The Breakdown: How I spent 80% less than the average American household

Another Saturday, another ride — this time taking my banjo to a friend’s house.

What if someone offered you money to take public transportation or bike instead of drive? How much would they need to offer you in order to make it remotely tempting?

How about this — what if every time you came home from work, someone handed you a crisp $20 bill for taking the bus?

For me, that’s become the norm. I get to walk outside, ride my bike, and take the bus every day — and every day I come home to $21.81 in the bank that I otherwise would have spent driving.

“That’s not my life!” you might say…

The ups and downs of the car-free lifestyle

Bike woes. Crop of original photo by Marc Kleen

I’ve been car-free for 10 years now, and I love it most of the time. But lately it’s felt like a bummer. Sometimes I just want to scream, “WHERE’S MY HUMMER???” as I come downstairs to find yet another part stolen off the bike, or hear the front brakes start to rub, begging for yet another adjustment.

My feelings of frustration with the lifestyle accelerated in July when I rented a car on a trip home to Virginia. I hadn’t driven in a year or so and had forgotten just how convenient it is. In my little Kia Sol, I…

Why drivers want to get bikes out of traffic — and what to do about it

Photo by Emil Bruckner

As a person who rides her bike and also drives on occasion, I think a lot about how drivers and people on bikes relate to each other.

Recently, after the 18th person on a bike was killed by a driver in New York City, I came face to face with the level of animosity drivers feel toward people on bikes. Reading the news of the man’s death on facebook, I made the mistake of scrolling down to the comments. Here are some quotes from the first 10 comments*:

  • “ How can you complain about deaths when half of the bicyclists…

Frugal Snob. Photo by Nick de Partee

A while back, I ranted about how much it sucks to be one-upped by frugal people. Real comments I’ve received:

“You spend money on NETFLIX?? We can’t AFFORD Netflix.” (From multi-millionaire friends.)

“It’s amazing how much people think is reasonable to spend on a dinner!” (At a restaurant we had taken them to on a special occasion. I kind of felt like I had to treat after that? 😬)

“You live in a high cost of living area??? I used to live there, could never do it again. It’s just SO EXPENSIVE.” (From someone with a Prius.)

“Someday you’ll grow…

Before / after. If it isn’t obvious to you which one is “after”, stop reading now.

This week I decided I’d rather buy a $40 dresser on Craigslist and redo it than buy the same thing at Article for $350.

You, too, can be this awesome in 3 simple steps.

Choosing a dresser:

  1. Spend a few days trolling around craigslist when you should be sleeping.
  2. Remember that you should probably have measured your closet before telling people you are interested in their dresser…
  3. Go look at a dresser listed as “Solid Dresser” (see image above).
  4. Congratulate yourself on having found a wonderful all-wood dresser that is ugly enough to make a nice “before-after” photo.
  5. But don’t…

The inconvenient truth about driving — and killing — in America

Photo by Matthew T Rader

When I was 15 and in Driver’s Ed, a police sergeant came in to our class to talk about driving.

“The biggest weapon I use in my job isn’t my gun,” he said. “It’s my car.”

The point came through loud and clear: we were about to embark on a dangerous activity, one which kills exponentially more Americans than guns do.

In fact, every single year 2.4 million people are injured in car accidents in the US. 37,000 of us are killed (Association for Safe International Road Travel).

Cars turn good people into killers.

It’s likely that someone you know…

Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar

I’m getting rid of all the stuff that is holding me back from happiness.

Since moving from an apartment to 1 bedroom in a shared apartment, I’ve thought a lot about how much stuff I really need. And well… how much stuff I really want, when stuff seems to come along with more decisions and more maintenance.

When I moved last year, I had to live out of a suitcase until I found a good place to live. It was amazing how stress-less my existence was.

Every morning getting ready for work, I had the choice of 1 pair of…

Even pricey hobbies can work in your favor

Photo by Holger Link

Don’t have a Harvard education? Take up skydiving.

The truth is, there are very real benefits to taking up expensive hobbies. Look around — while some people pay through the nose for their expensive hobbies, others are making their skiing and pilot’s licenses work for them instead of the other way around.

This is not going to be one of those “turn your hobby into a business!” articles. If you want to do that, there’s an amazing podcast called Side Hustle School that will help you get started. …

How desperate decision-making wreaked havoc on my finances

Photo by Gabriel Matula

Financial experts will give you all kinds of financial advice:

Spend within your means

Invest in index funds

Pay off your credit cards

All of this is great. But if I could give one piece of financial advice to someone, it would be this:

Desperation is the ultimate enemy of your bank account

Desperate decision making wreaked absolute havoc on my finances — not to mention my life — throughout my 20's.

Money stress might make some people rob banks, but for the rest of us, we just make other kinds of terrible decisions. My desperate mistakes were housing-related ($$$)…

Relief for cheilitis after a 20-year search

Photo by Zach Guinta

Ever since age 10, my lips have been chapped and peeling.

“Stop peeling your lips!!” my mom said. My dentist agreed. “You are going to get cancer,” he said. (Is this even a thing??)

But I couldn’t stop. Because they just kept hurting and swelling. Here is the daily cycle:

At some point in the day, my lips would start to swell and lose color.

I’d apply chapstick or petroleum jelly.

My top layer of skin became dry and scaly, begging to be peeled.

I would apply more chapstick or petroleum jelly.

Finally, they’d be so swollen and uncomfortable that…


yellow plaid sneakers. spending less, living more. Contact me at

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