Can you retire early through extreme frugality on a normal salary?

If a Buddhist monk moved out into the secular world, he’d be leading a life similar to the one Mr. Money Moustache (MMM) leads.

Now in his early 40s, this Canadian retired about 10 years ago by using his own form of extreme frugality. He saved at least 50% of his take-home pay and invested the remainder. He wasn’t making crazy money. His starting annual salary was $41,000; his income peaked at $100,000. By the time he retired, his investments had grown to more than $700,000.

To get there, MMM didn’t live in a tent, nor did he skip meals or wear clothes with holes in them.

Here’s his philosophy: saving at least 50% of your pay so you can retire early and do what you love instead of being a slave to a job you hate is doable once you realize consuming doesn’t bring lasting happiness. “No matter what you buy, you’ll soon adapt to the new level of luxury and be no happier than where you were before,” he writes on his blog.

The Moustachian way of life comes down to redefining affordability. “If you still need to work for money, or at the very least, if you’re not saving at least 50% of your take-home pay, you cannot afford it. Where ‘it’ is anything,” he writes in another blog post. “In certain cases, you will still buy things you can’t afford. Groceries are a good example.”

$27K Annually for a Family of Three

MMM lives near Boulder, Colo., with his wife and young son. His wife is retired, too. (Her annual salary was $70,000 at its highest.) The three of them spend about $27,000 a year.

But they don’t live in poverty.

They own a sleek 2,600-square-foot house, which MMM renovated himself. Their monthly electricity bills are under $25 because they closely watch how much they consume each day.

They eat out—occasionally.

They drive their second-hand car less than 7,000 miles a year and mostly for long road trips. Most trips are by bicycle, in line with MMM’s “muscle over motor” philosophy.

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