FI

On Becoming ‘Mostly’ Mustachian

A Mostly Mustachian smiley face
We’re happy to be “Mostly” Mustachian

The man who set FIRE on fire

Ask your favourite blogger how they discovered FIRE, and the answer’s usually the same: they stumbled across a certain face-punching, bike-riding, mustachioed dude… the one and only Mr. Money Mustache.

His witty writing, inspiring math, and infectious optimism pulls us deep into the rabbit hole of FI and life optimization. We are changed forever, and grateful for it.

MMM’s blog exists to save humankind from over-consuming itself into oblivion. He wants us to be happier, and in turn make the world a better place.

How could anyone not be down with that? Count me in!

Reality bites

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

I quickly learned that wanting to be like Mr. Money Mustache is one thing—actually living like him is another! 

This is the story of my journey into MMM’s self-proclaimed ‘fake religion’ of Mustachianism; of how I fell headfirst, lost my way, then found my own unique path back.

Mr. Money Mustache Logo

Discovering Mustachianism

When I discovered Mustachianism in 2014, I knew I’d found my tribe. MMM’s messages were simple but powerful, and they resonated deeply with me. Frugality, eco-consciousness, building happiness—these were all values I lived and breathed.

The Mustachian philosophy was an instant, natural fit for me. In about a two-week span, I madly binge-read the entire blog and initiated myself into the Mustachian cult.

Starting the journey

I pursued FI with a passion, and tried to do everything like a ‘true’ Mustachian. After all, we were 90% of the way there—almost all our life choices to that point were already Mustachian. FI was just around the corner!

I went to work tackling the easier FI tasks: making plans, optimizing expenses, and investing in Vanguard ETFs. When I ran out of the easy tasks, I began to knuckle down and deal with the harder decisions… and this is when I hit a roadblock.

Getting stuck

It sounded so easy to do the Mustachian thing. We ‘just’ had to move to a low cost of living area, buy used cars, and ride bikes everywhere.

I loved those ideals. I wanted to live that life. And so I pushed myself to pursue it to the max and do it ‘properly’. (I tend to be slightly obsessive about my passions.)

I planned, calculated, and debated the situation from every angle. But I couldn’t figure it out. We loved our house and city too much to move. Which meant there wasn’t much we could do about our transportation options—we live too far from amenities and work to ride bikes.

Resentment builds

Horribly, I started to resent our house (despite having happily lived in it up to that point). I felt it was too big, too expensive, and a huge waste of our precious resources.

It felt we’d traded early freedom for this wood and drywall ‘box’. I would stare at the walls and imagine dollar bills plastered all over them, thinking of how many ETFs I could buy if only I could ‘unlock’ all that money!

Our house and expensive city became a costly burden to me. I questioned our choice to live in the nice neighbourhood we’d chosen. I wished we’d kept our 11-year-old Toyota Rav4, instead of buying a brand-new Mazda5.

I pondered endlessly, trying to figure out a way to reverse the ‘damage’ that we’d done. But I couldn’t do it. There wasn’t a way to reconcile our life choices with being a true Mustachian.

I was lost, conflicted, and disillusioned. It seemed like FI was just an impossible dream.

Making peace

Thankfully, anytime I go into a tailspin like this, I have my ever-supportive husband to turn to. M has a knack for putting things in perspective when I’m acting crazy, and he came to the rescue again.

I revealed my depressing ruminations to him, and he helped me realize that we chose this house and neighbourhood for meaningful reasons. Our choice to live here held true to our deepest values—and that’s far more important to us than reaching FI a few years earlier.

M also rightly pointed out that we hadn’t inflated our lifestyle since moving here. He was right—we’re still frugal and mindful with our spending. We don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, nor is FOMO an issue for us. Yes, we live in a nice neighbourhood surrounded by highly-educated, high-income families, but it didn’t change us. We were still Mustachians at heart!

From that conversation, I began to make peace with the life we’d chosen. I also realized that Mustachianism wasn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. I could continue being an MMM fangirl, be ‘mostly’ Mustachian, and still get to FI years (even decades) ahead of our peers.

Part-time Mustachianism

Lots of people in and outside of the FI community hear about MMM and run for the hills—it’s just way too much for them! But there’s so much to lose when we write off Mustachianism.

