The Truth About Mr Money Mustache and Other US Financial Independence Blogs

Continuing in my series examining the real truth of US financial independence blogs, today we’re going to scrutinise ‘Mr Money Mustache’. This one is a real eye-opener and I encourage you to stick with the numbers and ask yourself whether you’d really trust this guy’s advice.

The short version is this guy must be at least a millionaire, if not a multi-millionaire. Hardly surprising then that he retired by 30, chooses not to work and can play around all day doing whatever the hell he wants. What shocked me more is he spends in 1 year the average starting salary of a nurse or teacher, here in the UK and states this is less than 10% of his annual income. Therefore, he’s easily bringing home in excess of £200,000, presumably in interest from a considerably larger sum he has invested – like millions of pounds!!! Hence my question, would you really take financial advice from this guy? Anyone can be frugal, I don’t knock that as a lifestyle choice. But it’s easy to be frugal when you have so much money in the bank that you don’t need to bother insuring your house because you have enough money to cover it, probably 10x over and some!

I don’t know anyone earning £100,000, I don’t actually know anyone making more than about £35,000 per year. I’d rather take financial independence advice from someone who’s living in the real world, who’s working a real job and making their way. I hope that’s what I’m doing here. So let’s look at his expenses in more detail and in English:

  • Property taxes – £1,456.35
  • Groceries – £4,595.76
  • Wine/ Beer – £246.75
  • Eating Out – £388.87
  • Medical – £8354.23
  • Car and other transport – £376.66
  • Home Renovations – £1303.72
  • Gym – £115.30
  • Clothing – £478.02
  • Sports Equipment – £75.33
  • Random shopping (presumably household items) – £768.70
  • Books, Games & DVDs – £294.41
  • Other – £324.49
  • Travel – £1794.91
  • Donations – £1,537.87
  • TOTAL £22,111.37
  • Spending £1842.61 per month!

I find it really peculiar that this guy does not have to pay for water, gas, electricity, sewerage or any kind of insurance. Of course he doesn’t have a mortgage or rent, like normal people do because he’s a millionaire. He doesn’t seem to pay for telephone, internet, doesn’t have life insurance, or a pension. He doesn’t even seem to get his hair cut. Maybe millionaires do not have to pay for these other things either?

I really hope this helps you not to compare yourself to people like this, it’s not reality for 99.9% of the population of the world. His monthly expenses may not be wild, in-fact they’re only £500 more than we pay to keep our household running and we are pretty darn frugal. The difference is whereas he’s only spending 10% of his income, most of the rest of us are probably spending 90% of our income trying to pay for the basics of life. I’d consider anyone able to save 25-50% of their monthly pay, to be doing pretty well.

So, over to you- does this change your perception f some of these US bloggers claiming financial independence in their 30s?

Things that have gone this week – 9

This week has ended up being a bit of a blur and I turned another year older. But, I am still getting rid of things!

Things I sold:

  1. A black 1950s style, net petticoat which never actually suited any of my dresses as it was too short and too full.
  2. Two vintage floral tea dresses (1 pictured), but they were the same style – too tight on me.
  3. Another pair of shoes! (Hangs head in shame!) This time a pair of vintage style Clarks T-Bar shoes.

This week I sold 4 items on eBay and I took a small bag to charity, containing a book, a dress and a board game. All of the items sold were purchased second hand for a few pounds and I ended up turning a nice little profit on these. But must try harder not to buy more! The petticoat was picked up for £4, brand new with tags and sold for £20 – still with tags on. The dresses cost £6 each and sold for £20 together. The shoes were picked up for £3, barely worn and sold for £10.

Stay tuned for hopefully another post next week!

I got rid of 15 pairs of shoes!

I don’t feel proud about that title, let me tell you. But I have continued my serious declutter. I am certain that I still own more than 15 further pairs of shoes and that number also needs to decrease. However, this is a MASSIVE step forwards for me and it’s truly been enlightening – look at all these shoes I had and there was absolutely no way I could use them all. Let’s just say that these 15 pairs that have gone are the ones that have had the least use, or even that I no longer wore at all. I don’t have pictures of them all, as I only started saving my images recently. Here is just a fraction:

I calculate that I have put £157.45 (gross figure) back in my pocket. Considering that only 2 of the pairs I had owned from brand new (and both of those were bought at around 70% off), I calculate that I am in profit despite my careless ownership. None of the other pairs cost more than £10 second-hand and most a lot less! However, that is not an excuse for me to go and buy more!

It might be optimistic, but I hope that I can one day get down to around 6 pairs of shoes. I’m envisaging:

  1. Knee high boots
  2. Ankle boots
  3. Trainers
  4. Sandals
  5. Work shoes
  6. Smart shoes

And really that would be more than enough! But I will admit that I have a slight weakness for shoes, probably more than anything else. Still, I can try.

