I Go Crazy During the Holidays

Let me let you in on a little secret–I love the holidays. For me, the time from Thanksgiving through Christmas all the way to the New Year are a time of family, food, and excess.

I Go Crazy During the Holidays--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

That’s right, excess. For Thanksgiving, we eat a ton of food. My fridge is packed for weeks afterwards. We don’t just have one pie. We have three or four. We often have two turkeys–one baked and the other fried. Have you never had a friend turkey? They’re beyond delicious. Crispy skin on the outside, juicy on the inside…

I go a little crazy for Christmas. I love to give gifts and I like to give people nice things. I spend tons of money at Christmas and throw frugality out the window during gift-giving. We way surpass the average American’s holiday spending of $800.

In New Hampshire, we have snowy, white Christmases almost every year, and Thanksgivings are chilly and fallish–just as Thanksgiving is supposed to feel. On Thanksgiving weekend, we put up our Christmas tree, pull out our favorite ornaments, and decorate the whole house. Then, at Christmas break, we wear cozy sweaters and overeat for several days. We spend lazy days with family members, playing in the snow, playing board games, opening presents, and listening to too much Johnny Mathis Christmas music (just kidding! There is NO SUCH THING as too much Johnny Mathis Christmas music!).

Christmas hug--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
This picture of my two boys gets me every time. We took it a few years ago, but it captures what I love the most about Christmas–the time we have together and the love we get to share.

Yes, it’s true. It’s my dirty little secret. I go crazy with my spending during the holidays. But you know what? I love it. I love to spend money on nice things for other people. And believe it or not, I have changed my gift-giving over the years to better match my values–to use money (a little more) wisely, buy higher-quality items you can use every day, and focus less on material goods. 

For example, in 2008, when we started our get-out-of-debt journey, we realized how much money we were wasting by buying excessive toys for our son–that he didn’t even want. He was overwhelmed on Christmas Day, and afterwards, we ended up donating or throwing out many of the things we bought. So, we adopted our “Santa Gives Three” rule to focus on less higher-quality gifts. Continue reading “I Go Crazy During the Holidays”

5 Money Moves We’re Making Before the End of the Year

While we’re still over a month-and-a-half from the end of the year, we know that soon, December 31st will be upon us, so the ThreeYears are currently working on end-of-the-year money moves to make sure our finances are in good shape.

5 Money Moves We're Making Before the End of the Year--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Here’s what we’re doing to close this year out:

1. Contribute as much as possible to my i401k

Since I’m self-employed, I have an i401k (if you’re interested in the particulars of opening one, read this post). I am playing catch-up with my contributions since we had so many cash goals that we funded with my income this year. So, in the final quarter of the year, and in the first quarter of next year (or at least until we file our taxes), I’ll be contributing a lot to my 401K. Even though the market is high now, I don’t want to miss the tax contributions of these contributions. I estimate we’ll save several thousand dollars on our taxes if I reach my contribution goal for the year.

2. Fulfill our outstanding financial obligations

We’ve got a few outstanding financial obligations, including completing our yearly pledge with our church. We usually wait and pay the majority of our pledge in the fourth quarter of the year, when our cash flow’s better (as a teacher, I don’t get paid in the summer and it takes a month or so after school starts to begin getting paid, so our income rises in October, November, and December).

I also have to pay my fourth quarter taxes for income earned from September through December. I have until January 16th, 2018, to file the taxes, but I’ll probably go ahead and pay what I estimate I’ll owe before the end of the year. I set aside 20% of my income as it comes in, in my business account, so that money is ready to send in anytime I decide to pay the bill. Continue reading “5 Money Moves We’re Making Before the End of the Year”

Does It Make More Sense to Go to College or Open a Nail Salon?

Last week, I decided to talk to one of my English Language Learner students about his job prospects. He’s in ninth grade, and just arrived from Vietnam last December. He’s made great progress on his English, although he is still reticent about speaking in his general classes. But he’s a jokester at heart (he likes that word) and we always have lots of fun in our classes.

