, I really appreciate the words of support! It's nice to know I'm not alone in this arena! 🙂

Are you a bad Mustachian? Let me know in the comments!

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54 thoughts on “Confessions of a Bad Mustachian

  1. Oh lawd, this is so good to hear. I’ve always been a naughty Mustachian with my cars and A/C. I do get his point, but I mean, c’mon. In Texas A/C ain’t an option, Pete. Lol. 🙂

    But I do like his no-nonsense attitude; I think that’s what makes his approach so effective. You can’t save money if you’re making excuses all the time, after all. I think we just took his approach and molded it to fit our own lives. Thanks, Pete! 🙂
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…Life Insurance: Scam or Lifeline?My Profile

    • I’ve been in Texas in the summer with limited access to A/C and it sucked. Definitely not an option there!

      After all, doing somethings like he says is better than doing no things like he says!

  2. MMM wouldn’t be MMM if he said “Oh, that’s cool, Gwen. Your unique situation permits you to sidestep your badassity until retirement”.

    His voice is there to constantly challenge us and raise our awareness that we can ALWAYS do better and that if we don’t, that is our choice and that we need to own the consequences. No complaining!

    I have two dogs that are a significant financial burden, but I wouldn’t swap them for anything in the world. Joy and love trumps money. And that is my choice! And at the end of the day, I think Pete cares more about happiness than finances. 🙂

    • That’s a fair point. Only by being so harsh online in his MMM persona can he get people to think. For me at this stage in my life it would be tough for me to do much better. I could probably find one or two areas to improve but I’m not sure the effort is worth it.

      ARGH. You just made me remember I was going to include pets and paper napkins in my list. I love my floof and I’m so happy he’s here with me…. even if he costs me money 🙂

  3. MMM was also our first exposure to the FI world a little over a year and a half ago. I tried to be a “good” mustachian by keeping the thermostat set higher in the summer and waiting as long as possible to turn the heat on in the winters. I started riding my bike to work and I even made a clothes drying rack that mounts to the wall to use instead of our dryer.

    Since then I’ve really only stuck with riding my bike to work as I was a avid cyclist before finding MMM. Even though I guess that makes me a “bad” mustachian, we still are on track to be able to retire in 15-16 years without any extra income from side hustles. These last couple of months have been slow though since we have reduced retirement contributions in order to pay off my car loan in a couple of months. Not to mention we are moving next week to make it our second move in the last 4 months. 😐

    • Yeah! Bad Mustachians unite! I don’t hang my clothes to dry either. I don’t like how they dry stiff even though I don’t use fabric softener. 2 moves in 4 months is rough! I did something similar and I wasn’t a fan.

  4. I no longer drive but I do have access to my husband’s car anytime we go on a long trip. I don’t bike and don’t really plan to bike (because I’m terrified of it!) I know too many people who have died biking in the city. Maybe I need to let go of that fear. He best thing about Pete is what another commenter said, he doesn’t let you get away with excuses. Sometimes it can make him seem abrasive but having met him in person as well, he’s not. So jealous you’re going to Chautauqua again and wish I was going with you!!
    Millennial Boss recently posted…What 90s Movies From My Childhood Taught Me About MoneyMy Profile

    • I read in the news yesterday another biker was killed in my town. People around here do not look out for bicyclists and it can get downright scary.

      Pete the person and Mr. Money Mustache are two different people. I could get offended at the name calling but I know why he’s doing it so it doesn’t bother me. Now if he calls me soggy in person, we gonna have issues haha

  5. In thinking about it, I am not the best Mustachian by any stretch. I find having a family makes it tough. I sometimes joke if it were just me I could decide to live in a box and eat KD until I had all debt paid off and lots of money saved, but once you have a family you are making decisions for other people and not just yourself. Plus, kids are really expensive!!! We don’t spend much money on toys or other frivolous ‘stuff’ but piano lessons, swimming, basketball, tennis, martial arts, and other random activities add up really fast. There is value though I feel in having them involved in things, and my eldest in particular would choose to spend his time reading and writing rather than being active, so being enrolled in activities ensures he gets a good amount of exercise. If you have a spouse who is not down with the process it is a real challenge. My spouse and I have managed to ‘meet in the middle’ with regard to money (she would spend more, I would save more) and so we are making progress but sometimes not as much as I would like. I do spend a lot on martial arts lessons/fitness, which for a pure Mustachian might be a no-go, but I feel I get great value for it and it is my physical and mental outlet. Someday I hope to recoup that money by abandoning my current desk job and teaching martial arts, so I can justify it that way maybe. 🙂

    Ultimately, if you are spending a bit of money in ways that you really appreciate and enjoy, I see nothing wrong with that. It’s the mindless spending (buying coffee every day just because, buying things you don’t really need, buying clothes when you have 3 closets full, etc) that we should all look at cutting out.