Swagbucks May Referral Promotion – 500 SB Bonus!

It’s May, the flowers are here and Swagbucks has a bonus in the form of a 500 SB bonus ! Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 500 SB bonus! Here’s how:                              1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 1/6/17. You’ll get a 300 SB bonus for it!

3. If you spend at least £25 through Swagbucks Shop* you’ll get another 200 SB bonus on top of the cash back you’ll get from shopping. If you have some shopping to do online, just go to Swagbucks first and visit the store through them. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but you’ll get SB points for every dollar you spend (on top of the bonus)!

That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned almost £2,000 to date since I joined. It helps me to pay for everything from everyday items to presents for special occasions.

*You must receive your shopping SB before 1 June

Are you a Home Bargains shopper?

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No? You should be! My shopping habits have been revolutionised since they opened up a store near me. They sell everything from stationary, to groceries, toiletries, toys, cleaning products, hardware, home furnishings, pets and more!

One of regular purchases here is 4 packs of John West tuna chunks. They sell 3 varieties – in brine, in sunflower oil and in spring water. All are £2.79 for a 4 pack, that’s 67p per tin! The next cheapest I could buy is an economy, supermarket brand at around 80p per tin, although the price has come down recently and you can buy Asda Smartprice or Tesco Value for 65p per tin. However I don’t think the quality compares, as economy brands are usually grey mush and barely resemble a tuna steak. I rarely see John West for less than £4 in the supermarkets. The tuna is pink and meaty, definitely top quality!

I use a lot of mailing bags and tissue paper for sending eBay items. I used to buy my mailing bags at Wilko, as I found them the cheapest. Their A4 mailer bags x5 are £1.50 are and A3 x5 are £1.75. The same at Home Bargains are 49p for 6x A4 and 89p for 6x A3. They sell 10 large sheets of tissue paper in a rainbow of colours for 49p, the next cheapest I can find is at a local bargain store for 99p. There’s just no contest is there? You can see how the savings start to add up!

I regularly buy sweets and chocolate here, as they are so much cheaper than the High Street. They have a HUGE range! I also love my oatcakes and I can buy them for 65p per box here. Compare that even to Poundland, where surprise, surprise – they cost £1 a box! They have a huge range of cheap biscuits and top brands too. As someone who eats a gluten-free diet, I often spy gluten-free items in Home Bargains at a mere fraction of the supermarket cost. A while back they were selling Nutribix for 79p a box! They cost £3.79 a box in the supermarkets- they had a slightly shorter best before date of 1-2 months, but what does that matter when you’re going to eat it soon anyway?

I buy some of my toiletries here too, dental products are much cheaper than the high street and I always pick up big name toothpaste for £1 a tube, like Colgate, Sensodyne or Arm & Hammer. They often have bumper sized packs going for this price too.

Do you use Cif cream cleaner? They sell it here for £1 a bottle. You might find it for £2 in the supermarkets if you’re lucky and occasionally £1.50 a bottle at Wilko. But other than grabbing it from time to time, in Poundland – you won’t find it regularly, this cheap. They also sell Dri-Pak Soda Crystals at 65p for 1.5kg which is way cheaper than £1 a bag at Wilko. These have so many household uses and I’d never be without a bag.

In the pet section today, they had pet carriers for £20 and scratching towers for the same price. They are always cheaper for treats here, like Weebox sticks at 79p per pack, next cheapest is 99p in the supermarkets or Wilko.

I regularly pick up Sequin Art kits here for £6-£7 instead of the £15-£18 they are full price. I have had lovely hardback Disney notebooks for £1-£2. If you check out http://www.moneysavingexpert.com and look on the ‘Quick Grabbit’ forums, you will find a Home Bargains thread where members post the hottest deals. But I want to encourage you to go there anyway for your everyday basic items because they are much, much cheaper! Oh and be sure to come back and tell me what you’ve found 🙂

The Truth about Frugalwoods and other US ‘Financial Independence’ Blogs

If you are like me, you read a number of financial independence blogs for inspiration. I admit to reading the occasional bit of Frugalwoods or Mr Money Mustache. However, the more I have read the more I have pondered whether these US blogs can bear any relevance to UK readers hoping to achieve financial independence? Today, I hope to uncover more of the truth about this for my UK readers. This is as much to put my mind at rest, as yours.