Does it Make More Sense to Go to College or Open a Nail Salon?--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

His mother, like many Vietnamese immigrants to the US, works in a nail salon. I have talked to my student about this many times, but I, being his well-educated teacher, wanted to officially broach the topic of his prospects after high school. Several teachers and I had discussed how we wanted him to have more lofty goals than working in a nail salon his whole life. I wanted to expand his horizons.

Turns out, he had some things to teach me.

First off, a peak inside my head: “successful,” according to me, means having my kids go to a four-year university. If it’s Ivy League, that would be amazing. Mr. ThreeYear and I plan to pay for the majority of our kids’ college, so we’re looking at the majority of $45,000+ a year (currently!) for four years, the average total cost (tuition, fees, and room & board) for a private college, times two.

Then, they’ll graduate, study medicine, law, architecture, or engineering, get a great job, and change the world!

I wanted my student to know that he could and should! expect more from life than working in a nail salon. “I don’t want to work in a nail salon,” he said. “But… you can make a lot of money there. My mom,” he told me, “can make $1800 a week in the nail salon.”

Wow. I was impressed. That was a pretty good salary. “But the owner of the nail salon,” he said, “makes $30,000 a month.” Continue reading “Does It Make More Sense to Go to College or Open a Nail Salon?”

October Net Worth Update

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Each month, I record our progress on our net worth and our spending (gulp!). This year, we’ve got some major goals, including paying off our outstanding debt (car and apartment in Chile), replacing our roof, AND saving around $70,000. As of September, we were roughly 22% of the way to doubling our net worth.

October is gone! Stick season is here! Run for the hills! Oh wait, I live in the hills…

October Net Worth--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Soon, snow will be blanketing the ground. But for another month and a half, we’ll get to enjoy colder temperatures, overcast skies, and the bare brown silhouettes of hardwoods. Daylight Savings Time has come and gone and we wake up and come home to darkness. Luckily, the dark cocoon only lasts until December 21st. It also ushers in true colder temperatures and gets us ready for the coming winter.

What’s up with the ThreeYears? We’re looking forward to a few long weekends this month (Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving) and the arrival of the entire extended family clan (my side) at Thanksgiving. The junior ThreeYears are enjoying school (for the most part) and I’m continuing to work a lot, as is Mr. ThreeYear. Luckily, we both have jobs that allow for work/life balance, so we’re home early every evening (I’m home at 3:30pm each day). We both remind ourselves often how grateful we are for the privilege of time.

Two weekends ago, I went on another weekend trip (that’s a record because I hardly ever travel alone) to Rhode Island to run a half marathon. I’d never been to Rhode Island and it blew my expectations out of the water (coastal state, water–get it?). I stayed with a friend at her parents’ house, and they not only housed us, but took us out to an absolutely delicious lunch at their local yacht club (locals join only in the winter when they drop the prices) and fed us home-cooked meals the rest of the time. I was floored by both their generosity and how beautiful their home town was.

Rhode Island coast--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Rhode Island’s coastline was rugged and rocky. It is a beautiful state!

Our spending in October was relatively low, despite some medical bills. We find that when we’re well ensconced in the school year/work routine, our spending goes down. October’s been a relatively low-spend month for the three years I’ve kept detailed records.

We’re rounding the corner on the end of the year, and thanks to the continued rise of our investments, it looks like we could be above 30% for the end of the year. Anything could happen in the last two months of the year, but for now, it looks like the markets continue to help us inch toward our goal.

Continue reading “October Net Worth Update”

A Year of Good Habits: Get Up at 5am

My family has launched a three-year endeavor to double our net worth and become location independent. This is the first year of our plan. This year, in an effort to help myself develop good habits to keep us saving and investing, and generally developing efficient uses of our money, time, and energy, I’ve taken on one habit for each month of the year (if you want to read them all, starting from January, click here).

