How to Choose Cars that Match Your Financial Goals

Mr. ThreeYear is a car person. I am not. But we have both owned a lot of cars in our fifteen+ years of dating and married life.

How to Choose Cars that Match Your Financial Goals www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We have made good car decisions. We have made bad car decisions. We have had car payments. We have owned cars outright.

Currently, we have two of the best, if not sexiest, cars we’ve ever have, and they match our financial goals pretty well. But how did we get there?

Today’s post contains all the details of our wonderful cars over the years, and how they’ve worked with or against us.

The Laser

I realized that I was marrying a car person when, soon after we started dating, Mr. ThreeYear decided to buy a new car. For our first date, he was picking me up outside my apartment in Santiago, and he told me he had a pretty old car. I had gotten locked out of my apartment, so I was waiting for him on the sidewalk, watching cars drive by. I have to admit that I was looking at some clunkers, and thinking to myself, “Please don’t be that car. Please don’t be that car.” He pulled up in a dark blue Ford Laser that was as old as I was (at the time, 22). But I thought, “I can live with this.” True, he had to adjust the radio with a screwdriver, and the interior was a bit worn, but the car took us where we needed to go. Continue reading “How to Choose Cars that Match Your Financial Goals”

A Weekend in Montreal

We got back from a weekend trip to Montreal, Quebec, yesterday. We’ve been wanting to take Junior and Little ThreeYear for ages, and we finally bit the bullet and put a weekend trip together (here’s my philosophy on travel spending).

A Weekend in Montreal www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We normally travel for longer periods of time, but once in a while, maybe one or two times a year, we’ll go on a weekend adventure. These short trips are usually expensive, since we tend to eat most of our meals out and stay in more expensive lodgings, but we pack a lot of sightseeing into a few days and make lots of memories.

This was the boys’ first trip ever to Canada, which is sort of embarrassing to admit since we’ve lived two hours from the Canadian border for eight years, but I definitely subscribe to the adage “better late than never.” We drove up to Montreal, three hours from our house, on Friday afternoon. It’s a beautiful drive through the mountains of Vermont, which then give way to the glacial plains of Upstate New York around Lake Champlain.  Continue reading “A Weekend in Montreal”

I Spend a Lot. So How Do I Save?

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I have always loved to spend money. Over the years, I’ve had to teach myself to save despite my spendthrift ways. It’s been a lot of trial and error and sometimes I do better than others.

This month, with the advent of Spring after such a long, harsh winter, my inner Spendthrift has broken free.

I Spend a Lot. So How Do I Save? www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Some people, Mr. ThreeYear included, can’t understand this behavior. He grew up in a household where frugality wasn’t just a good idea, it was a way of life. Spend too much on electricity? Not enough for food. It was kind of that simple. So he grew up with such anxiety around spending that it’s hard for him to spend now, even when he wants to.

I had no such constraints. I have found that especially during times of upheaval, or during season changes, or Christmas, my impulse is to spend more. What does that look like?

  • Not being as careful at the grocery store. Buying without having a meal plan or list.
  • Buying clothes I don’t need
  • Going out to eat because I don’t feel like cooking
  • Making a convenient choice rather than the slightly-more-difficult-but-much-cheaper choice
  • Impulse travel

Continue reading “I Spend a Lot. So How Do I Save?”

8 Ways to Save Money on Summer Camps

The countdown is on. School will be out for the ThreeYears in 4 weeks, exactly (not that we’re counting or anything). Soon, summer will be upon us.

8 Ways to Save Money on Summer Camps www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

For our family, summer is a time to be together and visit family, since I’m a teacher and am off during the summers. However, when I worked during the summer, camp planning was a big preoccupation this time of year. The massive expense of camp was a big concern, because I needed a safe, fun place for my kids to spend their days during the summer weekdays. But camps are pricey. Here are some ideas for ways to decrease the cost of camps for your kids this summer.

Research “hidden gems”

Three years ago, a friend told me about a camp in a neighboring town. It was a one-week day camp held at the local airport, and it was completely free! The kids who attended were able to fly with local pilots and learn the basics of aviation, at no cost. The camp was started as an initiative for this lower-income community, but anyone could participate. In subsequent years, they increased the cost to $40 for the week, still an incredible deal for a camp that takes kids flying.

The camp wasn’t well publicized and I only heard about it through several friends who lived in the community. We put it on our list for this summer as this is the first year both boys would be able to participate.

There are lots of day camp opportunities available for little or no cost, but they’re not always easy to find. Sometimes, they’re advertised in local newspapers, on town websites, or other out-of-the-way places. I let friends know that I’m looking for interesting, low-cost opportunities for my kids so they’ll pass on any info. Continue reading “8 Ways to Save Money on Summer Camps”

Will This Plan Give You More Money in Retirement?

I recently ran across a USA Today article called “How Not to Run Out of Money in Retirement.” In it, the author shares the details of a new retirement plan, the brainchild of an actuary who’s been studying retirement for three decades.

Will This Plan Give You More Money in Retirement? www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

It’s called the “Spend Safely in Retirement” plan, and the premise is simply that you wait until age 70 to claim Social Security and use the IRS’s required minimum distribution table to determine how much to take from savings each year. The Stanford Center on Longevity, working with the Society of Actuaries, published a study of hundreds of ways to create income in retirement, and this plan, one of the simplest, ended up being the most sound (surprise, simple things work well. Who knew?). Continue reading “Will This Plan Give You More Money in Retirement?”

