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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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