(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)
It is time for another installment in our Frugal Living in Switzerland series of interviews!
Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Mr. MP from the Mustachian Post blog. Mr. MP is in his thirties. His household has two adults and two young children, and both parents are working.
As you will see, Mr. MP is very frugal. And he has avoided the trap of lifestyle inflation very well!
So, without further ado, here is the story of Mr. MP!
1. Tell us about yourself?
I’m in my thirties, and I live in the Romandie side of Switzerland. We’re a couple with two young children. On the professional level, I work in the IT industry, and Mrs. MP is in the social field.
Apart from that, writing is my passion. This is one of the reasons that pushed me to start my blog Mustachian Post back in 2014. I’m also currently writing my book “Free by 40, in Switzerland“. Both projects help me cultivate my passion.
We are also a big fan of wilderness so you can often find us in the Swiss Jura or in the Alps where we hike in family and also with friends.
I couldn’t end my intro without talking about Northern Wilderness, i.e. Alaska, Yukon, Siberia, etc. I’m just connected to these territories since my childhood. I’m in love with those.
2. How much of your income do you save each month?
Our combined yearly net salary is CHF 160’000. Up until the end of 2019, we were between 35-45% of savings rate on average. So if you do the math, we spend, on average, around 8000 CHF per month for a family of 4. Then, since the beginning of 2020, we started to really side hustle (me with my blog and private coaching, and Mrs. MP with some side project too). This is starting to take off, and since January, we’re at 57% on average and counting.
If I look at our savings rate spreadsheet, our best month was in May 2018 when I got some bonus, and we kept normal the level of our spending. We reached 73%. Our worst month to date was in 2019, with -70% when we had to pay the notary fees for our first rental building.
3. How do you compute your savings rate?
That’s a good question because you can’t compare apples with oranges! Our formula is: Savings rate = ((Income – Expenses) / Income ) x 100
I recently wrote what I include and exclude in both income and expenses category in this detailed article. I’ll try not to repeat it here to not get beaten by SEO gods :D
4. Do you consider yourself a frugal person?
Yes, I’d say that I’m quite frugal by education.
But it’s only when I stumble upon the FIRE movement back in 2013 that I really started to live frugally consciously and in a more disciplined way.
At first, that’s no surprise. It was to reach financial independence.
But, then, as I got deeper and deeper into the thing, I another reason to love frugalism: it was making me happier. As I removed waste in all areas of my life — clothes, stuff, digital organization, etc. — I was left surrounded only by things I cherished. And this brought me joy.
A direct follow-up consequence was also that I’ve got fewer things to be taken care of, which provided me more free time, which eventually made me even happier.
5. Can you give us the breakdown of your expenses?
With pleasure :D I publish every year my “Pants down” fully disclosed expenses, so it’s gonna be easy to copy and paste!
