Mr. Money Moustache vs. Laura Vanderkam

Ignoring academic blogs for the nonce, the blogs we read generally fit into two categories:  super-frugal people and high-powered career women.

Sometimes this causes a bit of schizophrenia when it comes to the money-time trade-off.  Half the blogs tell us to keep our expenses low, do everything ourselves, earn less money to buy ourselves time.  The other half tell us to work hard, invest in our careers, live that upper-middle class lifestyle (saving responsibly on the big and/or important stuff, of course), and outsource anything that takes time away from what we want to be doing.

After reading the former I always feel a little guilty.  Surely there’s someplace more we can cut.  Maybe I could force myself to eat greens instead of just not taking them at the CSA.  After reading the latter I worry, am I not doing enough to make more money?  Am I not outsourcing enough?  Am I spending too much mental power worrying about those former blogs when I should just relax, or am I spending too much mental power worrying that I shouldn’t be worrying?

But, of course, after some soul-searching I always realize that no, I’ve been optimizing my utility subject to my budget constraints and my time constraints all along.  It’s only when there’s a change coming ahead (like DH quitting his job…) that I need to think about re-optimizing.  Mr. Money Moustache is very persuasive, but in the end I don’t really want his life.  I want *my* career.  And my career means that’s where the bulk of my time goes, so some outsourcing makes sense.  I don’t want to do it part-time (though after tenure some people do).  But I also haven’t taken my career or money making to extremes and doing so might stress me out.

I think most of us are probably somewhere in between the two extremes of minimizing spending and maximizing earning.  And that’s probably healthy, and given diminishing rates of marginal utility, that’s probably utility maximizing.  If we’re off the equilibrium, we can cut some spending to get more time or use more time to get more money and we’ll be happier.

However, it’s really intriguing to read blogs from people who are extreme on one end or the other.  They show what’s possible.  And it’s compelling to read authors who are 100% sure of themselves and tell other folks what they should do.  Martha Stewart didn’t build an empire with doubts, but with her way being a good thing.*  Mr. Money Moustache has his dictatorial Moustachian way, many parts of which I completely disagree with (despite being in his target demo in terms of income).  Laura Vanderkam has hers with making the most of every one of those 168 hours.

Funnily, Mr. Money Moustache makes this comparison on his own blog but with the I will teach you to be rich guy and the 4 hour work-week guy.  But for me, Laura Vanderkam is a more realistic proponent of outsourcing and careerism/money making.  (Just like Mr. Money Moustache is a more realistic version of financial independence than Early Retirement Extreme was.)

*Hilarious interview with Martha Stewart on Wait Wait Don’t tell me the other weekend– she admits that there are multiple correct ways to get seeds out of a pomegranate, but there are also very wrong ways.  My sister left us a pomegranate at Thanksgiving that I am too scared to open for fear of doing it wrong.  The instructions she gave were complicated!

Where do you fall on the early retirement vs. work hard/play hard spectrum?  Who are your favorite extreme bloggers and other personalities?

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71 Responses to “Mr. Money Moustache vs. Laura Vanderkam”

  1. hush Says:

    My work makes me happy and I have a lot of flexibility/control over my time. I don’t ever plan to fully retire. It seems to me that sometimes work keeps people young. I’ve noticed folks in my family rapidly lose their health once they retire – and seem to gain it back if they re-renter the workforce even part-time or more. Early retirement = early grave, but of course there are exceptions.

    I’m enjoying Gretchen Rubin’s thoughts on happiness these days. She doesn’t talk much about money (given she has loads of it), but IIRC she’s somewhere in the Vanderkamian camp.

  2. Kellen Says:

    I haven’t found a career that I feel as passionate about as you guys seem to feel about yours… So I’m still figuring that part out. However, I like reading Mr. Money Mustache because I like that it makes me feel guilty about my spending in comparison, since if I compare myself to my colleagues, I could easily start thinking things like “well, they all have iPhones… I probably need one…”
    I want to feel like I have enough freedom to feel like I’m really *choosing* my career, not just working because I can’t afford to switch jobs. And the idea of being super high-powered career woman (in my mind, investment banker types), makes me feel drained just thinking about it. So I guess I’d like to be more on the MMM side.

    • Rumpus Says:

      I read an article about a journalist who took a job as a car salesperson just to see what it was like. The article talked about several ways that the salespeople acted alike (flashy gold watches, stylish hair, etc) and how new people would quickly conform to the style of their colleagues.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Passion is overrated. And I don’t think it’s the passion for *the* career so much as the passion for *a* career. (Teaching math, now that is a passion. Also reading fiction. Watching anime. But I don’t do any passion full-time, lest it lose its luster.) I like seeing things grow, climbing hills, challenging myself, and so on. It’s a compulsion. A need.