A Year of Good Habits: Get Up at 5am---www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I’m down to the final two months, and two habits, of the year. Some have been successful, some have been abysmal failures; all have taught me something about myself. I learned that making your bed everyday really is a key ingredient to starting the day successfully. I also learned that writing down the top three things I’m going to tackle in a day doesn’t work for me–I tend to plan and think along weekly, rather than daily, lines.

So what habits should I undertake for November and December? Sometimes, getting back to the basics is key, and for November, I decided to resurrect a key habit that brings contentment and completion to my days.

The ThreeYears are reacquainting ourselves with electricity after not having any for several days. A wind storm took out the power for most of the residents in our town, and crews from Maine and Massachusetts usually deployed to help us out during power outages were busy getting lines up in their states. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Get Up at 5am”

My Inspirations for Location Independence

Location independence, or being able to travel or live anywhere independent of a job, is something that has always appealed to me. Part of the reason is that Mr. ThreeYear’s family lives on one continent, and mine on another. So we always feel caught in-between. But even before I met Mr. ThreeYear, I dreamed about dividing my time between two places, or traveling the world.

My Inspirations for Location Inpdendence--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Along the way, I’ve been inspired by people who have lived a similar life.

The flight attendant from my TESOL program

In August of 2001, I traveled to Montreal to complete a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) training program before I moved to Chile. I met a Colombian flight attendant while I was there, and asked her where she lived. Her answer astounded me. “I divide my time between North and South America,” she told me. She lived in Montreal for the summer and fall and Colombia in the winter and spring. Her children were older, I remember, already in college, and she and her husband split their time between two places they loved. Continue reading “My Inspirations for Location Independence”

The Secret to Earning Big Bucks in Education

Our family is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent, so part of our strategy is earning more over the next three years. One of the ways we’re doing so is through my teaching position. But how do you earn big bucks in education?
The Secret to Earning Big Bucks in Education---www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
I admit that the title of this post is meant to reel you in. Because, as we all know, if you want to earn a big salary, then education is generally not the field to pursue. And, truth is, if you’re in education, you’re probably not going to ever make the big bucks that lawyers or doctors make (but kudos to you guys!).
However, if you’re already in the education field, or you’re interested in pursuing a career that gives you summers off, may I recommend a way to make more money in education than the average salary schedule of a classroom teacher?
Here’s the big secret: become a contracted service provider for a school district. I am a contractor for two school districts, and while I’m a part-time worker, my hourly rate is high enough that I’d be a six-figure income earner if I worked full-time, year-round.
Surprised? So was I when I first started teaching this way. Read on for more details. 
First of all, what is a contracted service provider? It’s a person who provides some type of service to a school or district, but not on a full-time basis. Usually, specialists like ESOL teachers (that’s what I do), Reading Specialists, Special Education teachers, Curriculum Developers, psychologists, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Speech and Language Pathologists can work with a school as a contractor. Usually, these professionals work on a part-time basis with the district, and may provide services for multiple districts.
I am a contracted service provider for two school districts about fifteen minutes apart. I provide English to Speakers of Other Languages services for both districts. What this means, practically speaking, is that I am a 1099 contractor who owns my own business and provides ESL teaching services to both districts. In one district, I have two students with whom I work, and in the other, I have four. I work a total of about 30-35 hours per week at both districts.
Teaching---www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
A view of my ESOL teaching table at one of the school districts I work at.
Many school districts have just a few English Language Learners in their populations, so it’s hard to attract an ESOL teacher to work for just a few hours a week. If an ESOL teacher is able to find several districts with the same small population of students close to one another, then he or she can work part-time at several schools. This is not just true for ESOL teachers, but for Occupational or Physical Therapists, Speech and Language Pathologists, School Counselors, psychologists, and many other professionals.

Continue reading “The Secret to Earning Big Bucks in Education”

Interview with Mr. ThreeYear

Mr. ThreeYear, apart from increasing the height and attractiveness genes of my children (thanks, honey!), is one-half of the brains behind our location independence plan. He also has an incredible story of growing up in difficult circumstances and working very hard to make a better life for himself.

