Two Years of Blogging

“Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto

Me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto

Así yo distingo dicha de quebranto,

Los dos materiales que forman mi canto,

Y el canto de ustedes que es mi mismo canto,

Y el canto de todos que es mi propio canto.”

Violeta Parra

Yesterday was my blog’s two-year anniversary. Last year my anniversary slipped by, unnoticed, but this year, as I’m just back from FinCon, the financial bloggers’ conference, I’ve been more introspective.

When I started my blog, at first, I posted about once a month. I was scared, frankly. I didn’t know what I was doing and sent the poor guys at Squidix, my web host, emails about every other day because the back end stuff was over my head.

And honestly, I wasn’t sure that my plan, the one I’d announced so grandiosely but still felt so tentative about, would really work.

I mean, location independence? What did that even mean?

I puttered on with my monthly posts for a while, and then, in January 2017, I had the profound good fortune to meet up with Liz of the Frugalwoods blog. She is, in person, just like she is on the blog. Frugal, of course (we met up in a local library after Littlewoods had a playgroup and ate our brown bag lunches together), but also down-to-earth, approachable, and nice. She’s also really good at blogging. Not in the “make a bunch of affiliate income” way, but in the “setting goals and creating an engaged audience” kind of way. Continue reading “Two Years of Blogging”

Making Money Simple

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure for more information. Thanks for supporting the blog! 

One of the ways that Mr. ThreeYear and I have been able to succeed over the years is to radically simplify life.

Making Money Simple www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

As we get older, life has gotten more complicated. There are more apps you should be using, more activities to choose from, more long-form articles to read, more appointments and check-ups.

And, if you haven’t noticed, there’s a reason that things are legitimately harder for adults nowadays. With the advent of technology, the burden of completing many of the services that used to be done by others is now on us. We used to have attendants to pump our gas, travel agents to book our flights, telephone operators to connect our calls. But these, and thousands of other tasks, have been shifted to the consumer during the last several generations, leaving us with more to do than ever. Sure, we’ve saved money in the process, but the result is that we’re so busy straining to keep up with the overwhelming amount of small tasks to complete, that it’s hard to keep up.

About four years ago, I began to embrace the idea of less. I embraced the KonMari method, getting rid of about 35% of our stuff, including about 30 boxes of books that I’d kept since school, 70% of the kids’ toys that were broken or they no longer played with, half of my clothes that I didn’t wear, and pictures, mementos, and tchotchkes that didn’t serve any particular purpose. Continue reading “Making Money Simple”

3 Specific Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Life

Happy Monday! A new week for me feels like a fresh start, especially after two unexpected hurricane days for the boys that decimated my productivity at the end of last week.

to Improve Your Life www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

After (another) four-day weekend courtesy of Hurricane Michael (which brought a lot more rain and wind-related damage than its cousin Florence, with only a modicum of hype), this new week filled with five beautiful days of school for my kids feels like a gift.

Speaking of gifts, I’ve been relishing some quick wins lately. There are pockets of my house that are still, shall we say, disastrous, even four months into our move, and the small things I’ve been able to do to stay sane have been lifelines.

The Closet of Horrors www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
The closet of horrors, aka the guest room closet.

So, in the spirit of small wins, here are three things you can do right now to feel more in control, focused, and orderly, today.  Continue reading “3 Specific Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Life”

A Year of Good Food: No Focus

Hello October. Boy, I’m glad September’s over. Let’s see how our family did while I was on my Whole 30 challenge.

A Year of Good Food: No Focus www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

If you’re not familiar with the beast that is Whole30, let me give you the rundown: it’s basically an elimination diet, where you cut out anything that tastes good. Well, alcohol, dairy, grains, added sugars of any kind, and baked goods. You can eat meat, nuts, vegetables including sweet and white potatoes (I ate a lot of those), olives, and fruits. There’s no calorie counting so you can eat as much as you want but you can’t eat even one bite of a forbidden food. Bread? Forget it. A cookie? After 30 days are up, my friend.