      But not too much too fast. I’m going maybe 70-80 mph on the freeway of life, even though there are people in my field who go 90-110.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I agree that MMM-type blogs help keep me inoculated against the rampant consumerism everywhere, even if they don’t turn me into bike-riding DIYers.

  3. Cloud Says:

    I’m definitely more on the Laura Vanderkam side of the spectrum right now, and happy there. It sounds like my husband has Mr. Money Moustache tendencies, and that is probably a good thing to keep the family ship balanced. More generally, I think the important thing is to know what YOU want out of life, and then try to arrange your life to get that. Some people want more career success, and that is usually going to mean outsourcing some of the other stuff so that you’ll have time to focus on your career. Other people want to minimize their need for paid employment, because needing a job makes them feel trapped. Neither way of living is wrong- but trying to live one way when your true inclinations lie the other way is likely to make you miserable.

  4. Leigh Says:

    I definitely feel like my TiVo is ridiculous reading MMM. But I binge on Netflix and I don’t just randomly watch TV, only what has already been recorded.

    I think I’m somewhere in the middle, definitely not on the MMM extreme nor on the other extreme either. I just don’t…want a lot, compared to many other people with my income. I have friends that when they wash their clothes poorly, they just buy new ones. To me, that seems insane. Or then my housing cost is about 50% more than some friends’ and that’s for two of them.

    I guess I fall on the end where I make far more money than I can spend, so I just save it and that might mean I end up with early FI, who knows. It’s not like I was really planning on that necessarily, I just like saving money!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s kind of what happened to us. Our material wants are relatively low so money got saved. Then we used some of that FI to buy a year of time and that was awesome. And now DH is quitting his job (and we have two kids and high childcare expenses). So we’re kind of Moustachian, but not me so much in terms of outcomes just inputs. (But I won’t be biking to work any time soon, no siree.)

      • Leigh Says:

        Yeah, no biking to work for me… But I do walk ~2 miles each way and I only drive to the grocery store or get gas on the way to/from other things, which is probably Mustachian, but just what I find less stressful.

        I think that MMM style extremes work for people who are natural spenders rather than savers. Sort of like Dave Ramsey.

  5. becca Says:

    They are both good writers, and so can be persuasive about some things. Ultimately, I think Miser Mom was leading the most different-from-my-own life that I’d want to emulate though. Both MMM and LV seem to be optimizing (time and money) for their own personal goals, with “making the world better” down below “shooting the shit in Hawaii” and “dressy parties” (Both of which are perfectly reasonable pursuits! Just not what I want to look back on *my* deathbed as my life’s work). Miser Mom seemed to be optimizing time and money (albeit mostly time) so that other people’s needs could get met, not just her wants. I sometimes envy MMM or LV, but I don’t admire them quite so deeply as folks doing so much for others with much less.

    I think what I really want is to be the high-powered career type who has a career that will actually directly make the world better, with enough time-slack for nourishing interpersonal relationships (especially family) and enough self-care for keeping myself healthy. I hit a sweet spot in grad school for a little while, but the existential angst of worrying about how to make the crazy career keep going, and if I would ever graduate, and whether my tiny dimple of advanced knowledge was actually necessary, detracted significantly. Now I’m not sure how to go forward.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We agree that Miser-Mom is definitely someone to be emulated! (Though I wonder if I try less hard because she’s out there trying for me…)

      In MMM’s defense, he does spend a lot of his excess money on charity and part of his motivation for his lifestyle is to help the environment.

      It’s hard trying to figure out how to go forward. The best we can do, I think, is to keep pushing onward and make course corrections when necessary. It’s better to make a mistake (within reason, of course– try to avoid literal nuclear melt-downs) than to be too paralyzed to do anything in the first place. Life’s about the journey, not the destination (since we all end up at the same place at the end).

      • Debbie M Says:

        I know this post was supposed to introduce me to Laura Vanderkam, and maybe I’ll get to that, but meanwhile I’ve been sucked into Miser Mom. I’ve already read the first 1.5 months, and I had my boyfriend giggling multiple times about various aspects of her allowance system. (Mommy dollars, paid for making means and beating her at this one game, used for TV time and sewing lessons and the dreaded auctions. And then different exchange rates between Mommy dollars and US dollars, depending which way you go.)

        So, thanks for bringing up Miser Mom.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I wish we’d discovered her ages ago!

        I hope she updates on say, March 14th.