Interview with Mr. ThreeYear

Since normally, I write the blog and Mr. ThreeYear just reads it, I thought I’d turn the reins over to him and allow him to share his thoughts on location independence, overcoming obstacles, and reaching financial independence.

Can you tell everyone a little about your background?

I was born in Santiago, Chile, in the mid-seventies. I grew up under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Our family was not really political; however, it was clear to see that it was not a smart idea to publicly oppose the government because of the consequences it would bring to your family.

I was the youngest of four siblings. I have two much older sisters who married and left the house early. My brother was also older, by eleven years. We lived right next to my grandmother. The country was very economically depressed. It was hard to get jobs. Unfortunately, my dad was unemployed for a long time, which made my mom the main breadwinner, working three jobs at a time (she was a special education teacher). We never starved, but it was clear to me that we were at the lower end of the financial spectrum. Continue reading “Interview with Mr. ThreeYear”

Effort, Achievement, and FI

As educators, wrote an article I recently read, we must teach our students the relationship between effort and achievement. That is to say, there is a direct correlation between the effort we expend on a particular endeavor and the likelihood that we’ll have success in said endeavor.

Effort, Achievement, and FI--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This may sound like a basic concept, but, like so many basic concepts, once you take a minute to unpack it, it has profound implications.

The more effort I put into something, the more likely I am to have good results. 

Many times, I water that advice down in my head. I pretend there’s not a direct correlation between my level of effort and my achievements: “I’ll just run three times this week instead of four. I’ll skip the mid-range run.” Every time I skip a mid-range 6-mile run, my longer 10-12 mile run is super painful and I’m slower. Over an entire training period, that means I’ll run (even) slower on race day.

“I’m tired, so I’ll wake up at 6am instead of 5am. I can still write a blog post.” That’s when I publish 2 posts per week, not three. Over time, I notice my page views slipping and readership going down.

“I’ll just wing it in class, instead of preparing a lesson plan for the week. I can prep before class each day.” My classes are not as good, I’m scrambling for activities to fill the time, and over time, my students don’t make as much progress learning English.

The truth is, consistent, daily effort pays off. It pays off in life, and it pays off (literally) when you’re working towards financial independence.

Making More Money

In the past two and a half years, I have expended a great deal of effort towards my new career–ESOL Teacher. When I started teaching in September of 2015, I knew very little about teaching English. I worked very hard to network with other teachers, observe their lessons, ask questions, and take copious notes. I started a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and many nights and weekends were spent reading, on our online classroom, or in class, an hour and a half away. Continue reading “Effort, Achievement, and FI”

How We Plan to Double Our Net Worth in 3 Years

I started this blog almost a year ago to document our family’s journey toward location independence over three years. We picked a three-year time frame because it coincided with several significant events in our family’s life: our oldest son finishing sixth grade, my husband turning forty-five, and me turning forty.

How We Plan to Double Our Net Worth in 3 Years

We love to travel, and we also have family who live in two different continents, so becoming location independent would allow us to spend a few years, before our boys start high school, living in an international location, or traveling between our respective families for a few years.

In order to make our plan work, we decided we would need to double our net worth and find jobs that would support us during our travel time. While doubling our net worth could allow us to live on 4% of our investments at a certain spending level, we know that with our current spending plus the need to fund two college accounts, we would prefer to have employment during our travel years, preferably employment that provides health benefits.

While we’ve talked about other aspects of our plan, we haven’t delved into how, exactly, we plan to double our net worth. So I thought I’d walk through our plan in this post.

Year 1 (roughly 33% increase):

We have almost completed Year 1 of our Three Year Experiment. This year’s focus was on paying off the last of our debts and funding some major home repair projects, all while saving and investing to grow our investments and decrease our debts.

I don’t know if we’ll increase our net worth by the full 33.33% this year, but we’ll likely be close. Here is where the majority of the gain has come/will come from. Continue reading “How We Plan to Double Our Net Worth in 3 Years”