Their Up is My Down

finding your new tribe

Blogging is going to make me rich. Most of my life, I felt like we were swimming against the tide of consumerism. But now, the currents have changed. I have found my tribe. And I think that will make all the difference.


I’ve been spending money, real money, for about 20 years. I found a direct correlation to how much people praise my choices and how detrimental those choices are to my goals and dreams.

Their Up is My Down.

If I spend $150 getting my hair cut, colored and styled, they love it. They will say it looks amazing. Everyone will compliment me. I should do that more often because, really, I deserve it. My Twitter picture will be flooded with little red hearts.

But I can’t add anything to my kid’s college fund that month. They won’t notice that.

If I buy a new fancy car, they will go wild. All my coworkers will come outside to check it out. Ask a 100 questions. A few test drives. Admiration.

But I can’t take a year off work to do these amazing things that I really do value. They won’t notice that.

If I go out to an expensive restaurant and take pictures of the amazing food I ate, they will like it on FB. And talk about it at the office when I bring in the left overs.

But I might not be able to add any money to our “Next Rental Investment” fund. They won’t notice that.

If I take a luxury vacation, they will be green with envy.  My Instagram pictures will show beautiful hotels and hot stone massages. Everyone will ask about it when we get home. They will wish they had our perfect life.

But that year, we won’t be able to save the IRA max. Or maybe anything. They won’t notice that.

If I buy a huge gorgeous home, everyone will love it. They will like every picture I post. They will think I have really made something of myself.

But I will be tied to a paying job for the next 30 years, with little hope of living the life I dream of. They won’t mind that. I’m just being “normal,” right?

Their Up is My Down.

If I cut my hair at home, they might not notice. If I drive an older car, they might tease me a bit about my hooptie. If I cook simple meals at home, there isn’t much to talk about. If our vacations involve a tent, no one will think much of it. If I paid cash for my modest home, they will ask when we are going to move into something bigger.

But in reality, I’m killing it.

I’m saving for my kid’s college, and this tribe thinks that’s awesome. I’m taking a year off work, and this tribe sees that I’m living intentionally- fully. I’m buying investment properties and this tribe loves the passive income. I’m maxing out my IRA, and this tribe sees that I’m setting myself up for success.

You can’t pay too much attention to “them.” The ones who love every choice that keeps you in debt and over-committed in payments.

They can only celebrate choices that steal your freedom.

It’s easy to see consumption. It’s easy to show off money spent. All of our best money choices are hidden. We can be making huge gains behind the scenes and our friends might never know.

You have a different tribe!

It’s ok if their up is your down.  They can celebrate whatever they want. You have a different tribe. And I will celebrate with you. Every choice that catapults you closer to your goals. We will celebrate that together. Every choice that buys you more freedom instead of less. We will throw confetti into the air together. Find cheaper housing, pay off your mortgage, keep driving that old car, kill your credit card debt for good: And we will rally behind you! Cheering you on. Just so blasting happy for you!

Because we understand what those things really mean, and how powerful those choices are. We are living on purpose.

We know what we want, what we value, and will do what it takes to get there. Even if we can’t share it on Facebook.

More freedom. More choices. More opportunities. More time for things that matter.



Discussion questions:

  1. Have you ever wanted more celebration for your hidden wins?
  2. Have you ever wanted to shout at the coworker who took out a 6 year car loan on a $35,000 car, “I actually HAVE $35,000, but you don’t see me wasting it on some stupid car!” Oh, course not. That’s not nice. Maybe I have thought it in my head.
  3. How are you liking the changes on my homepage? Who else noticed that I miss-spelled financial? Duh! It was a Homer Simpson moment for sure! Big thanks to Harmony for catching that. =) Truth be told, I’m a truly horrendous speller. Spell check often has no idea what I am trying to say.


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72 thoughts on “Their Up is My Down

  1. Nice, Ms M. This is definitely a Rockstar worthy post. It reminds me of a great quote from the economist Henry Hazlitt: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy.” So, yes, your co-workers and friends see the great haircut, the new SUV, and the awesome new house and appropriately fawn over your fabulous life. What they fail to see are the extra years of work those spending decisions have saddled your life with. “Their up is [your] down,” as you eloquently put it. But thankfully there’s another tribe out there who are more than willing to gush over your maxed-out Roth and your crappy car. I’m with you, Ms. M. A pox on bubble popularity. Hail the savers! Hail the lovers of passive income! Hail the boring!