Why would anyone subscribe to this torture, you may be asking? A lot of people (including me) are plagued with stomach issues, and an elimination diet can help you suss out which foods cause you problems. Some people even get migraines because of their food sensitivities, which I just found out after a conversation at FinCon, the financial bloggers’ conference.

So September was dedicated to eating this way for 30 days. I did it. But it was hard. And it was hard on the budget. (My attitude was also not the best, as you can probably tell. That’s on me, because there were some real and important benefits to eliminating so many foods, namely, that it allowed me to notice how food makes me feel).

Why a Grocery Challenge?

This year, our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food so we can save and travel more. Last year, I adopted one habit a month that would translate into better money moves for our family. You can read all about our A Year of Good Habits here.

That experiment worked so well that we tried a new one this year. In 2018, we are challenging ourselves to do better at our food spending. Last year our family spent over $12,000 in groceries, or $966 per month.

This year, our goal is to spend 20% less on groceries. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s almost $200 per month in food savings. The extra $200 per month is going into a travel savings fund, so we can see the results of our hard work in spending less on food.

We could have adopted a radical goal to keep our spending under $500 or something like that. But we know better. We thought it made much more sense to consistently hit our modest target, month after month, for an entire year, to show ourselves we could do it, than to maybe hit the $500 goal once or twice and then face plant with more $1000+ grocery bills.

And if we consistently hit sub-$772 spending, then perhaps we’ll challenge ourselves next year to shave off more.

Each month, we’re trying out a new way to save money at the grocery store. Last month, we spent most of our grocery budget on whole foods, nuts, and olive oil. That stuff ain’t cheap.

September

In addition to completing Whole30, we were in the first month of school, had Hurricane Florence pass through, hosted visitors, went out of town for a wedding, and I went to FinCon, the financial bloggers’ conference in Orlando, Florida.

We’re just finding our rhythms, especially as we’ve yet to complete a full week of school/work with no interruptions.

I’ve been grocery shopping at Aldi on Fridays when I can (great day to buy your groceries because they restock the store that day and there aren’t a lot of people shopping for food) but because of all the disruptions, interruptions, and trips, it wasn’t as organized as in the past.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: No Focus”

Your Three Year Experiment: Claudia from Two Cup House

Hi there! It’s Wednesday and time for another installment of Your Three Year Experiment, featuring people who are sharing their own three year experiments–their plans, goals, and dreams for the next three years. 

Your Three Year Experiment: Claudia from Two Cup House www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Today’s post is from Claudia from Two Cup House. Claudia is a personal finance blogger, SEO consultant, and trainer who moved into a tiny house with her husband Garrett in order to get closer to financial independence. 

Claudia and her husband paid off six figures in debt in just a few years by downsizing to a tiny house and starting their own business. Now, they’re pursuing FI, but not RE (that’s financial independence, but not retiring early). Read on to find out:

  • how they were able to pay off $200,000 in a short time
  • how they’ll balance building their business with travel
  • the one place in their budget they’re not frugal

If you’d like to be featured in the series, send me a note! My contact info is on the Start Here page.

What’s your background? Early years, education, married, kids, jobs?

We grew up in different parts of Pennsylvania and have spent most of our lives here.  Unsurprisingly, we’re Penn State grads.

My husband, Garrett, and I live in a 500 sq ft house in Lancaster County, PA.  We don’t have kids (and don’t plan to have kids).

Today, we’re self-employed.  We run our own marketing consulting and training business.  

Two Cup House at the beach www.thethreeeyearexperiment.com
Claudia and Garrett at the beach, enjoying the fruits of being location independent.

 

Continue reading “Your Three Year Experiment: Claudia from Two Cup House”

The Power of Waiting

There are few things in life I hate as much as waiting. I remember my grandmother reciting the lines to one of her favorite poems when I was little, as I jumped from one foot to the other, hurrying her along in my mind.

The Power of Waiting www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

“If a string is in a knot,
Patience will untie it.
Patience can do many things—
Did you ever try it?

