Mr. Money Mustache's Cost-Cutting Tips to Save Money and Retire Early
Have you ever dreamed of retiring early and going swimming with tropical fishes? Are you simply looking to increase your savings? Mr. Money Mustache is a finance blogger who writes about how he and his wife managed to retire in his 30s by lowering their expenses and saving 50% of their income. But how?
Here are five of his tips to help you cut costs, save money, and achieve financial independence that much sooner—whether you want to go snorkeling or have any other retirement plans or financial goals.
1. REDUCE YOUR COMMUTE.
Mr. Money Mustache calculates that a daily 40-minute commute can cost you approximately $125,000 in wealth over ten years—not to mention that it nearly adds the equivalent of another workday to your week. How can you reduce your commute?
- Live closer to work: You can take this quite literally and shorten your commute. If you’re in a great job, that could mean house hunting near your office. If you love your living situation, you might start looking for a new job closer to home. With remote work becoming more and more common, your commute could even be from the coffee pot to your at-home office! By shortening your drive, you’ll save on gas and wear-and-tear to your vehicle. Depending on your commute, that could be anywhere from $15 to $30 a day, or maybe more!
- Bike or walk where you can: If you can cut your commute down enough, you can eliminate that overall vehicle cost altogether. Using the low end from the range above and factoring in time off and other costs, you could potentially save somewhere around $3,000 a year by biking or walking to work.
- Carpool or take public transit: Of course, it’s not always possible to walk or bike to work. But any less time in the car will help you save. Do any of your coworkers live nearby? You can commute together and share the costs. Can you get to your office via public transit, or at least within biking/walking distance? Maybe the bus doesn’t stop by your house or apartment, but there could be a park-and-ride where you can catch the bus. As a bonus, walking, biking, carpooling, and taking the bus all benefit the environment!
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2. GET A REASONABLE CAR.
Admittedly, cutting down on driving can be a challenge in Vermont, where almost everything feels like it’s a 20-minute drive away. Since there aren’t many places you can live without a vehicle, you’ll want to make sure you pick the right car for you.
Whatever you get, it probably doesn’t need to be flashy or expensive. (And let’s be honest, how many flashy cars are cut out for Vermont winters?) According to Mr. Money Mustache, the two most important factors to consider when getting a car are fuel economy and space for passengers and cargo. The rest? Personal taste and tiebreakers. Unless cars are particularly meaningful to you, ultimately, your car just needs to safely get you where you need to go.
What I’m about to say will seem self-evident, but we often don’t think about money this way: the money that you spend on your car can’t go towards something else—including your savings and retirement funds.
3. BE ECONOMICAL WITH YOUR GROCERY SHOPPING.
The first rule of thumb? Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Even if you’re not shopping on an empty stomach, you can find yourself looking at a surprising total at the register. What are some ways you can cut down on your grocery bill?
- Stock up on low-cost food: Money Mustache lists several healthy foods that can fill your belly without emptying your wallet. Rice, beans, potatoes, nuts, bananas, apples, and chicken can all be incorporated into your diet to lower the cost of your meals.
- Do some meal planning: If you know ahead of time what you’re going to eat for the week, you’re more likely to purchase only what you need. One of our bloggers recently tried meal planning and shared how it reduced his grocery bill, along with other benefits.
- Cut down on food waste: A study from Penn State University found that the average American household wasted 30% of the food it buys. That translates to an estimated $1,800 per year! This blog from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources walks you through how to reduce food waste and save money.
4. CANCEL UNNECESSARY SUBSCRIPTIONS.
When checking your email, do you ever find yourself coming across a newsletter that you subscribed to and deleting it without opening it? I do. It’d save me time to open the email and unsubscribe, but I go on autopilot and delete it before I even realize. This same process applies to our other subscriptions as well: the magazine you end up recycling, online services that go unused, and your growing number of streaming services.
Instead of going through the motions, evaluate your different subscriptions to see which you can weed out. Are you still reading Sports Illustrated or doing more than looking at the New Yorker cartoons? Are you going to the gym, or are you one of the unused memberships that make gyms profitable? Do you need Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max (all at the same time?), or can you do more than cut the cord and cut costs instead?
If you can’t choose, there’s one more alternative: get someone to share their password.
5. PRACTICE OPTIMISM
You're probably wondering how this makes the list. No, Mr. Money Mustache isn’t talking about The Secret. Positive thinking isn’t going to manifest a few thousand dollars in your savings account, unfortunately (but you can sure try!). What do we mean by optimism, then?
- Fewer setbacks: There will still be surprise or regrettable expenses. But you will see fewer of them as actual setbacks to your finances. Instead of a feeling of failure, you will use it as a learning experience and go back to the cost-cutting drawing board.
- More striving: This is the other side of the “setback coin.” If you experience (or perceive) fewer failures, you’re willing to try more things that might help you save money.
- Less worry: There are some aspects of finance that are out of your control. Your retirement savings take a hit when the stock market tumbles. Your budget didn’t have “minor basement flood” as a planned expense. Your income suffers because there’s a global pandemic. These can be painful, but there isn’t really anything you can do about them, either.
- Greater focus: Instead, you can focus on what you CAN control. You can diversify your portfolio. You can build up your emergency funds to be prepared for unexpected expenses or for a loss of income. That helps you worry less, and the cycle continues.
Ultimately, how you think about money—your mindset, beliefs, assumptions, and feelings about money—informs how you use it.
Whether you’re looking to get a jumpstart on retirement or building a solid foundation for your financial future, it starts with spending less. Not because you should. Not because you’ll have a bigger account balance. Because money is a means to an end. By cost cutting and saving money, you will be in better position to meet your financial goals and achieve the financial freedom to live your best life.
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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of VSECU.