Friday, May 4, 2012

If debt is an emergency, is the absence of debt a party?

I took to heart Mr. Money Mustache's news flash that DEBT IS AN EMERGENCY and needs to be treated as such. I still have over $26k of student loan debt, and through that lens a lot of my purchases seem flippant. I like the occasional (metaphorical) punch in the face that MMM provides. But I have another point to make about my living situation.

I may have student loan debt, but my girlfriend does not. It makes a great deal of sense for me to live frugally and spend all my personal income on debt repayment; in fact, that's my only non-wussypants option. But does my girlfriend need to live the same way? I don't think she does.

Obviously I think it's in her (and everyone's) best interest to convert to the ways of Mustachianism, and I've been heavily recruiting her. But it's not my decision how she lives and how she chooses to spend her money. I do think the Mustachian way offers a path to true happiness versus the consumption-fueled hedonism that advertising and American culture shoves down our throats.

But answer this question: is Mustachianism necessarily incompatible with furnishing your house with non-Ikea wares? We're twenty five years old. We haven't had the time to blow large sums of money, nor to accumulate the legitimately valuable and useful set of durable possessions you'd expect a couple of adults might have. I'm thinking of solid-wood furniture, a few well-made pots and pans, maybe reupholstering a hand-me-down couch. Do you know what I mean? Foregoing purchases like these would speed up one's journey to financial independence. But let's say you're debt free, and you have a large and growing stash. I think it could be reasonable to make some sensible upgrades to your stock of worldly possessions.

I just had a crazy thought. What if there are two stages of Mustachianism? The first is the part where you're spending $7 at Starbucks every day with $10k of credit card debt driving your Escalade around town and you couldn't come up with $1000 in an emergency. The cure is a regimen of daily punches to the face, only spending money on peanut butter sandwiches and debt paydown, and doing anything that Mr. Money Mustache tells you. Stage two is when you're out of debt and you're building your stash. Then your job is to work toward consuming as few of the earth's and society's resources as you reasonably can, while living a fulfilling life and making the world around you a better place. And you can do that at your own pace, and if that means occasional trips to Yankee Candle because you like it when your house smells nice, that's fine.

I'm not sure about that yet. And personally I'm not past stage one, so I'm going to keep pruning my spending and reworking my lifestyle.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post, and you're totally right. There really are various stages.

    If you're in consumer debt, it's an emergency. Once you're on the real non-ridiculous road of a positive and growing net worth, it's more of a nice journey where you explore your values.

    With the right understanding of life, this should still lead to pretty decent savings. For example, there is no possible justification for Escalade ownership - if you end up there, punch yourself in the face and go back to square one.

    But some nice household furnishings and other tools for the Game of Having a Good Time in Life? Shit yeah! Almost everything I have is really nice quality. It doesn't cost all that much to have a middle-class life with reasonable possessions. Buy them with caution, they accumulate, and eventually you have everything, and it lasts for most of your lifetime with no need for replacement. No need to cheap out - as a Mustachian you will have plenty of cash throughout your life.