    • Heck yeah. We decided early in our marriage that we would celebrate our big wins. When we paid off all our debt, saved our first 100k, our first 250k, hit half a million. No one else was able to celebrate that with us. But we could celebrate it. It helps make up for the two dozen times people have asked when we are moving into a bigger house. =)

      • That’s so cool. On one hand you want to shout it from the rooftops, but on the other it’s probably nice to just knowingly glance and smile at each other when the herd is trying to figure you out! : )

        • It’s awesome to know that we can do all those things, but just choose not to. It was much harder when we were in a huge pile of debt and didn’t even have the option. Having the cash has made a huge difference in our comfort level in frugal living.

  2. What an uplifting post! This made me smile.

    “I found a direct correlation to how much people praise my choices and how detrimental those choices are to my goals and dreams.” This is a really insightful thought. The social signifiers that get attention from others are usually more expensive and less important than the invisible goals. It is far easier to get compliments through spending than saving or smart investing.

    I am proud to be a part of this underground, counterculture tribe.

    • Matt, we are so happy you are part of it too! I’m not really sure if anyone really gets a lot of compliments from saving. The guy who set up my work IRA had to ask what my net worth was. This could have been the ONE time someone congratulated me at work for all our smart choices through the years. But you know what happened instead? He didn’t believe me! First he goes, “Oh, no, I mean with out your primary home.” Ok. So I gave him that number. He still looked at me like, “You don’t need to lie.” I don’t know. Maybe it was the 14 year old Honda I drove to work. Or maybe I just had a bigger net worth than he did. =)

  3. Everyone thinks it’s amazing I took a 2 week trip to Europe. But only this tribe really celebrates the important things with me, like the fact I paid 10 pounds/night in England, or spent most of my time wandering around outside or doing free activities.

    I confuse a lot of my coworkers. They’re like, we know you get paid well. Why do you still drive your old car? Why do you bring your lunch? And then in the same breath turn around and tell me it’s impossible to max out your 401k, Roth IRA and HSA in the same year. Not impossible- just different priorities.

    • I love frugal travel! I would rather spend 3x as long traveling and see 2x as much than have a “luxury” trip. I think it’s easy to waste so much money pandering to please others, that folks don’t even take the time to really ask themselves what they want out of life. Congrats on the frugal trip! And totally amazing on the 401k, IRA, HSA! That is a truly awesome feat.

  4. Spell check is one of the best inventions.

    Fully agree with everything in this post. I hate when I see my friends (low 20s) post on Facebook that they bought this shiny new car. They get so many comments but all these people fail to realize that they took out a ton of debt on top of their student loans! It drives me crazy! If I could not afford to pay for it in cash then I likely cannot afford to buy it, except for a house maybe.

    Your third to last sentence summed up everything perfect. We are living on purpose. When we get to do whatever we want at age 40, or whatever that number may be, everybody will be looking at us with jealousy. Better to grind today and relax tomorrow!

    • Sometimes I just don’t get it. Why spend $40k to enjoy your 20 minute commute more so you can tolerate a job you hate? I wish it was less taboo to talk about money. I might take people by the shoulders and give them a good shake. Ride your bike to work, invest the money, in 5 or 10 years you can find a job you love (but pays half as much.) It would be one thing if everyone loved their job. But they don’t. And eating out everyday is only holding them hostage there longer.

  5. I love the concept here of hidden wealth in more ways than just money. Nicely done.

    If it makes you laugh, a colleague asked me when I would be upgrading my car. Not because it is banged up or old. No, he just bought a Maserati! And to cap it all, a new detached garage on his home was recently built to house the damn thing. I will keep ploughing money into low cost index funds, smile quietly at his excess and think of where I am heading on the road of life without a shiny and incredibly expensive Maserati…

    • Holy crap. That’s a lot of money for some transportation! On the flip side, I once had a coworker try to convince our boss that I shouldn’t be allowed to park my beater car in front of the business. Because the car was apparently so ugly to her that she thought it reflected poorly on the company. I felt a bit like Quasimodo. But then I remembered she put 0 down on her brand new ride, and was broke at the end of each pay period. Mock me all you want lady!