    • I’m glad it’s just me at this point in life. I can do whatever I want. Sleep in? Done. Go visit friends in Vegas over 4th of July? Done! No need to explain or justify to anyone but myself. It also means I’m the one in charge of results and there are no excuses come the end of the month. It’s all on me to not visit Starbucks or buy my lunch at work too many times!

  6. Girl, you know how I feel about the car thing. I totally saw you get ripped and I felt for ya! I am not showing up to work a hot mess and flying around on planes for 12 hours. That being said, I try my best not to use her when I am home. Now that the ice and snow are gone I have been riding my bike more but for certain things (like transporting bubs) the bike isn’t an option. All that being said, and I think you can agree, the message Pete sends is environmentally sound. I try my best to offset my lifestyle in other ways such as being vegetarian, walking a ton, and never ever using the single use bars of soap in the hotels. 😉 Haha – a girls got to have her standards!

    Some of the biggest issues I struggle with are in regards to the climate in Chicago (as you also mentioned being a Midwest girl). As much as I would LOVE a small town lifestyle in a much milder climate (preferably one I can grow my own food year round in!) that isn’t where I am at right now. I will be there in the very near future, just not today. I am always up for a challenge and love the motivation that MMM provides. I have and will continue to sock it away for future use. Do what you can until you can do more. That’s the point I am currently operating at. 🙂
    Miss Mazuma recently posted…An Aha Moment… Reverse Engineering FIMy Profile

    • I expected it, tbh. Arguing with Pete in the comment section of his own posts never ends well! I’m also otherwise environmentally conscious: recycling when I can, buying used, donating old usable stuff instead of dumping it…. Also, I’ve taken the soap thing a step further and barely use any at all! I use it in the kitchen and to wash my hands in the bathroom, but I don’t use soap on the rest of me. You’d never be able to tell! I want to go even further down the rabbit hole and eventually stop having to use shampoo!

  7. As a fellow Millennial in the Midwest, I too use my car more than MMM would advocate.

    Fortunately, my apartment is fairly new, with fairly good insulation, and I am on the ground floor. This means that my apartment almost never gets above 75 degrees even with no A/C! I run my ceiling fan during the day and occasionally my ventilation fan at night time, but I can usually make it through an entire summer with no A/C.

    For driving, due to the nature of my work, I am already living about as close to my workplace as I can (about 10 miles). Between work and where I live is nothing but cornfields, a national guard training center, and a river, so I’m in the same situation where I could theoretically bike to and from work, but it would be pretty difficult, time-consuming, and the savings wouldn’t be all that great (maybe $40 / month) due to cheap gas and no traffic where I live.

    Ideally I would want to live within walking/biking distance of work, but that’s not really feasible for my industry, so I’m making due with what I can.

    • It’s especially difficult when you live just outside of town. There are no sidewalks, no biking paths. All you can do is ride on the edge of the road and pray no one runs over you! Gas is just over $2 a gallon here, so I fill up about once a fortnight if I don’t drive to another city on the weekend.

  8. You gotta do your own thing. I like MMM because I feel like he challenges me to do more with less than I would have on my own. But sometimes I get “lazy.” I would probably be hospitalized from face punches if he saw how much my wife and I spend on restaurants…

    • He’s good for face punches, but I also wish he would recognize not everyone is in the same situation. I’ve adapted a lot of his teachings into my life and feel like I’m doing a pretty good job at that!

  9. Would you hate it if I took to calling you Soggy?

    I don’t think you need to explain Gwen. You’re doing a fantastic job with your finances, and you’re making solid, informed choices. Could you do certain things better? Probably. So could we all.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…Pigs Get SlaughteredMy Profile

    • Very much so! Makes me feel like a slouch when in reality I’m doing better than 90% of my peers at this whole adulting thing.

  10. I own a moped. Silly me, I need a kick in the pants from MMM to use the dang thing. I live too far to walk, never attempted bicycling, but I absolutely looooove to moped back and forth to work. There’s one intersection where I take my life in my hands, (maybe two) but being outside motoring along at 30mph at 70mpg during my commute certainly improves the mood. If you can tolerate the additional time it’ll take to moped commute, I recommend it.