Sure, not all of us can get behind the more challenging aspects. So why not use the parts that work for us, and put the rest aside until we’re ready?

And… maybe we’ll never be ready for those challenges. That’s okay too. I think everyone can agree that our world would be a better place if more of us embraced Mustachianism, even if only part-time.

We’ll still get to FI

We’re just a regular family. We live in an expensive area and don’t ride bikes everywhere—but we’ll still hit FI earlier than our peers.

I’ve learned to embrace being ‘mostly’ Mustachian, and I hope that my story inspires others to do the same. There’s so much to gain, even if you’re only partly Mustachian!

The path ahead

I wholeheartedly believe in Mustachianism. It’s meant to increase happiness and lighten our footprint on this planet—what’s not to love?

Most of us will never be as hardcore as MMM, but we can all become more ‘bad ass’ with time.  I wasn’t satisfied with being less than 100% Mustachian in 2014, but now I think it’s totally okay, and maybe even for the best.

The Mostly Mustachian path to FI

In Mustachianism Got You Down? I write about how we live our mostly-Mustachian life, and how we’ll still reach FI (albeit a little slower). 

What about you?

Comment below and tell me: how did you discover FIRE? Was it through Mr. Money Mustache? What are your thoughts on Mustachianism? Are you 100%, or mostly Mustachian? 

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Savvy History
    January 14, 2019 at 11:26 am

    My brain was set on fire by finding the FIRE movement too! I don’t have many people I can talk about it with in person, so I’m so happy to blog now! I am sorry to hear that you resented your house at one point. I look at our place sometimes with black and white thinking too. I also bounce between extremes because it represents “success” in some worlds but excess in some other worlds! What you just described yourself going through sounds like what a lot of young people go through when they are judging others and then judging themselves to find their place in the world (or their sweet spot). It took me a while to realize what my head was doing was healthy and identity-forming in its own weird way. It sounds like you’re close to knowing your approach and not needing intensive role models! I think I’m getting there too.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 14, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      Hi Savvy History—it’s so nice to see you over here on my blog. Thanks for visiting, reading, and commenting. What an interesting point you’ve brought up—that a home could be thought of as both success and excess. You’re so right! Also interesting to contrast these inner struggles with the process of finding our way in the world. As my kids are in/close to the teen years, this will be such a helpful concept to keep in mind. I never would have thought about things in either of those lenses. Thanks for giving me some intriguing food for thought!

  • Reply
    Sam
    January 14, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Chrissy, I loved your post. I’m rather like you in that I can get a bit obsessive when I discover something new. I have been reading Early Retirement Extreme and he was living in an RV (I think in the UK we would call that a caravan or a motorhome). How was I going to compete with that? Three years ago we bought a large house, with a lovely garden, in a quiet village. I love it, but as I read more and more blogs about FI I felt that we had made a mistake. It was not only large, but needed a lot of work doing to it. Having had time to reflect, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Although we have a mortgage, it isn’t large – less than a quarter of the value of the property and we don’t have any other debt. We have savings which we are spending on the decorating, so we are not going to accrue any debt. Once the house is decorated I am thinking about doing Airbnb to make money from it. In that way having a big house would be an asset. I think that you’re so right in that we can’t all be replicas of Mr Money Mustache. We have to work with where we are and what we have. Instead of comparing ourselves to him or to Jacob Lund Fisker just compare yourself to the average person who has debts, a big mortgage and little savings – with no plan as to how to get out of that. I am now 49, so I have missed the boat to retire in my thirties, but I may retire in my fifties, which is more than most people do.

    Thanks again for the post and good luck with the blog – I am enjoying it so far.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 14, 2019 at 1:42 pm

      Hi Sam, I love your comment! And I love that we can connect over our shared anguish of comparing ourselves to our ‘gurus’. (You had an even harder time than me—even MMM thinks that Jacob’s pretty extreme!) It’s amazing that we can talk about things like this through the internet. Hopefully our conversations can save someone else from the same inner turmoil. I completely agree that we should put things in perspective by comparing to average people. In that case, we’re light years ahead! Thanks for taking the time you took to comment, and for your kind words. I look forward to checking out your blog too! I can never get enough FI content, and I especially love reading about FI in other countries.