  6. This is BRILLIANT. And I agree completely. Though sometimes you’ll also find when people say: “Your hair looks so cute, did you get it cut?” And your response is: “Yup. My husband did it.” They gush just as much! 🙂 And this tribe is everything. TOGETHER we’ll do amazing things!

  7. One of my favorite parts of getting older is accepting who I am, what I want, what I need to get there, and that the only one who validates that is…me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have the alt-tribe, not just for the encouragement but also for the hints of how to improve what I’d doing to get where I want faster and better. But shrugging off what others value is a heck of a lot easier closing in on 50 than it was at 20 or 30.

    • I totally agree. I was much more self conscious at 20. I actually think I will start to hit my stride at 40 (at least that is the plan). =) I think having more money has also been a big shift for us. Knowing that we could spend that money, but are just choosing not to helps.

  8. One of the Best posts I’ve read this week.

    To answer your three questions:

    1. Nope. Stealth Wealth is the best kind there is.
    2. I may be somewhat judgmental, but I don’t really care how others squander their money. Live and let live.
    3. I didn’t notice the misspelling, but misspelled is a word, no hyphen required. 🙂


    • In response to #2 on this list, I think that there are reasons to care:

      – Too many people squandering too much money is what leads to financial crises in the first place.
      – Whenever people spend money on things, they are essentially casting economic votes thereby inducing more production of said thing (whether good or bad — do we seriously need more Disney princess dolls in our society? Bah, my HAS stock goes up over 7% today and I find reason to complain about why it went up)
      – Our tribe (as Ms. Mt put it nicely) has room to grow. The more people we can, little by little, convert to our way of thinking the better off our children and society will be in the future. Eventually, this growing impact could have a snowball like effect similar to that of dividend reinvesting.

  9. GREAT post! Love everything about this and completely relate. I don’t even feel like I belong when I’m out among “normal” people. It’s a complete culture shock to go to the mall (or Costco sometimes !?).

    Thankfully, I don’t feel the need for more celebration on my wins – my husband and I celebrate our wins quietly. And I’m infinitely grateful to have him to share those wins with.

    We still have a mortgage and recently refinanced the loan. The president of the bank gathered our info for underwriting and he congratulated us on our financial situation. We recently contacted him about potential financing for a rental property. He said no need to fill out paperwork or an application – he would approve us for what we needed without going through the app. process. It was really nice to know someone else thought we were doing well.

    • Mr. Mt and I love to celebrate those wins together as well. I think it is so important to look back with gratitude on how far we have come. But it’s awesome that someone else who had a peek into your life acknowledged the hard work as well. And yeah on the rental property! I hope you guys find an awesome deal.

  10. LOL – glad to help with the spelling. I was the one who proofread everything for a house full of roommates in college. Although, I’m not nearly as skilled at spotting my own mistakes.

    I couldn’t agree more with the message of this post. It actually comes with a sense of satisfaction now, the secret pride of outdoing others in a competition for making sane financial decisions. You get used to things over time. Now, I see them celebrating purchases on Facebook and just think about how enlightened they will be when I can fully disclose everything.

    • Part of me feels like the haters will always hate. I do wish they would see the light, but they will probably just go on hating about something else. Like if retiring early means taking frugal vacations then they would rather work the job they hate till they die. It has taken me a while to stop trying to impress the broke people in my life. =)

  11. I love everything about this post. I thought I was subscribed to new posts, but I didn’t get an email notification for this. Let’s fix that right now.

    1.) Who wouldn’t want to celebrate their big wins? But I feel like if I threw up “I reached X,Y,Z investment goal”, it would just be interpreted as bragging.

    2.) Not co-workers, but friends. I’ll never understand the fascination with new vehicles more frequently than, say, 5-10 years…i almost most feel like it’s a game to see how long my current car will last, especially considering I’m pretty hard on it. Whoever invented speed bumps did not do my car any favors.

    3.) So Oblivious to the misspelling.