  6. NoTrustFund Says:

    I was so excited when I saw the title of this post!

    While I’ve spent my career in ‘high powered career mode’ and in environments where, to different degrees, people outsource everything, I find myself with a growing appreciation of MMM.

    While I don’t love my job as much as you, I do really enjoy working and therefore do not really envy MMM’s life. However, especially now with kids, I do envy the ability to have a very flexible schedule and find myself not wanting to outsource many aspects of child rearing much beyond a traditional school day schedule.

    I feeling guilty sometimes when I hear of friends’ ‘pick up nannies’ or double nannies, feeling like I should be spending more time on my career. But I really like being able to pick up my kids and put them to bed at night, every night. So I guess this puts me in the middle of Laura and MMM and maybe trending towards MMM.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We wouldn’t say we *love* our jobs, but there’s definitely a compulsion there and a responsibility. And we do have pretty flexible schedules, except the hours we’re actually in the classroom (or going to required meetings, but even those can be skipped from time to time).

      Our kids go to bed pretty late, so we have no problem with DC1 being in after school care, especially since it means ze can run off some of that excess energy on the playground or in the gym. Zoom!

      • NoTrustFund Says:

        Yes, I’m sure I’d feel differently if both my kids weren’t asleep by 7:30. It’s a stretch to keep one awake until 6:30 although I am sure this will change as they get older.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We optimistically start the bedtime routine at 7:30…

        Lately we’ve been trying to convince DC2 that 10:30 is a better bedtime than 11:30.

  7. the thrifty spendthrift Says:

    The problem with MMM is that I think he is a little too unrealistic and a little out of touch. Not everyone has the capacity (or capability) to work in a field that dictates a salary of 100K+, such as engineering. Not everyone is handy. Not everyone can ride a bike everywhere—I’m young and have terrible knees. I wish he was a little more flexible in terms of applying his ideas to others that don’t necessarily fit into his mold.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      In his early posts he talks about how not everybody can make 100K (combined income) so his advice isn’t aimed at everybody, but as his blog has matured he seems to have changed his mind on that, or decided that getting the spending down is enough that a high income isn’t necessary.

  8. oilandgarlic Says:

    I must check out this MMM, although if he’s purely a finance blogger, I’ll probably lose interest quickly. I like reading LV because I think we can all learn to use our time wisely/better, but I suspect that I’m probably closer to MMM in terms of career focus. I like my job and working, to some extent, but I don’t even like the idea of managing my career to the next level. It’s all I can do to manage my current career at my current level and still have time for other stuff in life!

  9. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I do wish we could outsource more, but so far it’s been more of a hassle to find someone to outsource to than to do it ourselves (or to leave it undone). I think that goes against the grain of both types of blogger. We want to outsource, but the cost-benefit of finding someone reliable hasn’t been worth it! And, like MMM (but not LV), we do find some consumption value from many chores. A weekend spend fixing something is not a weekend wasted so long as we do it together and get a sense of accomplishment from it.

    • hush Says:

      “We want to outsource, but the cost-benefit of finding someone reliable hasn’t been worth it!”

      Amen, I feel your pain. This is also why I’m in 3 shitty local book clubs– because the word-of-mouth way is the only way to find anyone remotely qualified to work in my home. Sitters, repairpeople, gardeners, housecleaners – all the crappy ones came out of the phone book and through postings at DH’s work. All the conscientious ones came from word-of-mouth.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh man, I wonder if joining a bookclub is worth it…

        We did just get a handyman recommendation from a neighbor. And our one good lawn service was recommended by our neighborhood tree guy (but then he graduated and sold the company). No luck with housecleaning though. So basically we have the same insect guy that the people we bought the house from used, the plumbers that everyone uses, and nothing else. (Sitters we were able to hire daycare teachers for, and now we extensively interview college students.)

      • hush Says:

        The smaller the town (where there’s no Angie’s List – assuming that would even be a valid info source anyway?), the more a continuous word-of-mouth resource like a bookclub makes sense – but it comes at a price. I like books, but getting to know people = ugh.

        We feel like we’re constantly asking people for referrals. Our supercool local insurance agent recommended a good roofer and also an HVAC-unit repair company. Housecleaners are tough to find – and we’ve gotten a ton of lukewarm recommendations “I wish they’d dust more thoroughly” and “I wish they’d stop inviting me to church.” More common are the “well, don’t ever call X cleaning service” tales. The one we really want to hire is on sabbatical, and when she gets back we won’t have our pick of days she can come because she’s so booked up.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s been our experience with cleaners too. The good ones should charge more!

