the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life


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On Expensive Material Possessions

One of the misconceptions I get from a lot of folks when I share our lifestyle and savings rate is – ‘wow, y’all must live like paupers! I could never live like you! I could never give up x, y, z.’ HA. Please, never get the impression that we live on the cheap. We just bought a THREE HUNDRED dollar water filter last week. There it is in the picture, all shiny and new! Did I mention we’re also going on a caving adventure this weekend to the tune of almost $200? And that Andrew just bought over $150 worth of books about mushrooms?

There’s a huge difference between being frugal and being cheap, and I think when most folks encounter frugal heroes their mind immediately assumes, “these people are cheap.” This assumption is driven by the inherent consumerism and materialism in our culture. We are taught from a young age to measure everything from self-worth to success to even happiness in terms of dollars and possessions. We’ve made a sport out of ‘shopping’ – so many Americans feel the best way to spend time with loved ones and amuse themselves is by going out and buying shit. Our lives are a never-ending race to fill our oversized homes with as many possessions and knick knacks as possible. When one knick knack falls out of fashion or becomes obsolete, we toss it and run to the store to buy another one to replace it.

Frugal heroes choose not to play this game, and thus are seen as subversive by mainstream America. This leads to a perception that we are somehow ‘lacking’ the experience of buying shit,  giving us the label of ‘cheap.’ However, cheapness and frugality are two entirely different things.

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Mid-Year Spending and Savings

Sox enjoying a Sunday morning Bloody Mary


A quick rundown of my spending and saving during the first half of 2016. This is mostly for my purposes, but I thought some folks might be interested in the hard numbers. Link to 2015 end of the year roundup.

Christine’s Finances

Total Earned (after-tax): $21,152

Total Spent: $8,451 ($8,050 halfway 2015)

Total Saved: $12,701

Percent Saved: 59.62%

Christine’s Wealth Distributions

Vanguard: $29,694 (index funds)

Checking: $3,350

457(b): $3,366

Total wealth: $36,410

We hold separate bank accounts, and our combined household wealth is now well over $50,000. We are halfway to our first $100K!

Click through for categorical breakdowns.

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Why Retire Early?

I’ve been feeling all out of whack lately. Tonight, I forced myself out of the house after the rain stopped for a short walk. I thought about my life and why I’ve been so sad lately. I thought about where I’m going, and what it’s all worth. As I thought about my goals, I thought it would be nice to do a little realignment on this blog. To write something about the ‘why’ of my current lifestyle…

I don’t talk about money and early retirement much anymore on this blog, as the little homestead has taken over my life … but the concept of retiring early from traditional paid employment is still a central tenant of my life and guides (almost) all of my decision making.

I am constantly asked ‘why.’ Sometimes it’s as direct as, “why do you want to retire early?” Other times, it’s masked in comments like, “if you had the right job you wouldn’t feel this way” or “you’ll get sick of not working eventually.” There are a lot of misguided ideas about what it means to retire early and the plausibility of the whole thing. Many folks, upon hearing my plans, either laugh in disbelief or comment that “they could never do it.” Other folks are confused, and don’t seem to understand why one would want to retire early and what one would possibly do without a full time job. Today I attempt to answer these questions.

The truth is I have a great job. It’s in a field I enjoy, I get to be outside, and sometimes I feel like I meaningfully impact our citizens’ lives. But the 40-hours a week job continuum bums me out big time. First, it leaves me too exhausted to devote time and energy to the things I actually like to do (exercise, spend time with loved ones, adventure), as well as the things I want to do to work towards the life I want to live (homesteading, self-provisioning, self-educating). Second, I bring the stressful aspects of my job home with me and it negatively affects my health (physical – poor eating choices, not enough sleep; mental – headaches, depression, anxiety). Third, my job tethers me to a place I do not desire to live any longer. And fourth, my job provides me no intellectual or spiritual fulfillment, so I have to seek fulfillment in other things … except I’m too exhausted from my job to do those things … and we start back at grievance number one.