    • Glad that works out for you. Because of the danger, I’m not sure I would recommend it for most people unless it was something they really enjoy. I had a motorcycle that got 60 miles per gallon. After adding up and comparing the expenses it really didn’t save enough to make it worth the risk. While it’s insurance and depreciation was cheap it was an additional expense since I still have to have a car. And there are plenty of cheap cars that get 40 miles per gallon, so that’s what I’d be comparing too. I.e. at the end of the day, I was justifying my unsafe Hobby by saying it didn’t cost me much or save the small amount of money.
      Will continue “caging it” with Cavalier / Civic. Safe travels!

      • Gotta say I’m with Charles on this one. A friend had a moped in college and it worked great for getting around the small college town. Here, it would be much more dangerous. I would have to modify my route to exclude the interstate and major roads. At that point I might as well just get that motorized bike and be done with it.

  11. You still have some fuzz on your upper lip, young lady! Pete provided a platform for us to build our financial independence. It is imperative we don’t try to “be like Pete”! Pete is Pete; Gwen should be Gwen. Just because you driver does not mean we kick you out of the mustache club or even give a stern look. Pete’s goal, I think, is to get you to think about what you are doing. He succeeded.

    BTW, nice update on where your life is.

    • It keeps growing no matter how many times I shave it all off 🙁

      If there ever comes a time where I’m not thinking about the things I’m doing, it’s time to get my health checked out!

  12. I had to stop reading MMM because I would have turned into a troll. I got the impression that it’s more about punching in the face than throwing out ideas. Since I didn’t really need a punch in the face I decided staying away from his stuff was the best thing for both of us.

    • He is polarizing. I started out thinking everyone liked and followed him, but the deeper into the community I got the more I found out that wasn’t the case. Just like frugality, there are various levels and it’s all about finding your comfort zone.

  13. Sorry to hear you got your feelings hurt. Yes posting and anti bicycle message on the MMM blog was a poor choice. Live life your way. You don’t need a blog post to justify why you are doing your own thing. Just be you. Who cares what anyone else has to say about.

    • Obviously you do if you came all the way over here to comment. Like I said, I knew what I was getting into. I also said I’m not offended. I don’t appreciate it, but I’m wearing my big girl panties and can handle it.

  14. Imagine having to live with him! 😉

    Just kidding. Pete is tough and he definitely walks the walk, but he’s very forgiving in real life and sometimes even breaks his own rules. Having an electric car certainly helps with the driving thing, as his main issue with cars is environmental.

    But, as someone mentioned above, he wouldn’t be MMM if he didn’t call you out on it. I mean, technically, you CAN bike. You just choose not to. Having it be undoable and choosing not to do it are two different things. It’s an important distinction when you’re trying to change people’s perspective and set the bar higher on what is possible.

    Great pictures, by the way! You just keep doing it your way. After all, all or nothing rarely works in real life.

    • I’ll pass. Seeing him once or twice a year is enough for me! hahaha. Since I have met him in person so many times, I know he’s just using his MMM persona to make the point. Thanks for commenting Mrs. MMM!

  15. I saw you comment on the MMM post when it came out and could see both sides. Personally, I think FI is about using money for things that can really impact your happiness, and then saving the rest – the path to FI shouldn’t be miserable. Some people may enjoy the idea of saving a little bit of money each year by biking everywhere and toughing out the heat. And if that makes them happy, great! But AC is one of those essentials I won’t budge on. Not always – I can handle my apartment up to 78 degrees. After that, I am not a happy camper. In my opinion, frugality is a tool. And tools are not right for every situation.
    Matt Kuhn @ Profitable Matters recently posted…Financial Independence: 8 Great Ways to Reach FI SoonerMy Profile

  16. I know exactly what you mean! Around the time of CMSE this past January, Jason and I were debating buying a second car. We felt like we were being bad Mustachians, but my office was moving. This change made a 2 minute walk to work into a 6 mile commute on all highways. After testing bus routes, evaluating other housing options, and failing to prove that I could be un-clumsy (this ruled out the bike on highways) we got the second car. We knew all the costs we were incurring in the short term and long term but it was the most simple solution to the issue and yes, I do give myself the occasional face-punch for it. Glad to know there are others who have had the same dilemma and that we aren’t the only ones who opted for the drive.

    Also, we LOVE our A.C. in our swamp (aka South Florida)

    Rock on Gwen!

    • We can be in the “no need to feel bad” camp together! I’m sure you got a practical, economical, and fuel efficient vehicle since not driving wasn’t an option. My next car will probably be a newer Camry or Civic.