  10. Z Says:

    I believe in outsourcing all I can possibly afford to. I am not now and I cannot imagine being interested in retiring. I do, however, believe in leisure time and while I am ambitious, I am not a workaholic. I think retirement was originally created for people who do physical work and are not paid enough to have retirement savings. At a certain point you cannot do that physical work any more and you need a pension. That is when you open a corner store or something like that with the savings you do have.

    This idea of doing high paid work you dislike and retiring young is newer. I chose work I liked but it means I cannot afford to retire. I also do not live somewhere that holds my interest, so I need to work to entertain myself, and I cannot afford to move, so again I need to work to entertain myself. So I am stuck, but then I chose work I did not dislike, for a reason.

  11. Debbie M Says:

    I claim to be quite far on the retire-early end of the spectrum. However, I also don’t want to live like Mr. Money Mustache. I have space-consuming hobbies (ballroom dance, quilting, parties). And I suck at farming and can barely stand to keep my own lawn from making the neighbors want to call the police because my weeds are too tall. And I prefer consumables that are more polite than average to the workers and environment (i.e., expensive).

    “Your Money or Your Life” used to make me feel guilty for not maximizing my income until the last time I read it when I realized that I AM maximizing my income out of all the ways I could make money doing things that I can stand to do with work hours and stress levels that I can stand to have. Also, every time I figure out a new career to try for, I spend a lot of time learning, joining the appropriate professional organization and all that; it just doesn’t pan out.
    One more note. I started off wanting career success, but I didn’t get it. My friends are all computer programmers and engineers and I love their big, wonderful brains, plus they also like to have fun. However, I absolutely do not want their jobs. I thought I wanted to be a public school teacher, but I don’t look like a disciplinarian and, in fact, am not great at motivating big groups of people who don’t want to be there, no matter how enthusiastic I am about my topic. So, I settled for a job, that turned into a career, that was in my favorite sector but extremely boring. I know I can think of way more fun things to do with my time than any of my bosses have been able to. And I do have so many hobbies that a lot of them always have to be on hold just because I don’t have enough time.

    My favorite extreme bloggers, not surprisingly, are on the frugality side:
    * Mr. Money Mustache – bikes everywhere, does his own labor
    * Penniless Parenting – stay-at-home mom who makes do and forages
    * 20 Year Challenge – won’t take more debt and loves communal living
    * To Simplify – moved to a van temporarily to save money but now he loves it

    I do not want be like them—don’t like gardening, don’t want to get to know my neighbors that well (what if they’re icky?), don’t like bargaining, already have too much stuff I like to want to live in a van. But I wouldn’t mind being a little more like them (learning how to do more things myself and learning cheaper ways to do fun, healthy things).

    There was a go-getter lady who was big on moving up in business and bargaining, but she has stopped blogging. Other favorite extremists are book authors:
    * No Impact Man – tried to live with no impact even though he lives in NYC—he did shockingly well
    * The Tightwad Gazette – shopped at garage sales and did lots of cooking and threw awesomely creative kid birthday parties to be able to afford to have one parent stay home and have lots of kids in a big rural house with attached barn
    * Your Money or Your Life – ostensibly how to become financially independent, but mostly about how you should make sure to only spend money on things you actually want. (Sadly, that IS extreme in the US.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      YMoYL never made me feel guilty– I liked the way it let you define what was “enough” for you. I liked the focus on the trade-off between freedom and other things you can buy with money.

  12. Jules Says:

    Long-time lurker (really not as creepy as it sounds) and first-time commenter here.

    I love both Mr. Money Mustache and I Will Teach You To Be Rich – they’re two of my favorite blogs. I started off on the ultra-frugal end of the spectrum and have moved to the “earn more” camp in recent years – although the two really don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

    I hardly follow any of MMM’s practical advice anymore but I still love his perspective on a lot of meta-topics like worrying only about what you can control, optimism, and consumerism. But I’m also single, childless, a student, and responsible for no one but myself. If I had kids and a mortgage I’d find a lot more value in advice about how to cut expenses. I still find it really interesting though – your posts on savings goals and expenses are my favorite posts on here.

    Ramit Sethi’s stuff has made a huge impact on me. I was recently a case study on his blog for my side business (caricature artist) which has ended up earning more than my day job this year. Like someone famous says, I can’t remember who, there’s a limit to how much you can save but no limit on how much you can earn.

    I’m much happier since I embraced the “earn more vs. spend less” mentality – even though I don’t spend that much on stuff. I make good money for a student but I basically just stockpile into my Roth IRA and investment accounts. I’m scared of lifestyle creep because once you start spending money on high-quality stuff, it’s so hard to go back. Ever since I had my first $40 haircut I haven’t been able to bring myself to go back to the $12 one. I know that can happen in pretty much any area so now I try not to let myself go there.