    • I feel the same way about my old honda civic. It’s almost a competitive sport. Although she is too old to leave town now. =( Ok, so weird thing about the emails. It isn’t an RSS (honestly I just don’t know how to set that up.) But I send out a weekly email with links to what I posted that week (it will happen later today.) I think the only way to get an RSS kind of email from my site is my after you comment, click the “receive new posts by email.” I’m am so not tech savvy, so the learning curve has been interesting for me. =)

  12. I love this! Finding like-minded people who are going through the same journey as you is so important! If you’re surrounded by people who don’t share your values and who won’t support your goals, then your journey will be that much harder. That’s why we love the PF community – everyone is so supportive and encouraging to anyone who wants to improve their finances 🙂

    • Yes! The community is awesome. Even now it strengths my resolve and encourages me in our journey. I am still more sensitive to criticism than I would like to be, so it’s nice to have other voices speaking true and affirming things into my life.

  13. It’s important to remember how small this community is! Sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say or contribute because it’s all been said and done. But then I realize that the people I surround myself with online aren’t necessarily reflective of the general population or my IRL. Great post!

    • Thanks Penny. =) Yeah we aren’t the general population, that is for sure. Just by the measure of being able to afford a $400 emergency, most people in the pf world come out ahead. But it seems my every day real life is filled with the middle class trying to prove itself, or the people right at or below the poverty line just struggling to keep their heads above water. The first kind of irritates me when I feel the subtle shaming that happens, and the second breaks my heart. We threw a birthday party this weekend for our boys, and almost everyone who came lives under that poverty line. It was a sharp reminder how different people can live even though our homes are just a few blocks away.

  14. It is nice to have such a special tribe that you can share your hidden successes with, isn’t it!? I haven’t really thought of it this way before, but outwardly everyone sees and compliments folks on how materialistic your life is…not really what is most important in life (at least not for me). Although it is always nice to get compliments on a kicka** house, people have to realize there is a huge sacrifice to doing so! Thanks for the great post and it is great to be part of your tribe!

    • It’s always fun to have an amazing house, but yeah, at what cost? A nice upgrade could easily cost us another 10 years of work. Is it really worth 500 weeks of work? I better make sure I really love that job first!

  15. Absolutely love this post! The general public judges us based on the stuff we have and the stuff they can see. We are a weird bunch thigh. We judge each other on the things most people can’t see! I’m happy to be part of the tribe.

    • I love that you are here too! It’s nice to be able to get a look behind the scene and cheer people on for the things they are doing to get them closer to their goals instead of just farther in debt. And it’s a more realistic picture.

  16. Yes! Blogging give us voice and connection to our tribe. It really helped me on my journey to early retirement. I could have done it myself, but it’d probably take a few more years. It’s very helpful to get some feedback from the community.
    1. More celebration is great. That’s where blogging is helpful. My readers give me a lot of encouragement when I accomplish my financial goals.
    2. Not really. It’s their prerogative and it isn’t going to change their mind. They’ll just think I’m a cheapskate. Which is true… 🙂

    • It has taken me some time to become more comfortable with our frugal ways. I spent a lot of years hating to look poor. But I actually don’t mind driving our beater car now that we have a half million net worth. It’s a lot more fun to look poor, when you aren’t actually poor. =)

  17. This is a great post – “Have you ever wanted to shout at the coworker who took out a 6 year car loan on a $35,000 car, “

    Almost every day I hear something that in my head sounds insane to my Personal Finance Nerd Brain, but I rarely react. I drop hints about what we do with financial windfalls but don’t openly talk about maxing out Roth IRAs. I did tell all my friends to refi their house if they haven’t, for some reason I feel like that is not one of the weird money topics that gets shunned by the everyday crowd.

    Hopefully there is one huge celebration when we reach FI

    I am terrible a terrible speller – UNITE!

    • Mr. Mt has been looking at doing a refi on one of our houses and I have been totally lazy about it. Which is rather dumb. I know that taking a few hours might save us almost $40k, so I just need to get my butt in gear! I totally agree that refi talk is acceptable. Everyone seems to love to talk rates. =)

  18. I was actually just thinking about this concept, but in reverse — their down is my up. Someone else (nearby) plants a beautiful garden in their yard and I get to enjoy the sight of it for free. Someone else buys a Tesla and I get to enjoy the sight of it for free on the road. I like free things and particularly enjoy getting to admire beauty when it costs me nothing other than a few moments of my time.