|Category||2019 amount in CHF|
|– Gas for leisure/tourism||1’757.40|
|– Tolls for leisure/tourism||1’284.72|
|– Restaurants and outings||2’637.65|
|– Car fees and repairs||3’435.16|
|– BCV bank account fees||17.01|
|– Investment fees||1’876.70|
|– Clothes and shoes Mrs. MP||573.69|
|– Beauty and care Mrs. MP||446.03|
|– Clothes and shoes Mr. MP||161.75|
|– “Freedom” budget Mrs. MP||1’204.10|
|– Lunches at work Mrs. MP||771.55|
|– Lunches at work Mr. MP||663.54|
|– Books, softwares, etc.||120.18|
|Planned expenses (except home)||46’325.57|
|– Mobile and internet abos||1’346.40|
|– Gas, parking, and public transport for Mrs. MP work||1’828.98|
|– Online computer backup service for Mrs. MP||36.00|
|– Beauty and care Mrs. MP (planned ones)||854.80|
|– Public transports for Mr. MP||1’062.80|
|– Online computer backup service Mr. MP||36.00|
|– Server and domain names||391.71|
|– Clothes and shoes MP kids||700.04|
|– Supplies and school outings||415.01|
|– Extra-curricular activities and supplies||2’257.13|
|– MP kids’ hairdresser||35.00|
|– Health Insurance LaMal||8’745.60|
|– VVG supplementary health insurance||622.80|
|– Teleboy Plus + renting movies||189.00|
|– Auto insurance||323.30|
|– Car expertise||130.00|
|– Swiss motorway vignette||20.00|
|– Car tax||103.10|
|– Private life insurance||193.70|
|Planned expenses — Home||17’172.55|
|– Mortgage interests||9’328.80|
|– Maintenance and repair||393.60|
|– Building insurance||528.35|
|– Appliance maintenance subscription||543.20|
|– Bank taxes||35.00|
|– Renovation fund||454.00|
|– EPP Administration||694.35|
|– Heating and hot water||1’781.4|
|– Purification and water taxes||648.50|
|– Garbage tax||100.00|
|– Property tax||464.80|
|– Other one-time costs||882.65|
|Planned expenses — Birthdays||2’156.75|
|Planned expenses — Christmas||989.65|
|Total expenses in CHF||107’146.68|
6. Which expense category are you the proudest of?
I think for me it’s cars. Historically I loved manly cars for plenty of reasons. Then I stumbled upon FIRE in 2013, which became my main life objective. I wanted and still want to stop working by 40 in Switzerland more than every other expense. Back then, we were having two cars, and not the least expensive in gas or insurance or car tax.
But my FIRE goal was stronger, and we made a drastic change. We sold one of our two cars. And we switched the remaining one from a nice V6 to a hybrid Prius. But I don’t regret anything when I look at what we paid for, for only 10 minutes of fun per month.
Another category I’m proud of is clothes and shoes. As I often say: my oldest t-shirt has around 15 years, my belt is 18+ years, my oldest pair of jeans is 6+ years. It’s quite natural for me to buy quality and not need to change every now and then. The same goes for shoes.
Another thing we do well with Mrs. MP is bringing our lunches at work. This saves CHF 400 per month. That’s CHF 4’800 per year. And that makes us CHF 70’966 more of savings every ten years with the magic of compound interests :D
7. What is the main difficulty for living frugally in Switzerland?
I would say that the most difficult thing is the relationship to money of Swiss people. Since we are lucky enough not to have a lot of unemployment, and salaries are decent for the middle class, it is easier for people to spend CHF 100-200 in one go for a meal out. And the problem is that this is not an exception but rather the rule every weekend.
Although, over time, our circle of friends is consolidating itself with people who have the same values as us. People who don’t blow their paychecks.
But, to be honest, there are still times when I’m not comfortable saying “No” to a group invitation for an outing because it’s the nth one in a single month.
To sum up, I would say that people are used to living from paycheck to paycheck, and clearly when you do that you can eat out and go out very regularly. And this very thing is conflicting with our frugal lifestyle.
8. What is your best tip for frugal living in Switzerland?
Wow, the list is long. So much that I’m writing a book about it :D
I think the most impactful and easy tip is to stop eating out at lunch if you’re used to it. Restaurants are so expensive, especially in city centers, that you’ll save a lot by cooking your own meals.
9. Why are you saving so much money?
In case I didn’t make it clear up until now, my life goal is to be financially independent by 40 in Switzerland.
For this, we have to reach a net worth of CHF 2’156’000.
So this is why. For freedom to never have to work for money again after my 40 :)
PS: our first mid-life goal was to buy our own home in Switzerland, but this one is done. Checked. So now we fully focus on the bigger objective :D
10. If you had more income, would you spend more?
Our income almost doubled today since we started our journey to FIRE — this thanks to salary raises and side hustles.
What happened since we got all of this money surplus? Nothing big. We just happen to save more.
And this will be the motto until our 40.