    My third favorite blog in this space is Afford Anything by Paula Pant. She’s a nice hybrid: spend money on what you love and cut ruthlessly on what you don’t care about.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’re not following MMM’s advice about cutting expenses with kids. He doesn’t have our kids!

      That is awesome about your side-business.

      We also really like Afford Anything– I love what she’s doing with housing. (Though not something I have *any* desire to do myself. I’m glad someone is doing it though.)

      p.s. We hope you’re not a last-time commenter!

  13. bethh Says:

    okay let’s get to the real problem here: pomegranate peeling! Here’s how I do it, and I swear this works.

    In your sink, fill a good-sized bowl (like a salad bowl or pasta pot) with warm water
    submerge the pomegranate and use a knife or your thumbs to rip it into at least two segments
    fiddle with the insides so the pith & seeds separate from the rind.
    The seeds sink, the pith floats, and it’s very tidy.

    If you try to open it above water you will get beautiful micro splashes of pomegranate all over the entire room.

    Back to the main point: I like MMM because he’s so outrageously confident, even though I can’t aspire to that level of savings.

  14. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I had never read either of those blogges before, so I went and clicked around a bit. I found their incessant exhortatory rhetoric exhausting.

  15. bogart Says:

    I have CPP’s reaction (more or less) to Laura Vanderkam: I do not enjoy reading her writing. I’m OK with MMM in small quantities, though I do find him somewhat annoying. Clearly annoying is an important part of his brand, but beyond the on-purpose part of it, I would need to be (a) more risk-accepting and (b) less eusocial/interdependent (I don’t know that my attribute is really consistent with that of ants or bees, but besides having not many children, which I sort of accomplished — 0>N>4 — depending how you count stepkids — MMM’s approach seems to require in general that no one depend on you much. So besides few kids, be sure those you do have are healthy, your spouse/partner ditto, don’t have pets, and for heaven’s sake, don’t have aging parents! I flunk.). Also, non-trivial parts of his writing are actually, “I have a lot of money, so I can afford not to spend a lot of money,” which is, you know, clearly true and perhaps inspiring, but not necessarily that useful as advice (it is one thing to self-insure when you can afford big, if unlikely, expenses, for example, or to choose to ride a bike when you don’t actually have to get to a regular job (or go visit your aging parent after you finish up your job and before you go pick up your kid), and something else otherwise). But that said, his stuff and that of the community he has provided space for does remind me that I probably shouldn’t spend money on THAT, whatever THAT is, which is often a useful message.

    In terms of where I fall on the spectrum, count me among those who enjoy the work but value flexibility difficult to attain (though I am for now comparatively well situated in this regard) in contemporary US workplaces. I can sort of imagine my self retiring and volunteering, except that so many volunteer organizations make such inefficient use of volunteers’ time. But I suppose I could volunteer to fix that (perhaps — not clear if the problem is the organization, or the line-level volunteers themselves, in which case …)!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I wonder if some of that reaction to Laura Vanderkam would be more like reaction to Mr. Money Moustache if ze were Larry Vanderkam instead. We think if we ever make a new blog we will pretend to be one gentleman and see how reactions differ.

      Though maybe it’s that although she seems to have the same thick skin, she doesn’t seem to so obviously have her tongue implanted in cheek as MMM does when giving his proclamations.

      • bogart Says:

        Yeah, I wondered the same thing. And to be honest, I haven’t spent much time over there, so maybe if I read her I’d like her more. Indeed, I just clicked through on one post (the 91%/9% one) and quite enjoyed it. But I couldn’t tell from what I saw on her main page what it was about, so I had to be willing to (gasp!) click through even just to learn that. And I don’t typically enjoy reading bloggers writing about other blogger’s posts (my engagement here notwithstanding!), as the post appeared to me (incorrectly) to be doing.

        OTOH (and ironically in context of Cloud’s comment below this one), something I didn’t like in clicking over to her page today is that 2/5 posts are about — well, not much, actually — but “about” kid stuff. Which is of course fine — who cares what I like to read? But not my thing (and MMM doesn’t post much about his kid, and I can actually say that the few Daddybloggers — dads writing mostly about their experiences as dads parenting their kids — I tried reading, I quit reading, so there my behavior is fairly consistent across gender lines.

  16. Cloud Says:

    I’ve been debating whether to write this comment, and have decided to go ahead. I don’t mean this in snarky or accusational way, and I hope your commenters will give me the benefit of the doubt on that.

