MMM=Mr. Money Mustache
DD1 = Dear First Daughter
DH = Dear Husband
If you haven’t already heard about him, Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) is a phenomenon. Born and raised in a frugal Canadian household, he worked a professional career after graduating debt-free from a local university, got married, lived without excess, saved hand-over-fist for nine years, and then retired at age thirty. He and his wife now live in the U.S. along with their young son, and are spearheading a subculture of what he calls “Badassity”. It’s a stick-it-to-the-man way of living that involves hyper-frugality, a hard-working do-it-yourself ethic, a preference for bicycles over cars, and a general disdain of all things decadent. People who follow his formula attain financial freedom at an extremely young age. In this subculture of Badassity, wealth accumulates steadily, but since it is not spent, it is available to be given in support of worthy causes. The “badass” ultimately has complete freedom to devote time to friends and family, to develop talents, to pursue interests. I can’t find anything not to admire about MMM’s mandate. He does swear a lot, but if you can get past that, it’s all rather amazing.
In a recent post entitled “Necessity is the Mother of Badassity”, he writes about his recent experience putting a new roof on his mother’s house – a fine thing for a son to do. The effort entailed:
- a 500 km road trip in a borrowed vehicle devoid of sound and air conditioning (37 C / 100 F)
- frustrating and ultimately failed service from a big box store
- the discovery of a major obstacle in the form of a disintegrated roof deck
- four fifteen-hour days of hard labour under the hot sun
Besides the satisfaction of a job well done, MMM claims that he received the side-benefits of:
- the confidence gained from getting in over his head, figuring it out, and making it through
- a new expertise in purchasing materials in Ontario (where his mom lives)
- physical fitness through hard labour
- doing something for his mom and saving her a whole lot of money
- improved heat tolerance
My badass lunch habits
I’m teaching summer school co-op through July and August in keeping with our efforts to become debt-free. A big part of my job is to visit students at their work placements, which involves driving all over the city. Last year, I spent far too much money on restaurant food during these visitation days, but this year, my resolve has been to pack my lunch, drinks, snacks, and ice pack, and not spend a cent. This past Tuesday, my first visit was with a student working at a bakery, and our meeting was scheduled for 7:00 am. It was clear across town, and my next appointment wouldn’t be until 9:00. Planning ahead, I packed a breakfast as well as a lunch. After a very productive visit (my student is doing such a great job that she will likely be hired after her co-op placement has ended), I walked to my car in the big box store parking lot outside the bakery, got in, and ate my breakfast.
It was a humid, overcast, sweaty morning,a 70% chance of thunderstorms in the forecast. I kept my car door open to allow some movement of air, peeled my hard-boiled eggs, and ate. I don’t think there are too many fifty-one year old women who would do this, I thought to myself – possibly with a touch of smugness. I’m pretty sure this is Badassity in action. I drove to my next placement, a daycare centre in a quiet neighbourhood nearby, and realized I still had a lot of time to kill before I was scheduled to meet with the student who worked there. I had passed by a Tim Horton’s on my way. Would I go back and have a coffee? And muffin? No way! I used the time to take a stroll. There was an eerie calm-before-the-storm sort of atmosphere as I walked the unfamiliar suburban streets, but the forecasted downpour held off. Definitely badass.
A couple of hours later found me in a park, outside another placement at a theatre arts centre, eating my packed lunch and drinking the wonderfully cool water from my melted ice container. Wasn’t I getting the side benefits of a walk and a relaxing time at a wholesome park? And improved heat tolerance? Full-on Badassity!
Our dinner out
Wednesday evening, DH and I decided to use the e-gift card that DD1 had given us as a combined birthdays/mother’s day/father’s day present. (She lives on the west coast, so this e-gift idea works very well.) It was for a high-end restaurant in a trendy part of town, and it was in the amount of $100. Since we started our journey out of debt, DH and I have cut way back on meals out, and we’ve been funding them from our respective discretionary money. Rarely do we spend more than $15 per meal. We knew that it would be very easy to spend more than the $100 on our gift card at this fine restaurant of DD1’s choosing, and we went with the idea that we’d supplement it with our discretionary money if we found we wanted to do so. These nit-picky sorts of financial strategics have become second nature to us. We never used to have mini-financial planning discussions on the fly. So we arrived at our reservation, plan in place.
There are times when you know you are in the presence of greatness, and I knew that DH and I were there when I took the first bite of our shared appetizer. It was wonderful! I ordered duck for the main course – something I have never cooked on my own – which, combined with a medley of sauces and vegetables, was artfully arranged in the centre of a large plate placed before me. Every portion melted in my mouth, a sensory thrill of sight, smell, taste, and texture that made time stand still. There was an initial period of silence at our table as all I could do was close my eyes, soak it in, and be very, very glad to be alive. This was decadence. This was lovely.
We had exceeded the $100 gift card, so dessert at the restaurant was out of the question. DH texted DD1 while we were there to let her know we were enjoying her present. She asked what we had ordered, and he let her know. “Their duck is the best!” she responded. But what about the subculture of Badassity? That I had so recently been pleased to consider myself a part of? Hmmm . . . I have a high respect for MMM’s values, and I’m properly humbled by his integrity in living them out. I will continue to read his posts and apply nuggets of his wisdom to our situation. But ultimately, I have to conclude that I’m a mere visitor in the land of Badassity.
I am glad that I can tough it out and live frugally as we make our way out of debt. I am keen on the ultimate goal of financial freedom. Along the way, DH and I really are learning lessons about what is of false value and what is of genuine value, and I believe we will live by these lessons even when we have the money to ignore them. But I’ll say it now: That meal was genuinely worth every cent it took to eat it. Would we ever go to that restaurant without a gift card? Not while we’re on this journey out of debt. But afterwards? Absolutely! And with dessert too please.