Mr. Money Mustache Leads a Money-Saving Cult

The website publishes extreme but valuable financial advice to help readers follow their leader's path to a young retirement.

Mr. Money Mustache is an online personality, a character of Peter Adeney who offers financial advice that aims to help people live frugally and retire early. His blog's slogan is "Financial Freedom Through Badassity," and his advice often requires an independent, confident disposition that's willing to sacrifice. But the promised payoffs are huge, and their example of success is Mr. Mustache, himself.

The blog features posts by Mr. Money Mustache, its extreme character, and the Realist, his checks-and-balance opponent. While the Realist would have readers skip the once-a-week McDonald's and, instead, save $10, Mr. Money Mustache insists on doing it hard and fast. He'd push a family with two workers making $60k a year, each, to save $5,000 per month as a basic rule.

Born in Ontario, Canada, Mr. Mustache-Adeney's working life started with a paper route and continued steadily until he graduated from college and moved to the U.S. At this point, he writes, with enough money saved to cover a down payment on a house, he bought a fixer-upper with his future wife. With two incomes and a small mortgage, "we were on a treadmill that was pushing us forwards instead of fighting one that pulled us back."

In the following few years, his and his wife's savings compounded until they arrived at the striking moment in their story: instead of splurging on new cars, or vacations, the couple simply retired. At 30.

Mr. Mustache writes advice from a relatively unique perspective: as a person for whom these practices worked. His posts aren't the usual college commencement quotes from billionaires who offer generalities that most people already know ("work hard," "save money," "don't be afraid of failure"). The writing on his website is honest, often annoyed but optimistic and full of sarcastic humor.

He writes as a person who beat the system and is sick of reading news about how this or that—or the economy, a poor excuse in his opinion—is hurting people's lives. "Your current middle-class life is an Exploding Volcano of Wastefulness," he writes, and with this realization a person should be able to halve their expenses (and, consequently, double their savings). The Mustache family saved two-thirds of their income and retired at thirty. Is it really that simple?

His list of steps to early retirement includes such advice as: erase debt; move close to work and avoid cars, especially unaffordable ones (he advocates bicycles strongly); cancel the TV service; grocery shop wisely (with lots of coupons); escape expensive mobile phones; and much, much more. Oh, and an important one: "practice optimism."

"Optimism tricks you into trying more things," he writes. Hope and positivity are crucial keys to Mustachianism, because the way involves more sacrifice than most people feel ready to make. Optimism makes it all possible: "What do you do with all that extra knowledge? You succeed."

That's about as close to a commencement address as the blog gets. Most of its articles trigger action because of their unromantic bluntness. You know you've succeeded when you can write a sentence like this: "My wife and I just saved about 66% of our pay without really noticing it, and in under ten years we woke up and realized we didn't have to work for a living any more."

"But fast-processor tablet-phones are important, and cars are necessary, and you know what they say about vacations benefiting your health, and etc," we all plead. Mr. Mustache acknowledges all of this desire and want, but he calls it just that. He emphasizes a focus on happiness instead of convenience. You're ultimately left with a choice between working most of your life to live conveniently, or sacrificing instant pleasures for deeper happiness and an early retirement.

Mustachianism recalls the old wisdom that happiness is the appreciation of what one already has. Mr. Money Mustache doesn't want people to live with constant spending guilt. He wants his readers to escape the grip of debt and material obsession, and understand just how close—how very close—they are to financial victory and personal success.

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