    But since I have read Laura’s blog for a long time, and have actually corresponded with her (and met her) outside of the blog, this jumped out at me: some of the comments here assume things about her life that just aren’t true. I am guessing that people who haven’t read her work or don’t read her often are reacting to the characterization of her as a “high powered career woman” and assuming things. I think that is interesting, and perhaps contains within it a hint about one reason why there aren’t more, and higher powered career women.

    For instance, Laura actually puts her kids to bed most nights. In fact, she writes occasionally how her husband’s work schedule means that she often solos on weeknights.

    And on what do we base the assumption that she is not giving generously to charities? Like many of us, she doesn’t come straight out and say how much she donates and to whom, but there are plenty of clues in what she writes to suggest that she does in fact volunteer time and money.

    I, too, have a reasonably “big” career- I have a fair amount of responsibility at work, in a fairly demanding field, and my salary reflects that. And yet I, too, am there for most bedtimes. And dinner times and bath times. My husband and I are well aware of how well off we are, and try to give appropriately to charities to help those who are less fortunate. Could we give more? Definitely. But we could also give a lot less.

    The fact is, there is no way to be a “high powered career woman” and not have people judge you as an absent mother or a cold-hearted money-grubber. A lot of us do have thick skins (it is almost essential to have one if you’re going to try to climb to any height at all in a male-dominated work place). But that doesn’t mean that these assumptions don’t sting. It doesn’t mean that they don’t feed into the self-doubts we harbor. They contribute to the feelings on inadequacy that pull us down, and sometimes out of the workplace. It is certainly not the only factor, or even the biggest factor (I’d lay that one at sexism’s doorstep), but it is a factor. If you’re constantly taking deep breaths and telling yourself that you’re a better mother/person than those people give you credit for, you have less emotional reserves to deal with the sexist jerk at work.

    It is fine to disagree with what Laura writes, or dislike her tone. I certainly don’t agree with everything she writes. But I’d urge people to check themselves- when they write that high powered career women miss bedtimes, how do they know that? When they write that someone isn’t doing her part to make the world a better place, how do they know that? The world is far more complex than our stereotypes. We all know that. But those stereotypes can still hurt.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I didn’t get that anybody was accusing Laura Vanderkam of not spending time with her kids. My sense was that was Notrustfund saying what she would have to do herself in order to spend more time on her own career. (Those of us who just convinced our own DC2s to finally fall asleep at 11:41pm are not in a position to understand that problem.)

      In terms of charity, I have no idea what Laura Vanderkam gives, but I did just read through the entire MMM archive and giving is one of his themes (and indeed, the entire profit for something, I think his blog, goes to charity). Does journalism as a career help the world compared to microbiology, I dunno. Personally I am a big fan of A Nation Deceived.

      • Cloud Says:

        I’m perhaps overly sensitive to this issue right now, since I have for some reason been coming across the assumption that career focus = missing kids’ bedtimes a lot recently, and I currently spend over an hour on bedtimes pretty much every night. I also pick my kids up from day care/after school care almost every day, and make dinner almost every weekday. (Full disclosure: I do miss drop offs, since those are my husband’s responsibilities. And sometimes it is- gasp!- my husband and not me that goes to school events.) I guess my point is just that people tend to assume details about other people’s lives based on broad characterizations, that those details are often just dead wrong, and that the slow accumulation of false (and hurtful) assumptions about your life can wear on you, even if you have relatively thick skin. But perhaps no one is doing that here, and I just need to step away from the internet for a little while.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Also in terms of politics, unlike most of the other career women we follow, it is true that Laura Vanderkam leans fiscally conservative while MMM, unlike many of the extreme frugality folks we follow, leans heavily (and refreshingly) liberal. Not that those have anything to do with either gender or make more $/spend less money. But it does come through in postings.

        MMM is kind of a jerk about childcare and private schools, but he’s an equal opportunity jerk and he obviously does not have my kids. (Though now that DC1 is a bookworm it’s a lot easier to keep up with hir.)

