Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What is a Mustache and Why do I Want One?

Not want, need.  Not like you "need" a cell phone, maybe more like you (think you) need a car, but I think of it like needing clothes.  There are a few exceptional private circumstances, but in general, it's a really good idea to have them. 

But I get ahead of myself.  What is a Money Mustache?  Only the hottest trending internet phenomenon of our age.*  Developed by Mr. Money Mustache (surprise) the concept is simple: Live very, very, far within your means, and you can enjoy life a lot more than most.  Specifically, having a cache of cash (income-generating investments, in various forms) that earn your living expenses for you means that you can do the things you always said you wanted to do but were too tired on the weekends.  The Via Mustachia is the path to that goal.  This stage is also known as "growing your money mustache" for a more organic flavor.

So, what do you do to grow your 'stache?  I'm still learning, but here's what we have done so far:

+Dumped Verizon for $10/month AirVoice Wireless plans for the Mrs. and me - Savings: $100/mo (we had smartphones with data plans, what can I say? now we have smartphones w/o data plans, because there is wireless internet everywhere probably even in your skull right now and THAT'S GREAT)

+Bicycle commuting to the new post-PhD job, 5 miles each way.  Savings: $110/mo at $0.55 per mile, which excludes the physical benefits of regular exercise

+Posted the second car for sale.  No savings yet, but it should net at least $100/mo for the registration+insurance+maintenance bump, plus the earnings potential of the free cash

What are our most stubborn follicles?  Well...

-Food.  We are awash in it in this great nation of ours, but most of that is junk.  I do have a minifridge under my desk for lunches, but the Mrs. and (especially) I are kind of bad at dinners.  My default is barbequing meat, which is not cheap, but sometimes there must be Asian food (she's pregnant), a style at which I am incompetent.  Breakfasts tend to be glorious (but expensive) affairs with lots of eggs, fruit, meat, maybe pancakes, and a short pot of coffee (I like cooking breakfasts, our son loves eating them, and yes, that dynamic is changing with a full-time job, so stay posted for breakfast solutions).

-Buying crap.  WE TRY REALLY HARD NOT TO, but there was a tankless hot water heater for 50% off on Amazon (I hear Jacob screaming), and I've been thinking about remodeling the kitchen y'know, and you really ought to do the water heater when you've got it accessible (stupid condo design) so... you know the story.  Right now, I am eying a Kreg Jig to do pocket-hole joinery for the cabinets in the same notional remodel.  I like tools.  I have to be careful.  The Mrs. likes shoes (and ebay makes each pair seem cheap, but arithmetic gets you every time).

-Family.  This surprised me.  Maybe it's because we're four generations removed from great-great-grandfather's immigrant eyes, but my parents seem a bit baffled by us right now.  They are wonderful people, and taught me honest dealing, hard work, kindness, and care in my workmanship (on which score I still disappoint my dad sometimes - working on it - Kreg Jig!), but they also made it seem normal to go to fast food restaurants "now and then" (a vague, destructive phrase!  ware! ware! demand specificity from expenses!), to buy clothes when you wanted them instead of when you needed them, and to think that "special treats" occurred at least biweekly.  I'm not sure what happened, but it seems like consumer culture snuck** up and mugged them.  Costco may have been complicit, since besides que ganga deals on bulk foods, they also have THINGS.  THINGS YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY.  They are strategically located between the really high-margin snack foods near the front of the store, and the cheap eggs and olive oil you actually planned to buy.  I have bought some of these THINGS myself, and usually regretted it.

So that's where we stand, with a few dark flecks of mustache just showing through the skin of recovering consumerism.  We'll keep trudging along, and keeping you updated.  It's funny, isn't it, how easy it is to spend chunks of money all at once, but income usually just trickles in.  We'll tune our rates, and then we just have to integrate over time.

One last point: We sold our old Verizon-locked smartphones, and I shipped one earlier this week.  I kicked myself for not having the right size box (we cleaned recently), but then I kicked myself again for not having the right size mustache.  So I made a box.  You can, too.  You probably have a few wrong-size cardboard boxes, and here's the thing: boxes are just made of cardboard!  If you have extremely simple spatial visualization skills, you can turn the wrong-size box(es) into the right size box, using a pen, a utility knife, and mailing tape.  The box I made required two flaps from a diaper box, and snugly fit the phone (with newspaper dunnage for shock protection).  The first time might be rough, but the second or third try, and you'll have it down. 

*This has no statistical backing, but it should be.

**I argue that this should be a valid alternative for a highly-active version of the past tense of "sneak".  It sounds more aggressive and thuggish than "sneaked", which is what mice did in Beatrix Potter.

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