  17. Great post Gwen! Like yourself and so many others I found MMM early into my own journey (through the Millennial Revolution), and every blogger that commented there led me to check out their respective blogs to get their take on FIRE, frugality, etc. It never fails to amaze me how strong and diverse the community is, and how much respect and support is out there even when the opinions diverge. I think we can all agree that, while there may always be that somewhat unattainable bar set by Mr. Money Mustache, it’s all about the effort and general philosophy – and you are absolutely killing it on your own terms! I think that one needs both MMM and the spendypants of the world to measure their own efforts against… and blogs like your own for inspiration along the way!

    • So true, FrostyFIRE! If you don’t like what one bloggers says, you’ll be sure to find someone better aligned to your philosophies. People ask me “Should I start a blog? It seems like everything has already been said!” But everyone’s experiences and the way they implement the FI Basics into their lives are different since we’re all different!

  18. Those comments were pretty unfair.

    I love MMM. He also introduced me to the whole idea of FIRE. I stumbled on MMM from ERE (Early Retirement Extreme) and found it instantly engaging.

    It does get a bit extreme at times, but if people only do half the things he suggests then they’d still be in a much better place financially.
    Owen @ PlanEasy recently posted…Living Small: The Best Way To Save MoneyMy Profile

  19. Gwen, no punishment from this guy! PERSONAL finance is just that, PERSONAL. Sometimes (now I’LL get the punishment) MMM followers can tend toward the legalistic. COME ON, FOLKS! It’s PERSONAL! Do what works for you (like DRIVE THAT CAR!), and adopt those areas of Mustachianism that work for you.

    Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

  20. Hi Gwen! I’m new here.
    I’m sure MMM was mostly as tough on you *because* he knows you IRL.
    But he seems particularly attached to the Biking and Badassity pieces — for good reason, I think. Biking and Badassity go hand in hand: Once you’ve biked through all types of less-than-ideal, uphill, hot, pouring rain, freezing “you did what?” rides, it results in a real change in your brain. Suddenly you feel emboldened to take on all manner of things that people express shock/doubt that anyone could do. And that is the key to reaching FI faster. I think you can only get so far without that “I don’t care what other people think and I take naysayers as a challenge” mindset.
    All that being said, you have some good financial reasons for living where you live and having to drive, so carry on. Maybe in the near future you’ll feel like giving it a shot on occasion.

    • Oh, and my Bad Mustachian confession: Getting a professional haircut. I have naturally curly hair, and though I do stretch it out between cuts, this is my Achilles Heel. I’ve mostly stopped buying any clothes beyond absolute necessity, and I don’t wear makeup except on rare occasion. I could settle for hair that looks shabby, but … it makes me feel awful when I look in the mirror.

  21. I agree, I too have to drive to work. I literally live as close as possible, but the location just does not make it safe for feasible to bike. In future jobs, I hope that I am able to live closer.

    Also, living in the Midwest, I totally feel you on the A/C. I love sleeping with the windows open, especially during a thunderstorm, but when it starts getting gross out I do not particularly enjoy sleeping in sweat.

  22. Imagine finding MMM and FIRE after being married, having kids and living a lifestyle that is probably a 5 out of 10 on the mustachian scale. We were already on pace to retire early, but MMM showed me that we could do better. If it were just me, I would probably be willing to be a 9 on the scale, but with my existing life, I have chosen to move to a 6. I love his ideas and incorporate them as I feel best fits my life. I’m not a bad mustachian, I’m semi-mustachian.

    When I saw your comment on his biking post I knew you were going to get hammered, but I was pretty sure you knew that too. I don’t bike now for similar reasons as you.

  23. His blog was one of the first I started reading. I love his voice and his take-no-sh*t attitude with his lifestyle. I definitely can’t do or adhere to a lot of the things he lives by. I love my car. I live super close to work and am really considering buying a bike, for well, my health and maintenance.

    I’d say right now, I’m a terrible mustachian, but soon enough hopefully I’ll work towards being able to even consider myself one at all.

  24. I take nuggets from MMM that apply to my life, values, needs, wants, etc. and drop the rest. My guess is he wouldn’t want carbon copies of himself either (although I can’t speak for him). There might be something he ISN’T doing that someone else who considers themselves super frugal is doing. I don’t think you are a bad Mustachian…you are just being the best Gwen you can be for this time in your life.

    • “the best Gwen you can be for this time in your life.”

      I love this Tonya! Thanks for the encouraging words! MMM himself says he isn’t particularly frugal, especially with regards to food!

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