Then, and because we gotta be transparent and honest with ourselves, if we happen to double our income again by then, we would clearly spend more on traveling. But, because there is, but when we reach FIRE, we plan to move from 2- weeks-intense-holidays to slow-traveling, which means living like locals, hence not splurging on hotels and restaurants every day. So overall, we surely would travel more, but I think we would then spend less than in Switzerland as every country we would visit would be cheaper.
Gosh, the simple fact to write about it excites me! Not you?! :D
PS: if, and I say if, we really more than double our income and are really on the safe side to never have to work for money ever, then I may not be able to resist buying a Tesla.
11. Do you ever feel you are sacrificing something by living like that?
First reply: nope! I feel happier and aligned with who I really am. And that’s not some fake stuff. I’m really feeling happier than years ago, where I had to consume stuff to feel some 10 minutes shot of happiness. Now it’s lasting happiness.
But (yeah, I know I love BUTs :D), what I feel we sacrifice at the moment is traveling. If I listened to my instinct, I would fly to the Yukon tomorrow. But as I would need to be back in 2-3 weeks max due to jobs and kids’ school, it doesn’t make sense at all. So I agree to delay this gratification until our next big holidays, and then until FIRE. In the meanwhile, I enjoy some Swiss wilderness which is just (almost) as awesome!
12. Do you splurge on anything?
I don’t splurge. Mrs. MP is less frugal on that. But as for me, I don’t.
To give you an example, I want the new Airpods Pro as my old Bose headphones don’t work as well as in their early years, and they are not wireless. But they still work okayish. So I used the 30-days-sheet where I wrote “Apple Airpods Pro” down and looked at this sheet last week — 30 days after having written it.
And all of a sudden, it’s not a thing I absolutely want anymore. I still know I will buy them, but maybe in some months or years once my Bose headphones are really dead, or when Apple release their new version.
But (LOL!), there is one expense I don’t save on, and it’s my daily tool: my laptop and smartphone. Both for my real job and my blogging-side-hustle, I spend approximately 8-10h a day on them. And I want qualitative tools, so it’s Apple all the way.
Another but (!), the thing with Apple is that their tools keep their value way better than other electronic tools, so I buy as cheap as I can during Black Friday or other sales, and I re-sell after about two years without losing a lot in value.
13. Do you have a budget?
Oh yeah!!! Your readers that already happen to visit my blog must know that I’m in love with YNAB (aka You Need A Budget).
That’s the best encounter I’ve made in my life, as that’s because of it that all this FIRE thingy started. Numbers speak by themselves: in 6 years, I went from CHF 50’000 of net worth to CHF 450’000.
If you happened to take away my YNAB, I would feel financially naked. Literally. I just wouldn’t know what to do because it’s like the map (or GPS if you’re geeky) of my financial road.
14. Are you setting aside some “fun money” each month?
Sort of. We have what we call a “Freedom” category for both of us. We did set it up as we’ve all our money together with Mrs. MP. And as we budget together, we didn’t want to have to ask for any small expense one of us would like to make.
So every month, our “Freedom” category is refilled, and we can do whatever we want with it.
Thanks a lot to Mr. MP for answering all my questions in detail. It is impressive to see how much he and his frugal family can save every month.
The fact that they have been able to double their income in a few years is amazing. It is especially excellent since they did not double their expenses as most people would. Increasing your income can be a great way to reach financial independence once you have reduced your expenses. This is a great sign of frugality.
Now that we have reduced our expenses to a reasonable level, it will time for us to increase our income as well!
If you want to read more about Mr. MP, he is blogging at Mustachian Post, in English, French, and German. His blog contains a lot of material that can help you reach Financial Independence in Switzerland.
If you want to learn about frugal living in Switzerland without large incomes, you can read the interview with Janet, a Ph.D. student saving more than 60% of her income.
If you are living a frugal life in Switzerland, I would love to interview you! Let me know in the comments below or via the Contact page. It is not only for bloggers!