Frugalwoods say that they own a large detached homestead with land in excess of 20 acres The only equivalent I could see here in the UK is buying a VERY large country property or ex-farm, with a lot of land. I’ll plump for the farm option, as they state they have outbuildings (from their photos it is a very large barn, the size of 2-3 massive houses here in the UK), as well as woods and more. From their photos, I would estimate the main residence to be twice the size of a large UK house, although that is not unusual by US-standards. Actually here is their run down:

Frugalwoods Homestead Specs:

  • 66 acres of primarily wooded land in central Vermont, 35 minutes from Hanover, New Hampshire (where Dartmouth College and every attribute of the ‘big city’ are located)
  • A 4 bed, 2.5 bath, 2,300 square foot house, built in 1991, with two woodstoves
  • An 1,800 square foot barn/shop with a woodstove
  • One pond
  • Many streams
  • Countless apple trees, several plum trees, and a forest of sugar maples
  • Two acres of cleared “yard” with extensive garden beds

They paid $389,000 for their homestead which equates to £300,000. So now you start to see how these US financial independence blogs are laughable here in the UK. I mean, no-one but a multi-millionaire would own a piece of property that large over here! And you’d be lucky to get a normal 3-bedroom, semi-detached house where I live, on a tiny plot of land. I doubt that would even buy you a studio flat in London. They would have put around £97,000 down as a deposit.

They also have a rental property in a US City, which they paid $466,500 for and that equates to approx £360,000. They only put a £50,000 deposit down on it. So, now we’re looking at that owning around £660,000 of property but none of it is full paid for. They have 30-year mortgages (the norm is 25 years here in the UK). They are in their mid-thirties, so they’re looking at carrying that debt until they are 75. I wouldn’t want that noose around my neck until well into retirement!

You can read the reality is then that they worked solidly from University to their mid-thirties to be able to put £147,000 cash on houses. I’m not knocking that, but I expect most people in the UK would be able to sock that away as a deposit too, if they had the luxury of a well-paid job. 20 years of  2 people working full-time and saving 65% of their income, means they were only saving £7,350 a year. That’s as little as £3,675 per person. Undoubtedly achievable here, if not more- it’s just that you would never be able to buy a home or retire on that here!

The truth is that both of these properties still belong to the bank and they’re only a few years into the mortgages on each. If anything happened to prevent them from keeping up payments, they could lose both in a very short period. For example, if they couldn’t get tenants for their city house – one wonders if they would be able to cover the mortgage? They also only keep around 6 months worth of liquid cash which is a very small amount. The rest of their ‘net worth’ they have ploughed into stocks and shares. Whilst it is all very nice to base your ‘net worth’ on what the current selling price of the shares is, it’s all pie in the sky really. In 10 years the value of what they have put away could halve or worse. They are basing their ‘net worth’ on a projected rate of return of 7%, but the reality again is that if anything happened to the stock market (which I think is very likely given the volatility of world markets lately) they could lose a significant proportion of their money or the whole lot! They won’t even have the properties they live in to sell because they don’t own them. I bet you would then find they have stopped blogging and had to go back to work. Probably renting somewhere and lamenting their former choices, except they wouldn’t blog about that!

In actual fact, I think they are quite dangerous examples of how to live. Unless you like an extreme level of risk. I wrote this because I don’t want UK people to compare themselves to some unrealistic ideal. Unless you are planning to move to America, then you’d better expect to be working the rest of your life to pay off a small piece of modest UK property. I don’t think anyone lives under the illusion of early retirement here anymore! The best you used to hope for was retiring at 50, but certainly not 35!!!! You are better to pay off your mortgage before making too many other investments so that at least you have something solid that you own. I think it’s safer to pay into a pension, than invest all your money into stocks and shares.

Swagbucks Egg-cellent Team Challenge

Easter is bringing with it another fun team challenge to help you earn SB from Swagbucks!

For those of you who don’t know what Swagbucks is, it’s a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online like shopping, answering surveys, discovering deals, and watching videos. You can even earn for searching the web! If you’ve never tried Swagbucks before because you didn’t know where to begin, their Team Challenges are a great way to learn the ropes!

Their latest, the “Egg-cellent” Team Challenge, begins Monday, 17 April. Here’s how you can join the challenge and the site:

1. Click here to join the challenge and be assigned to a team. Pre-registration is going on right now! If you don’t already have an account, you can sign up on this page as well.

2. Starting 17 April at 4pm GMT, in addition to earning SB you’ll contribute points to your teams total as you complete different activities on Swagbucks.

3. Check back on the page often to see the scores and what you’ve contribute so far.   All members who participate and contribute at least 400 points to their team’s total will receive a SB bonus in the form of a SB Swag Up Rebate on their next gift card! Not only that, but if you earn 300 SB before 1 May, you’ll get a 300 SB bonus (as long as you’ve signed up under me)!

Members of the 1st place team will receive a 40 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 2nd place team will receive a 20 SB Swag Up Rebate, members of the 3rd place team will receive a 10 SB Swag Up Rebate. Your SB Swag Up Rebate will be made available on Friday, 21 April and will expire on Sunday, 7 May at 7:59am GMT.