  • Reply
    Jenni
    January 13, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    This was such an awesome post to read Chrissy! I also get obsessive with my interests and you basically described everything I’ve been going through over the last few weeks, since I fell headlong into the world of FI, starting with Mr Money Mustache! I had started to resent the gorgeous condo we bought in Vancouver, because strata rules prevent us from house hacking and it was hard seeing so much of our money being used for mortgage payments instead of being invested in achieving FI. Like you, it was my spouse that brought me back to Earth, by making me see the good side of our life in this building, and reassuring me that he didn’t want to house hack anyway, so not to worry about that! Like you, I am now part-time Mustachian. I bike everywhere, have cut down my drinking and eating out, cook a lot at home, make sure we take lunch to work, and am borrowing library books instead of buying them etc. I am working on trying to learn new skills, but I’m finding it difficult to set aside time in the evenings for this… Anyway, our quest for FI continues, and I feel much better about it all, like you. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 14, 2020 at 11:26 pm

      Jenni—you and I sound like two peas in a pod! Ha ha. People like us need good partners who can remind us to pace ourselves and slow down!

      I’m so impressed with all that you’ve done in your pursuit of FIRE—especially how dedicated you’ve been to bike riding and ditching your car. Bravo on all you’ve accomplished in such a short time.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and connect with me on my blog. I really appreciate it!

  • Reply
    Alain Guillot
    May 28, 2020 at 6:37 am

    I have always been a Mustachian, mostly because I have never been a high earner, and I don’t like work part full time. I had to make do with what I had. I have been optimizing for all my life. I can always spend more, but then I have to work more. I value leisure time more than money.
    Thank you for posting. 🙂

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      May 28, 2020 at 10:21 am

      Hi Alain—I’m continuously impressed with how mindful you are with your life choices. (Especially since you weren’t raised with a Mustachian mindset!)

      Your lifestyle very much reflects Mustachian and FI ideals. Thank you for commenting here and for sharing so much of your story through your podcast.

      It’s been inspirational to me, and I’m sure it has been for many others as well.

  • Reply
    Robb Engen
    June 24, 2020 at 7:47 am

    I’m old and started blogging well before MMM (2010) so I’ve always been chasing my own path to financial freedom. I was envious of bloggers who were able to quit their day job and pursue other passions full time, and so I focused my energy on growing my income rather than embracing frugality.

    My side hustle allowed us to live the way we wanted to while accelerating our financial freedom goals. It took nearly 10 years but I was finally able to build up enough income streams to allow me to quit my day job late last year.

    We still have an anti-mustachian budget and spend way too much on wine, travel, and ‘stuff’. We probably bought too much house, but like you we love our home and our neighbourhood and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    Mustachianism is a symbol against mindless consumption and status-quo. The entire movement pushes back against everything that says we need to be in debt up to our eyeballs working a 9-5 cubicle job until we’re 65, all while driving two brand new cars and living in our McMansion.

    I can get behind that. We all need to make more uncomfortable choices or sacrifices to get ahead. That could mean moving to a low cost of living area. That could mean selling one or both of your cars. That could mean renting out your basement for a period of time. Or working on a side hustle instead of binge watching Netflix.

    But it doesn’t have to mean ALL of those things. And certainly not all at once. We’re striving to be more sustainable and mindful of our spending. But we also have a pent-up desire to travel more and that’s going to have an impact on our true financial freedom date.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with settling for a ‘lesser’ version of Mustachianism. You’ve got to find your own path and be comfortable with your own choices.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 25, 2020 at 12:14 am

      Hi Robb—it still boggles my mind how long you’ve been blogging! I’m sure you’ve read all kinds of stories and advice over your 10 years in the ‘business’.

      I’ve enjoyed following your journey, and relate very much to your family’s style of spending. We also splurge heavily on things that are meaningful to us. I used to feel guilty about this, but now I realize that’s not the healthiest mindset.

      You’ve summed up the Mustachian ethos nicely. I agree with all your points: yes to getting behind Mustachianism, but not all of it, and not all the time. We can still do good and be better without having to go whole hog into it.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wise words. It was helpful to read!

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