A Year of Good Food: Shop the Perimeter

Another month is done. Here’s what happened last month in your next chapter of… A Year of Good Food.

A Year of Good Food: Shop the Perimeter www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This year, our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food so we can reach our goal of location independence by the end of 2019. Last year, I adopted one habit a month that would translate into better money moves for our family. You can read all about what I called 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. We’ve tried shopping with cash, making only one trip to the store per week, and shopping with a list. So far, shopping with cash has worked best. That’s in line with the idea that parting with your money is painful, and so you’re more likely to part with less of it if you’re paying in cash. When we use credit cards, we separate ourselves from our spending just a bit, since when we pay with a card, we feel like we’ll pay for the groceries later (and we will, when we pay our monthly bill). Strangely enough, when we pay our monthly credit card bill, it feels like we’ve already paid for stuff in the moment of purchase. So there’s a lot less purchase pain, which is the reason we tend to spend more with credit cards.

As of now, we haven’t adopted an all-cash system because it’s convenient to pay with credit cards. But I might start this summer.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Shop the Perimeter”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Jaime from Keep Thrifty

Hello! Welcome to “Location Independent, International Jobs,” the Wednesday series where I showcase stories from people who have become location independent or work internationally.

Today you’ll hear from Jaime from Keep Thrifty. Jaime and her husband Chris write about exploring the location independent lifestyle over the last year . I’m amazed at how brave and out-of-the-box they are in the decisions they make for their family. They refuse to take the road that they’re “supposed to,” and instead make the decisions that are right for their family.
This interview will cover:
  • How to take a mini-retirement
  • Financing a traveling lifestyle
  • The downside of location independence
For the complete story of how Jaime and Chris have made a mini-retirement (and trial location independence) work for their family, read on.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Family on a Hawaii beach www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Chris, Jaime, and their girls in Hawaii this year. 
My husband and I met while in college at UW-Madison. Before Chris graduated, he was offered a full time job at GE where he had his co-op. This allowed him to stay in Madison since I had two more years before I graduated. After I finished school, I worked as a personal trainer, we bought a house, got married, Chris got his MBA, and we had our first baby, N.

We were settled and content, but under it all we longed for more. Then I found out I was pregnant with twin girls, had a tough pregnancy, prayed for my babies, and at 37 weeks welcomed A & B into the world. A had surgery right away and spent a month in the NICU. Our life was at once overwhelming, but it was the push we needed to move past contentment and start working on our dreams.

Jaime in the hospital with twins location independence www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
After the birth of their twins

The Boon of Investing Early

Mr. ThreeYear and I have made plenty of mistakes during our financial journey, but one thing we did right was to start investing early. That boon of investing money early has given us a much higher net worth than we would have otherwise had.

The Boon of Investing Early www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

The Early Years

I began to learn about investing in college. Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet learned about IRAs and didn’t save any of my job earnings. But, I did begin to learn about investing in individual stocks. This was around the time that Scottrade was founded, and my dad began to make individual stock investments. I did a very small amount of research and began to invest some of the money I had in individual stocks, which were mainly blue chips, or well-established companies that paid a higher dividend each year, like Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and energy companies. I began my portfolio with about $4000 and slowly added to it during college. I did minimal trading and practiced the buy and hold strategy.  Continue reading “The Boon of Investing Early”

How We’re Saving for Our Dream: Guest Post on Mustard Seed Money

Today I’m very excited to be featured on Mustard Seed Money. Rob paid off his house and is approaching early retirement before 40, while never earning a 6-figure salary. His website is full of practical advice and specific ideas you can use to improve your financial life.

How We're Saving for our Dream: Guest Post on Mustard Seed Money www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

On his site, I’m sharing ways that Mr. ThreeYear and I are saving and investing to become location independent.

Here’s an excerpt from the post: Continue reading “How We’re Saving for Our Dream: Guest Post on Mustard Seed Money”

April Net Worth Update

Happy May! How are things going for you? We finally have no snow on the ground as of yesterday, and that is not an exaggeration. Winter definitely held on as long as it’s ever held on this year, which is my eighth winter in New Hampshire. For the past seven winters, we’ve had all snow melted by April 23rd (even if we’ve gotten a freak snow storm in May afterwards) but this year, we had snow cover for a whole extra week (lucky us!).

April Net Worth Update www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We did get some beautiful 70-degree days at the tail end of this month, which made everything feel hopeful and Springy. Our crocuses have bloomed (all 2 of them) and our daffodils are pushing up, as well as our alliums and the dahlias. We spent this month doing a variety of activities, some of which I’ll be revealing down the road (hint hint!). It’s been a busy month. Over Spring Break, Mr. ThreeYear and I took a fun trip to Portland, Oregon, while my mom flew up from sunny South Carolina to watch the boys. She had horrible snowy, icy, weather, so we appreciate her sacrifice even more!

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. Last year, we increased our net worth by 32% over the year before. This year, we’re trying to increase it by more than 65% from where we started in December 2016. Given the wild ride the market’s likely to take us on this year, I’m not sure it’s doable. But we’re going to try.

Last month, even though we enjoyed more lackluster results from the stock market, we got a huge jump in net worth since Mr. ThreeYear’s annual stock gift was given out. Each December, his privately-owned company, which is 100% employee-owned, invites outside auditors to set the stock price. Given the wild surge the stock prices took in December, his company’s stock was given a much higher valuation than the year before. That meant all of the stock we currently hold in the company rose substantially, and we received more stock (valued at more money).

Continue reading “April Net Worth Update”