If it was sold at any shop
I should like to buy it.
But you and I must find our own—
No other can supply it.”

My grandmother is a fairly patient woman. More importantly, she understands the power of patience. She is one half of the frugal dynamo comprising my maternal grandparents.

Leon

A little background, if you will. My mom’s parents were born at the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s and were Depression Babies. My grandfather Leon, especially, grew up in the middle of the tobacco fields and sharecroppers of central North Carolina. When he was a little boy, about Little ThreeYear’s age, his dad left, leaving my grandmother alone with two small children. My grandfather had to work in those same sharecropping fields, picking cotton and beans to make money so his mama and sister could eat. They’d trap rabbits for the occasional meat to add to their meals. They were so poor that food was a constant concern. Continue reading “The Power of Waiting”

Your Three Year Experiment: Trevor

Hi there! Today is the second in my new series, Your Three Year Experiment, featuring people who are sharing their own three year experiments–their plans, goals, and dreams for the next three years. 

Your Three Year Experiment: Trevor www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Today’s post is from Trevor, a freelance writer who writes on behalf on Porsche Atlanta Perimeter. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, spending time with his family, jamming on his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable. In this interview, he’ll share:

  • the surprising tipping point to him finally getting sober
  • his three-year plan to create a massive savings fund for himself
  • how’s he able to make a living as a freelancer

If you’d like to be featured in the series, send me a note! My contact info is on the Start Here page.

What’s your background? Early years, education, married, kids, jobs?

I was the “good kid” in high school and even maintained that in my early days of community college. This was before addiction took hold. In my early 20s, I started partying hard. It felt like I became the “cool kid” I always wanted to be. I’d never say no to a night of drinking, and everyone knew it. They’d all call me whenever they wanted to go out, and I wasn’t one to disappoint. I’d close out any bar on any night of the week.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I needed to drink. I dropped out of college to help my parents with bills, and things got progressively worse from there.   Continue reading “Your Three Year Experiment: Trevor”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Sarah

Today I have the pleasure to introduce Sarah. Sarah is a long-time reader of the blog, and first contacted me almost a year ago to share her desire to become location independent. She recently accepted a full-time remote job and is now proud to call her family LI! Sarah graciously agreed to answer some interview questions and will now join the ranks of Steve, Jaime, Moose, and more in the “Location Independent, International Jobs” series. Without further ado, here’s Sarah! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where you’re from, how long married, degrees, kids, ages, etc.

I’m Sarah and I live with my family near Sacramento, California.

I live with my husband of nearly 10 years, our two kids (ages 5 & 8), and two cats.  I have a master’s in library science and he has a PhD in the biological sciences.  We’ve lived in the Sacramento area for 2 years, having spent time in the Bay Area before that and over a decade in the Chicago suburbs before that.

hiking with family
Favorite frugal pastime: hiking in the beautiful California sunshine with my family

My family is from the Pacific Northwest, and my in-laws are in Chicago & San Francisco.  The majority of our family is on the west coast, so we’re able to see them a lot more than we did when we lived in Chicago.

How did you make the decision to work remotely?

Working remotely was actually suggested by my previous employer in late 2013 (after they’d denied the request in 2009), as we transferred from their Chicago office to San Francisco.  I absolutely jumped at the opportunity, since commuting was a huge factor keeping me from my kids.  I started looking for new remote work in early 2018 and accepted a new position in July.  I’m the librarian for a digital library at a relatively small company based in the Bay Area.

What’s the impetus for wanting to become location independent?