    • oilandgarlic Says:

      I read Laura’s blog regularly and I don’t picture her as the high powered career women ( I think her husband makes more money??) and she has a flexible career. However, I do think her target audience are high-powered people and she does profile high-powered people as aspirational examples, i.e. what successful people do before breakfast. I assume that successful people are all successful in their careers and make good money. These people may be able to put their kids to bed and spend dinner together but I also think the impression given is that to do those 2 things, they have to work after the kids are in bed or on weekends sometimes. I know very few “high-powered” people who have as much time for kids/family as those in “lesser” careers. I’m not saying it’s impossible.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think somewhere she mentioned she makes more than 100K/year, and I’m always coming across her articles in popular media. She also does public speaking and has media appearances– all of those seem pretty high-powered. I’m not sure that what her husband makes is relevant. My career also has a lot of flexibility, but I’d consider it to be high powered, at least the way I run it. (With tenure I could downshift, but I won’t.) I could work after DC1 gets home from school, but I haven’t been… and honestly part of the reason I can get away with that is organization, intelligence, and reputation (though lately I’ve been burning career capital, something I will regret later).

        I wonder what you did to WordPress that they keep throwing you in our spam filter!

  17. First Gen American Says:

    This requires a whole post in response. When I think of myself, I think that where I fall on the frugal/power spectrum is somewhat dictated by my parents and it is for a lot of people and if someone’s parents are on one extreme, you as a child tend to move in the other direction. The minimalist dude I know who got rid of all his stuff and became a monk had a dad who was never home and never had time for anything because he was an executive for a big company. I lean more towards the earn more camp but its taken a long time to find a job that pays well but isn’t all consuming. Some of it is discipline on my part, but a lot of it is trial and error too. My mom is on the extreme frugal side but not out of choice. It was just what she had to do to make the most of the sh!ty hand she was dealt. She encouraged me to get a good job that pays well. I would love to understand the extreme bloggers and see how their family situations drove their path in life. Are they being pf rebels?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s a really good point I hadn’t considered.

      My father makes Jacob from ERE look like a wuss! He also encouraged my sister to buy a nicer car than the mini-cooper she wanted (she bought the mini-cooper anyway). Living the American dream is part of being first generation!

      So we do both make a lot of money. But we also come from a family full of career women on our non-immigrant side, which influences us. How could we not achieve?

  18. Revanche Says:

    By the time I finished reading the comments, I forgot what my original answer was / thoughts were.

    Cloud’s comments/high-powered career thoughts: I think this is a valid objection to the (though maybe it didn’t happen here, I see it happen a lot) broadbrushing generalization that career women just don’t carry their share of the home life in whatever sense.
    I work 12 hours a day probably, now, and make more than my spouse. But I now do the cooking from scratch most nights of the week and have dinner ready before I finish my work day because I can, and then finish working into the night. And yet there’s an assumption that since I’m a career oriented woman, I probably have nothing to do with the cooking, cleaning etc. I have no doubt that if we have kids and a nanny or help, the assumption will be that I never see or care for my kids.

    Outsourcing: This, I’d love to do. Only just realized in the last week why I still don’t. That’s a lengthy enough thought for a post, though.

    I remember now: I read approximately the same polarized types of blogs as you Grumpies, but I don’t feel any real bipolarism. Probably because I came from an inherent need to live frugally but always intended to become highly successful, financially stable and to be able to pick and choose the frugalities that I’d continue to practice. That’s the thing I wrote about a while ago, that mental shift that happened over the past year or so. So in reading these blogs, with the scattering of IWTYBR types, investing or growing wealth types, science types, etc., I’m just doing what I always did: educating myself on what I can do to improve or what to avoid doing if I don’t want a certain shape in my life. It’s not a perfect formula but it’s the general gist.

    Plus I read for enjoyment anyway so if something isn’t fun, I stop. I’m not terribly compelled by train wreck syndrome. :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t have those stereotypes about career women, but probably because my entire family on my mom’s side is full of them, so I don’t need the stereotypes. And we all turned out great. (Except my one uncle who got married to a crazy lady and refused to go to his own son’s wedding. But my aunts think he was genetically born without a sense of humor and only has the ability to see things in terms of black and white. One of my colleagues says that is a real thing and is correlated with political and religious choices.) Also I tend to hang out with career women IRL and I know more of them who are AP than are absentee. And, of course, there’s all that research on the double-shift, showing that married career women do the bulk of home life work even after they bring home the bacon.

      These pro-outsourcing blogs would tell you to stop doing so many chores! There is nothing wrong with not cleaning etc.

      And yes, I think most people pick and choose. But some of these extreme blogs say their way is the only way. Unapologetically in many cases!

