Curveballs

Life loves to mess up your best-laid plans, doesn’t it? At the ThreeYear house, we’ve been dealing with some curveballs that have been thrown our way lately. I can’t really go into details, because I don’t yet know how they’ll all shake out, but I can say that Mr. ThreeYear and I are currently feeling all the feelings.

Curveballs--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

How do you keep moving on, working towards your goals, putting one foot in front of the other, when things feel unsettled and unsure?

People have lots of good, well-intentioned advice like, “Just don’t think about it.” “Count your blessings.” “A year from now this will all be a distant memory.”

This is all terrible advice because it doesn’t work: don’t think about a tropical beach with sandy white beaches. How well did that work for you?

When you’re unsettled, when you’re reminded that life is all about continual changes and things happening that you’d never expect, it’s hard to focus. You start imagining fifty different scenarios for how a particular situation could resolve itself. You have no clarity. You’re in limbo.

Limbo is a hell of a place to be. It pretty much sucks.

Several years ago, I went out and shopped to deal with my feelings. Or drank a bunch of wine. Or ate a bunch of cookies.

Now, I just eat a bunch of cookies. 🙂 I repeat to myself, “This, too, shall pass” and eat lots and lots of sweets. Or potato chips. I also know that going on a run or two, preferably with friends, is a really good idea. Continue reading “Curveballs”

Bank Your Raise

Most of us, when we hear we’re getting a 3, 4, or 5% raise, go out to dinner to celebrate and then, without even realizing it, slightly adjust our spending to the “new” income level.

Bank Your Raise www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

One of the most powerful tools you have, though, especially if you find it hard to save, is your yearly raise. For the last six years, Mr. ThreeYear and I have used every cent of his annual raise to increase our savings and investing.

Why? Because we live a very good life at our current level of spending, and we don’t need to spend more. If we want to go out and celebrate, take a trip, or spend the money some other way, it will be waiting for us in the savings account. If we didn’t squirrel the money away where we didn’t see it, we’d spend it without even realizing it, and then all the effort behind earning that raise would be for nothing.

We’ve frittered away money over the years in exactly this way, and it always made me feel powerless over our spending. “But where did that raise go? How do we spend more now? Where is that money?” Now, as I watch our savings grow, I realize that we’re the ones in control of the money, and we’re holding on to it until we’re ready to use it in a thoughtful way (or invest it, which is my favorite thing to do with our money besides travel!).

Continue reading “Bank Your Raise”

Your Money Or Your Life: Chapter 6 (Traveling Book Review)

Today I’m taking part in a “traveling book review” written by Rockstar Finance bloggers. Each day, a different blogger will review one chapter of one of the best money books I’ve ever read, Your Money or Your Life. Written by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, Vicki’s original coauthor who’s since died, the updated version  contains timeless wisdom and current, practical tips for anyone working to make sense of their finances, their work/life balance, and life in general.

Your Money Or Your Life Chapter 6 www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

If you’d like to read reviews for each chapter, I recommend reading Rockstar Finance’s introduction post with links to reviews of each chapter.

The American Dream–on a Shoestring

Chapter 6 is perhaps the most relevant chapter to my life of the entire book. “Laurie,” it seemed to be saying to me the whole time, “read these words and internalize this message: if you want to achieve true freedom, you must learn to control your spending.”

A few years ago, I would have scoffed at this notion. “As if,” I can hear old me saying,”I’m going to earn more and buy whatever I want.”

This would be a terrific strategy if it worked–if it allowed me to increase my net worth, say, or even my happiness. Then we could get all the stuff we wanted just by working harder, and that would make us happier, and we’d all live happily ever after. All the millionaires and multi-millionaires would never declare bankruptcy or feel sad. Hollywood stars, paid millions per film, would never divorce or go through public scandals.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. As Robin wisely and gently explains, more stuff doesn’t necessarily bring more happiness. Especially once you’ve got your basic needs met. Continue reading “Your Money Or Your Life: Chapter 6 (Traveling Book Review)”

March Net Worth Update

It’s raining right now, which is a small hint that Spring is making its way, slowly, to New England. The start of April signifies that we’ve entered the fourth month of the year and our experiment continues.

March Net Worth Update www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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!). 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.

March is always my least-favorite month of the year. The rest of the country is enjoying the first signs of Spring, and we’re still covered under snow. This year, March lived up to the adage, and came in like a lion, with storm after storm that buffeted us with snow and left the skies gray and damp. It went out like a lamb, with a few days at the tail end full of blue skies and (slightly warmer) temps. But April has brought wind storms, more cold weather, and a reminder that here in New England, there is no such thing as Spring.

Spring New England town church www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
A view of our small New England town from the library. This is what Spring looks like.

Continue reading “March Net Worth Update”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Moose from MSoLife

Hello! Welcome to “Location Independent, International Jobs,” the Wednesday series where I showcase stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or practice location arbitrage, as is the case with today’s guest poster.