    • That is so true! We love walking through the downtown neighborhoods and admiring all the lovely homes. I love residential architecture so it is a treat for me. And I love not having to clean or heat those huge homes. =)

  19. I remember when my retirement account passed $1 million. I wanted to brag but that would have been really weird. So, I wrote a note to the author of one of the seminal financial books that set me down the path or saving and living below my means. He wrote back. That was all I needed. 🙂

    I want to scream at my co-workers who go to Starbucks three times a day. Instead, I bring in Fair Trade coffee and hot chocolate they can make it in the office. You can lead a coffee drinker to a better way but you can not make them drink. (Some are not signed up for the 401K…I have no extra money they tell me!)

    • That is awesome! We went out and celebrated at a local resort for the weekend when we hit a half million. It was awesome to be able to reflect about all the good things that have happened and celebrate. I love that you wrote the author. I am a big fan of sending letters. People assume that folks don’t have time to read letter, but often people are just people and they appreciate knowing when their work impacts others. I think it’s awesome you bring in good coffee. Hot coco can turn most bad days around for me! Congrats on the one milly mark!

  20. I love the thought of the pf community as a tribe. I think I read somewhere that you are what your five closest friends are. Sounds like you found some great people in the pf community to surround yourself with and are making TREMENDOUS progress. Also stealth wealth is the best. Especially when you reach retirement and others can’t figure out how when you aren’t driving new cars. Congrats on the awesome post!!!

  21. Thank you Ms M for another great article.

    Over the past few years while learning more and more about Personal Finance I have lost the desire for nice new “things” like clothes, Phones, Cars, etc. All these things take away from my goals (travel and Financial Independence). Now am much more attracted to finding the best value (used car, using the library, cutting cable & unnecessary expenses, eating in/meal prep, etc). These things help me get closer to my goals.

    Also, I recently invested in a National Park pass. I can travel cheaply more now as I am seeking National Parks around the country (using credit card miles to pay for flights). There is nothing like spending a 3 day weekend enjoying nature and not breaking the bank!

    • I LOVE our national park pass! And I am with you on the lack of a fancy phone. There is a teenage girl I have mentored the last 3 years, and she is merciless about mocking my phone! It is a constant source of entertainment for her. She was over this weekend with a friend of hers, and made sure to point out my lame phone so they could both laugh about it. =) Congrats on lowering your monthly expenses. You should stop by Glacier National Park! It is amazing here. =)

  22. The day I paid off my car was also the day I became totally debt free after years of climbing out of the hole – it was SO anti-climactic! Just year after boring year of trying to watch my expenses, throwing my tax returns at my debt (instead of buying something “fun”), etc. etc. I wanted to do the “debt-free scream” but I also didn’t want to look like a jerk to my friends who are still in debt (many of whom make very different spending choices to keep themselves there). Harrumph. But I’ll gladly celebrate with my weirdo tribe! 🙂

    • Oh I feel you! But we will celebrate with you. =) I felt that way when our net worth hit 100k. It felt so insane and amazing to me. But had to be just another normal day. Mr. Mt and I did go out and celebrate together. It’s like it’s your 21st birthday, but none of your friends know.

  23. Hey, Ms M! love love love this. I adore the word “tribe” – Jen Hatmaker uses it all the time (I noticed your Shauna quote so I’m going to assume you’re also a JH fan!) – and I think it perfectly sums up the stealth wealth world.

    1. Yes, I totally want celebration for the hidden wins. I have one girlfriend who has a similar money mindset, and so we’ve started a monthly Personal Finance Breakfast at my house to share/encourage/learn about all those money things that aren’t obvious to everyone else. It’s so fun!

    2. Um, all the time. Yes.

    3. I did notice 🙂

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this – it’s so encouraging! I don’t blog but the PF blog world has totally changed the trajectory of my life.

    • Britt, girl, why in the world didn’t you tell me! I need you to have my back on the spelling errors. =) And I do love Jen Hatmaker. I want to be Jen Hatmaker when I grow up. =) Maybe when I am 40, I will get to be her. I absolutely love the idea of a pf breakfast! That is so awesome. I need more ladies in my life who like to geek out about pf stuff.