  19. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    Fascinating thread. And it looks like I beat Mr. Money Mustache getting over here to comment! I just checked out his blog for the first time and it is intriguing — very 4-hour workweek, from what I gather, with the personal finance angle thrown in. I don’t think I’m going for quite the same concept of a persona in my blog (hey, it’s my real name!), but I’ve enjoyed reading the comments here to see how some of my online personality potentially comes off. I’m kind of thrilled to be considered a high-powered career woman. Maybe if I created more of a persona I’d get Mr. Money Mustache’s volume of readers.
    In reality, I’m pretty frugal. Much of what I write about time and money comes out of my own struggles not to undervalue my time, which is a more absolutely limited resource. One can make more money. No one can make more time.
    But yeah, the high powered career women and bedtime narrative has some similarities to the baked goods for school sales narrative. Less of an issue than one might think. I estimate I do it 5 of 7 nights per week.

    • chacha1 Says:

      I think a primary reason I am as happy & healthy as I am is that I have ALWAYS understood the value of my time. I make decisions quickly. I cut my losses if I need to. I pay more for rent so I can spend less time in my car. I work 37.5 easy hours per week for somebody else so that when I am at home, my time is my own.

      My husband, who has his own business and likes it that way, works six days a week regularly and sometimes seven. His hours are longer than mine, he has business paperwork to do (that I often help with) in his “free” time, and earns roughly what I do. That example – of success and contentment, but also of a major tradeoff in time – was why I did not go freelance a few years back.

      As you say … no one can make more time.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      MMM is currently in Hawaii doing renovations on a house (and doesn’t comment much on other blogs anyway). In reality, he’s freelance self-employed and choosey about what assignments he takes (I think somewhere he mentioned his construction business takes in something like 70K/year, or maybe that was construction + blog, I forget, his point is he doesn’t need the money even if he’s bringing it in). But the rhetoric is different. And you can see he doesn’t consider himself to be a 4 hour work week guy (as evidenced by his post on the subject)!

  20. chacha1 Says:

    DH and I are both work hard/play hard people. We like working, and I personally like being an employee because even though job security is a myth, it is just *less work* to be an employee vs. self-employed. Paid vacation and subsidized benefits are also nice.

    Re: early retirement: this isn’t an option so it’s a good thing we like working.

    Re: extreme frugality: the whole “do everything yourself so you can spend less so you can earn less so your job is less demanding so you have more time” argument is nonsense to me. The work required to live the frontier life means you have NO TIME.

    It would be ludicrous for me to learn to sew, for example, and buy everything I would need in order to make my own clothes in the four or more different styles required for my life (by no means necessarily a cost savings over ready-to-wear), and devote many, many hours to the design and construction of said clothes … when I can quite easily spend less than one day and less than a week’s pay per year on wardrobe updates.

    I don’t think I read any extreme bloggers. “Extreme” anything gives me hives.

    • Debbie M Says:

      I like to read the extreme blogs so I can pick and choose all their ideas that seem easy or fun to me. I also am not going to be designing and sewing, say, a ballroom dance gown, but I will sew up holes in my socks and t-shirts while watching TV. I will also make my own chocolate syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part cocoa, 1 part water, bring to boil) so I can have it organic. And I will compare prices periodically so I make sure to stock up on the cheap staples when I’m at stores I rarely go to.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      except Extreme Awesome, of course. (You do read us!)

  21. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I think everything I look at in terms of work and outsourcing I look at through an economic cost benefity analysis. Is the cost + hassle < benefit (both monetarily and psychically). It's simple, but not as simple as, "outsource nothing" or "maximize earnings/play hard"… and people have different hassle factors and different likes and dislikes for things. I fondly remember doing chores with my family, so there's consumption value with that. But there are things I hate doing, so we got a dishwasher and a dryer because the benefits to me outweigh the costs (or my worry about the environment). My father feels otherwise, but he'd probably embrace the dryer if he were the one hanging the clothes.

  22. Carnival of Personal Finance #392 AND #393 – Merry Christmas Edition — Money Life and More Says:

    [...] from Grumpy Rumblings of the Half-Tenured presents Mr. Money Moustache vs. Laura Vanderkam, and says, “Nicole and Maggie discuss extreme personal finance blogging. What makes these [...]

  23. jacq Says:

    I’ve read some more MMM now and feel an overwhelming urge to tell Chuck Norris jokes.

  24. What is financial independence? | Grumpy rumblings of the (formerly!) untenured Says:

    [...] as a side-note and we’ve talked a lot about the book Your Money or Your Life (and some about Mr. Money Moustache and Early Retirement Extreme), but mainly in the context of other things like what to do if [...]

  25. Expanded ramblings on extreme living | Grumpy rumblings of the (formerly!) untenured Says:

    […] I don’t want to make the sacrifices to be at the tippity top of my field.  The end goal of either of those outcomes isn’t what I want […]

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    […] Mr. Money Moustache vs. Laura Vanderkam 69 comments December […]


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