I was treated for depression and anxiety after our oldest was born; it was then that I came up hard against the realization that what I was “supposed to do”–work full time and see my baby for a few hours and be totally ok with that–was not actually working for me.
And so I cut down to part-time and began to radically change our spending, habits, and lifestyle, and really started to question everything.  I read blogs like The Minimalist Mom, Frugalwoods, Zen Habits and others, and we kept at it as our son grew and our daughter was born.   Then my husband lost his job and we moved to CA in the hopes that there would be work (there was!).
Between the 2-3 hours a day we spent commuting in Chicago, to this stressful time moving across the country for work and cramming into 900 sq ft so we could be closer to work in the Bay Area, my husband and I were unhappy with being tied to a workplace.
Enter our move to Sacramento and my finding The Three Year Experiment, and we started thinking about where we really wanted to be (still under discussion!).  I guess we chafe at the ideas of things we have to do, like work in the city, live in the suburbs, have a commute, buy a house, live paycheck-to-paycheck, and so this idea that we could set the terms around where we live and what we do was incredibly appealing.  For me, I’d been reading about Financial Independence for some time, but it was a bit nebulous without a really firm vision (we’re still working on that). Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Sarah”

Setting Short Term vs. Long Term Goals

One of the weird things about reaching a big life goal is the feeling of, “what now?”

Setting Short Term vs. Long Term Goals

Since our family achieved our goal of becoming location independent earlier this summer, we only have, oh, I don’t know, the rest of our lives to live. What do we focus on now?

As we all know, the effects of achieving goals on your short term happiness are pretty high, but long term, you tend to go back to feeling like the same-old person you were before you achieved the goal, albeit with more self-confidence or belief in yourself that “you are a person who accomplishes the goals you set for yourself.”

We’re enjoying the benefits of our move–more time with our family members, impromptu get togethers, good schools, more support, warmer weather, a more vibrant community. I’ll often still get a thrill when I’m riding through our town or feeling the (still very warm) sun on my face when I step outside. Those feelings remind me to be grateful for where we live and for the ability to craft the life we so deeply desired.

We’re also living through the day-to-day: getting up and going to work each morning (with an admittedly shorter commute), getting homework done, making decisions about after-school activities, helping kids navigate the turbulent emotions of childhood. These day-to-day struggles remind me that wherever I go, there I’ll be. That the more things change, the more they stay the same. They remind me that much of my achievements will have to be small, daily practices that don’t necessarily get me closer to giant goals, but help me better muddle through the everyday messiness of life.  Continue reading “Setting Short Term vs. Long Term Goals”

Financial Hot Buttons

The other day, Mr. ThreeYear and I were driving the boys to meet my sister and her family at our local bowling alley. It was during the hurricane rains, and we were trying to get everyone out of the house for a bit. Junior ThreeYear innocently mentioned that he was hungry, and Mr. ThreeYear said, “Don’t worry; they have snacks there.” I quickly replied, “I packed snacks for us to eat” and told Mr. ThreeYear, “I’ve budgeted $50 for this outing. I don’t want to go over.” (Bowling at this alley costs like $35 without a coupon and then there were the arcade games!).

Financial Hot Buttons www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Mr. ThreeYear got very angry and told me that if he wanted to buy snacks at the bowling alley, he would. That I couldn’t nit-pick small purchases like that, and I needed to stop talking about how much we were spending immediately.

Uh-oh. I had inadvertently pushed one of Mr. ThreeYear’s financial hot buttons.

What are hot buttons? Well, seems to me that hot buttons are anything that you say or do that causes someone else to immediately get red hot angry. A hot button reaction is usually not commensurate in strength with the statement or action that precedes it. In other words, someone can say or do something relatively benign, but because those things cause emotional triggers, you’re going to have a big reaction.

We all have hot button issues, and we all respond to them in different ways.

First, Mr. ThreeYear’s hot button.

When he was growing up, Mr. ThreeYear’s family was very poor. He grew up in Pinochet-era Chile, when there was a dictator and curfews each night. The economy was stable but not booming. Chile was solidly in the category of third world countries.

His dad had a job at a bank and then left to work with a colleague. That didn’t pan out, and he had no job, so he opened a small convenience store at the front of their house. My mother-in-law worked as a teacher at the time, but they didn’t have enough money to adequately fund even the basic necessities, like a higher-than-normal electric bill. My mother-in-law washed her dishes in cold water out of necessity, because washing in hot water cost too much. Continue reading “Financial Hot Buttons”