Today you’ll hear from Moose, who blogs about FI at MSoLife. It isn’t everyday that you meet a fellow Carolinian with ties to Chile who speaks Spanish fluently. We’ve had fun ribbing each other in Spanish over email. I couldn’t wait to hear more about his plans for the future once he reaches FI in a few years.
This interview will cover:
  • Where Moose plans to move to live more cheaply once his family has reached FI
  • Who geoarbitrage is right for, and who it isn’t right for
  • How a mini-retirement can fit into your FI goals
For the complete story of how Moose plans to retire to South America, read on.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Moose Cartoon Head Making Sense of Life MSoLife www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
I was born in France and have lived in Mexico, the UK, the USA, and
Germany, so it’s hard to say where I’m from, but I currently live in Los
Angeles, California and am from Charlotte, NC. I’ve been married for a
little over five years and we have one daughter, who’s two years old. I was
an Army officer for six years before going to business school and I’ve
worked in investment banking (for a short time and it sucked) and investment research for private equity and hedge funds.

A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store

Happy April! Time for this month’s recap of A Year of Good Food.

A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store (March) www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food this year so we can reach our goal of location independence by the end of 2019. Last year, I challenged myself to adopt 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.

This year, 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.

For some people, $772 is a huge amount to spend on groceries. Others couldn’t imagine spending so little. The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion says the average that monthly expenditure for a low-cost food plan for a family of four in the US was $731.20. The liberal food plan average expense was $1093. I’ve seen bloggers who spend $60 per month on their food (they garden and eat two meals a day). I know friends who spend $400 a week for their family of five. Food spending really does seem to be all over the place for people.

This experiment is about behavior change for our family, so by teaching ourselves to spend less and not waste food (which we can be pretty bad at) my hope is that at the end of this year, we’ll have developed permanent habits around spending less and eating everything we have in the refrigerator.

So far, it has not been easy to achieve this goal.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store”

How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job Part 2

When you’re building wealth by saving and investing, one of the things that can help you save much more rapidly is earning more. In Part 1 of “How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job,” I detailed three ways Mr. ThreeYear and I have been able to increase our wages over the years: taking responsibility, working as contractors, and tooting our own horns.

How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job Part 2 www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Today, I’ll offer several more ways we are able to become rockstars at our jobs in order to increase our salaries as much as possible.

Find a Mentor

Jalpan from Passive Income Engineering cited finding a mentor as one of the key ways he’s been able to progress in his field in intellectual property.

A mentor is a co-worker at your job who’s ideally a couple of positions above you, or someone who has more experience in different areas. He or she can teach and guide you, answer questions, and generally help you become better at your job.

A good mentor will challenge you, encourage you to apply for promotions you might not feel ready for, and help you understand situations that come up with your boss or peers. Continue reading “How to Be a Rockstar at Your Job Part 2”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Dana Leigh Lyons of Alchemist Eating

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

In today’s interview, you’ll hear Dana’s story. Dana is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, teaches at a Chinese Medicine college, and runs her own coaching business: Alchemist Eating.  As a long-distance eating and lifestyle coach, Dana helps people eat in a way that’s healthy, intuitive and uncomplicated. Her work combines eating, medicine and minimalism.
This interview will cover:
  • how Dana created a location independent career in an unlikely field
  • why it can make sense to change careers in your 30s
  • tips to eat well for less, including the foods you should buy
For the complete story of how Dana has made a location independent life, read on. 
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I come from a small, rural town in Maryland but lived abroad on-and-off throughout adulthood.

Dana Leigh Lyons www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Dana Leigh Lyons of Alchemist Eating. (Photo credit: Bobbi Barbarich)

I’m now in my 40s but in my 20s and 30s worked as a location-independent translator, editor and writer. In that “past life,” my homes included Washington, DC, (where I completed my Master’s degree), Egypt, Thailand, and many super-temporary spots (China, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Mongolia, to name a few!).

Dana Leigh Lyons--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Dana meditating with her cat by her side. (Photo credit: Bobbi Barbarich)

I tended to change homes (and continents) every few years during my 20s, but then moved to Nelson, British Columbia, for Chinese Medicine school. The doctor program here is 5 years, which meant staying put! Thereafter, I spent time in Florida and Colorado, where I’m licensed as a doctor and started my own business. Until… the Chinese Medicine school invited me back to teach. I was thrilled to return to my “true home” of Nelson, where I now teach acupuncture, herbs and food therapy. I’m also helping develop the college’s upcoming nutrition program.

Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Dana Leigh Lyons of Alchemist Eating”

The Best Advice I Know for Becoming Location Independent

Our family is currently on a three year experiment to double our net worth and become location independent. While we’re not there yet, we’ve learned a lot on this journey.
The Best Advice I Know for Becoming Location Independent www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
If you’re thinking about cutting the ties and becoming location independent, here are a few things we’ve learned (some, the hard way):

Kill the Debt

First things first, get rid of your debt. There is nothing more binding than owing someone or some entity money. Pay off your credit card balances, student loans, and car loans as fast as you can. Consider selling your house to rent. When you owe money to a person or an institution, not only are you beholden to that person or entity, you’re stuck working long hours, in order to pay your fixed expenses and pay back your debt, as well.
If you’re thinking about traveling, living internationally, or taking on a job that allows you to live anywhere, I highly recommend paying off your debt first. There’s an inherent unpredictability that can come with location independence, especially if it involves living in an international location or traveling for long stretches, and being out from under the burden of debt payments is freeing.

Continue reading “The Best Advice I Know for Becoming Location Independent”