Daddy’s Birthday Presents

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Build, Parent, Recent Posts | 6 comments

Daddy’s Birthday Presents


There’s nothing we need so badly that we go out at once and buy. Okay, except for half and half. Our house doesn’t run without half and half. Besides that, there really isn’t a thing we need.

Yesterday, Archer and I went shopping for Karl’s birthday. It was the regular–the bar soap shaving cream and the bag of candy carefully picked from the barrels at the Country Store, a chocolate bar from Ella, and a six-pack of craft beer from me.

On the way home, Archer said, “Did you ever think about how we spend more money on someone else than on ourselves?” He said, “Like that beer, you wouldn’t just go buy that for yourself.” Archer was ready to spend a good amount of his savings on Daddy.

His plan was to go to Dollar General to buy Karl a radio to listen to while he builds the big house. “The radio he has is all crackly, and he just wants to listen to some music up there.” Archer is a thoughtful boy. I reminded him about those stores and that what we’d buy there would likely be crackly too, or it’d be junk in a year. “If you really want to buy something like that for him, let’s make sure he’s with us, so he can make the decision.”


He understood. He gets it. He really deeply understands that the run-out-and-buy satisfaction isn’t really satisfaction at all. The slow thinking and intentional acquiring is the way for us.

When we were shopping, I said, “What does Daddy need?”

Archer laughed and said, “Nothing.”

I thought with him. He was right. We are incredibly blessed to need nothing. Oh, his work pants are holey in the knees—he could use some gloves—there’s always something that would make life a little more comfortable, but when we think of need, there’s nothing.

This delayed gratification of building a homestead for cash has been a game-changer, to use a cliche. Our lives are deeply affected by the slowing down required of building a home dollar for dollar. The value of things is more perceptible; how they impact our lives is clearer.

We did spend money on Daddy, but we didn’t buy the radio. We celebrated with a documentary film about industrial hemp and a meal out in a Virginia Tech hangout. We sat next to a couple from Brazil doing their math in Portuguese. The kids loved the graffiti on the walls and the young adults all around us. The adventure of doing something we’ve never done before is way better than a cheap radio from Dollar General.

As a mom, I spend a lot of time thinking about my kids and how our choices are impacting them, but when I watch their fascination with an old movie theater or the politics of capitalism or life on a college campus, I’m happy with our choices. They have so much to navigate and I’m grateful that we’ve chosen a life of slowness, a life where our money is a tool we use intentionally. I’m glad we spend our days in conversation and engagement with the natural world. It’s such a rich way to grow up, dirty and satisfied with what we have.

As long as there’s half and half.


I encourage everyone to try it out—the slow, thoughtful practice of intentional spending. When you shift your spending to line up with your values and goals, amazing things happen.


Check out this guest post I shared over at Rowdy Kittens: Five Ways to Start Living the Life of Your Dreams Today.

After helping over 250 people get started on the path to mortgage-freedom, we've learned a lot more about what it takes, the pitfalls, the tricks and triumphs of living a zero-debt life of intention. We're taking what we've learned and creating a whole new series of courses to help even more of you reach your dreams. Sign up for our newsletter to get first dibs on the limited seats in our new course.


  1. We have been blessed with very few “needs” also 🙂 Great post. I have become increasingly aware of the cost of things we don’t need recently.

  2. Happy birthday to Karl, and hugs to all of you!

    Just read your post at Rowdy Kittens. Thank you for that! Again, a timely one for me. (Time for me to try number 5–the visual one–as I am a bit stuck on identifying or articulating the dream.) You all continue to inspire me.

    • I wish you lots of joy as your dream unfolds! Sending love…

  3. You guys are awesome. I agree. It is so important to teach our kids there is something other than consumerism to life.

    Great thoughts!

    • Yup! Thank you for reading 🙂

  4. You’re so right that there’s little we need, and fortunately we’ve slowed down to few gifts and spending more time together as a family. It’s a big change but not nearly like yours, and I love how you’ve proven that with the right mindset, you can do anything!