Eric turned me on to Mr. Money Moustache, a kind of hipster Suze Orman. MMM’s animating insight is that financial planning is not just choosing where to spend your money, but whether you should spend it at all. Actually, that’s me being charitable. The guy is a censorious, unforgiving scold:
On the way home from work, she had picked up a bottle of wine and purchased a DVD containing some episodes of a popular TV show. This may sound like a normal Friday night to most people, but note that the purchasing of expensive beverages, DVDs, and video games was put at a higher priority than paying off the debt.
If MMM was someone I knew in real life, I’d tell him to lighten up.
I understand it’s important to be mindful of your priorities, but there’s a difference between mindfulness and mortification:
The bottom line is this: by focusing on happiness itself, you can lead a much better life than those who focus on convenience, luxury, and following the lead of the financially illiterate herd that is the TV- ad-absorbing Middle Class of the United States today (and most of the other rich countries). Happiness comes from many sources, but none of these sources involve car or purse upgrades. No matter what the herd or the TV set tells you, this is the truth. Far from being a social outcast, this new perspective will make you a hero among your friends. This is not a fringe activity anymore – millions of people are fixing their lives these days. And the earlier you can accept it, the sooner you will be rich.
In this one paragraph, he’s defined an “other”, told me that I’m in a state of sin, and provided me a path toward salvation and wealth. There’s nothing practical about this advice. It’s straight-up Calvinism, with MMM and “millions of people”‘s judgement as my Angry God. You there, with the Doritos: convenience and comfort have made you soft, poor, and unworthy of your our love. Pull it together and eat an apple, you depraved sinner.
What should be a series of self-conscious, considered choices about what tools to use or food to eat have become, through the power of MMM’s disapproval, predicates for my sense of self-worth. Literally nothing could be more materialist.