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Sunday Thoughts: Some Life Design Chatter

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Some quiet mornings, when I’m alone drinking coffee, I listen to my music and reflect on all the ideas that have been floating through my mind over the last couple days. The people I’ve talked to, the podcasts I’ve listened to, the articles and books I’ve read, and most importantly, the lessons I’ve learned with my hands and feet. It never ceases to amaze me how much mental “stuff” I consume over the course of just a few days. I love these mornings. I feel inspired. It can be overwhelming.

The more I learn about permaculture, I am drawn to the life design element. This is the idea that we have the power to create a life that aligns with our goals, values, and beliefs. A lifestyle can be actively designed to meet all these existential/ intellectual needs, and this lifestyle can be functional, efficient, and fulfilling. This differs from the traditional view that there’s a designated path we must follow – go to school, get a job, have a family, go to the gym three times a week, take vacations, retire at 65. Cue Fitter Happier.

Having the power to design my own life isn’t what drew me to the early retirement community, but it is the idea that flung me full force into the path of financial independence. The FIRE community talks a lot about anti-consumption and retirement as the ultimate freedom – things that are core parts of my being – but I  feel that holistic life design is often missing from the conversation. It’s so enticing to fixate on the idea of retiring early that you get caught up in the work hard, save hard mentality and don’t take the time to consider the life you are currently living. I’m guilty of this – I often feel that I am head down, grinding through the days to save that money and get where I want to be. But I have at least 10 years left until early retirement, and I don’t want to spend those 10 years in this miserable, unfulfilling grind.

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The Barefoot Home, Part 2: Hiatus

This is the second part in The Barefoot Home series: a series detailing my adventures in buying my first home and turning it into a homestead. Part 1 can be found here.

Life is crazy – you know that. I’m not buying a house this year. It’s just not meant to be. The market is too difficult. I don’t have the time and energy to flip a home that’s in god awful condition (basically everything in my price range). I’m only 5 months into my new job, and as it’s a newly created position, I’m busting my ass trying to get it off the ground. It’s sucking all my time and energy, but I’m making serious progress and need to stick with that. And as I have shared a bit of on this blog, I’ve been going through a lot of personal stuff and I’m not in the best place to make a monumental decision like buying a home. Phew! Glad that’s off my chest.

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2015 Finance Rundown


Welcome to 2016, everyone! We’re not huge on making resolutions, although I have decided that 2016 is going to be the year of ME (and my friends and family). One thing I do love about the new year is the chance to take a look at my finances from the year before. This always provides inspiration and direction for the next year’s financial picture. All in all, this was a great year for us. We made a lot of big purchases, and I had some setbacks with my car, but ultimately we were able to save over $25,000 or 55% of our income.

Here’s a rundown of my side of our finances. First, some big picture numbers:

  • $33,635 earned (take home pay + 457 (b) contributions, plus side jobs)
  • $16,101 spent (includes absolutely everything)
  • 52% of my income saved

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Punk Rock Homesteading – How I Got My Start

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The kitchen of my 200 sq ft studio apartment in Chicago

I didn’t start practicing homesteading because I loved animals and wanted a picaresque farm. I had no vision of what a simpler country life looked like. I wasn’t yearning to be connected to the land, or to live a more natural lifestyle. I didn’t even really care about self sufficiency. I started because I was poor, pissed off, and punk rock.

The year was 2012, and I was living in a 200 sq. foot studio apartment in Chicago. I had no clue how to grow food, the produce section at the grocery store felt like a foreign country, and most of my “home cooked” meals were inedible. If something I owned broke, got ripped, or didn’t fit anymore, I chucked it in the trash and promptly walked to Target to buy a replacement. Money came and went, mostly spent at bars, restaurants, and record stores. Yet I felt constantly poor, unable to stretch my paychecks two full weeks. I was pissed off at “the man,” the recession, and my worthless liberal arts degree. I loved punk music, and I wanted to “stick it to the man,” which at the time I thought meant having lots of piercings, smoking pot, and attending avant garde poetry readings. Little did I know, I was about to embark on the most badass, rebellious journey of my life: becoming a homesteader.

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