      • Next time, I promise! Real friends tell you when you have something in your teeth or have made a spelling error 🙂

        I’m going to the Belong tour this weekend…BOTH Jen and Shauna. I AM SO PUMPED.

        • That is right! I need help with both. =) And have fun. I know that will be amazing. Soak up some good stuff for me. I just watched an interview with Micheal Hyatt and Shauna and it totally helped me with my writing schedule. She is awesome.

  24. I’m laughing at the fancy restaurant note because… if you eat at an expensive restaurant, the food will be tiny, and there will be no leftovers! Hahaha. One of the best parts of FinCon was not having to preface any of what we’re doing with the usual stuff, and just being able to jump straight into the short hand for everything. It warmed my heart. 🙂 I’m sure you’re finding the same thing with your Skype chats!

  25. Awesome post! And a great reason to blog, because its nice to interact with people who value the same things 🙂

  26. Ms. M, Love it! One of my favorite things about blogging is the “virtual community” that develops. (BTW, I had an awesome phone call with The Groovy’s last night, on their FIRST DAY of retirement! How cool is that?). We’re all like minded folks, all moving toward the same goal. Very few outside our “Tribal Community” get it, but everyone inside gets it 100%. Here, we all see “up” as the same direction, and I love the mutual support!

    • Oh, I am so excited for The Groovy’s! That is so freaking cool. I hope they make it out to Montana. =) And yours is closing in here soon. Maybe we should make celebration videos. =) Hum… I might do that.

  27. Very nice post. You ARE awesome. For all the smart choices you make and for sharing your journey so that others may admire your efforts and learn from you!

    Have you ever wanted more celebration for your hidden wins?
    A – Heck yeah. Good thing Mr. Need2Save celebrates with me on all our little wins!

    Have you ever wanted to shout at the coworker…?
    A – Uh yeah. Almost every day at my job! You should see the amount of money people will borrow from their 401(k) to buy a new truck! Just cuz the new model rocks some cool new gizmo they just have to have and they you know, deserve it.

    How are you liking the changes on my homepage..?
    A – Didn’t notice the mispelling but I’m terrible at spelling as well! The changes are nice.

    • Oh no, people are borrowing from their 401k to buy trucks!! I’ll admit that just made me feel a bit ill. I think if I heard a coworker say that all the color would wash out of my face. You know you are a pf nerd when the idea of taking money out of a 401k for a truck makes you need to run to the nearest garbage can. I might need some 7up now. I want to say something about all the other nice things you said, but I’m just too sick right now.

  28. Love it! It reminds me of the old college dare – I dare you to chug that vodka, shotgun that beer, finish the keg, etc. The group loves to see you do it for their entertainment, but they’re not the ones left hugging the toilet at the end of the night.

  29. Hey, I agree with you. I have had people who blow money left and right criticize me for my frugal decisions. I applaud what you are doing. I wish I had more discipline to do what you are doing. I’m proud of you. Keep it up.

    • There is a phrase I practice. “I’m happy for your happiness.” If they want to waste money, go for it. But on the flip side, if my frugal choices make me happy, just be happy for my happiness. Feel free to steal that. Next time the haters come out in full force, “Maybe you could just be happy for my happiness?” If they don’t care about your happiness, their opinion doesn’t count. =)

  30. I struggle with how to react when a friend or family member buys a new car or other shiny new toy. On one hand, I want to be supportive and happy for them; but on the other I know they’re in debt up to their eyeballs and filed for bankruptcy last year so I don’t want to encourage poor decisions.
    What’s the right choice?
    I don’t know. In person, I usually admire the ‘thing’ but online I often ignore it. Do you have a better idea?

    • Oh, that is such a tricky line to walk! I try to be “happy for your happiness”, but you are right, it is SO hard for me when I know that item is just going to make their life harder because they can’t afford it! Sometimes I compliment the old item they had like, “Oh you got rid of clunker car! That’s too bad. I’m going to miss that car. So many fun memories. She had as much personality as she was missing paint. This new ride has some mighty big shoes to fill!”