What Money Can’t Buy

Last week, the boys and I returned back to New Hampshire from a month-long road trip in the Southeastern US. The Junior ThreeYears and I had taken our trusty Prius down to North and South Carolina to visit family, go to the beach, and soak up the sun and humidity. I find that when I get Southern heat and humidity a bit in the summer, winters in New England are easier to get through. To me, it never gets hot enough for long enough here. I need the “walk out into a sauna” experience to feel like I’ve truly had a summer.

What Money Can't Buy--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We were on our way from the coast of South Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit my sister, on a busy stretch of interstate near Columbia, the state capital. It was around ten in the morning on a Monday, and traffic was heavy.

Up until then, we’d had almost two full summers of uneventful road travel. Everything had gone just swimmingly. But luck was against us that morning. I was in the left hand lane, and was completely surrounded by fast-moving eighteen-wheelers and cars. Suddenly, right in front of me, I saw a piece of tire that had come off of a semi–they’re called road gators in trucker parlance–and I realized there was nothing I could do to avoid it. I thought about veering left, but there was no shoulder on the road. I couldn’t get over to the right, because I was hemmed in. I slowed down as much as I could so that the huge truck beside me wouldn’t plow into me, and ran over the piece of tire. Continue reading “What Money Can’t Buy”

How to Save Money When You’re Not a Saver

Raise your hand if you’re a saver. You know, you never spend money. You’re biologically opposed to pulling out your wallet. You’ve got thousands squirreled away in a savings account somewhere, and you’ve built it up almost without thinking about it.

How to Save When You're Not a Saver-www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I bet you grew up in a frugal family, right? Did your mom always pack sandwiches when you went on road trips? Did you rarely, if ever, go out to eat? When you did, the whole family ordered waters and split entrees. Am I close? Did you live in a modest ranch your whole life, wear hand-me-downs, and ride in the same car for a decade (that your parents paid cash for)?

I’m not making fun. No way. I’m actually a little jealous. Here’s why: you had the best possible education growing up. Your frugal family taught you how, almost without thinking about it, to spend less than you earn. You feel trepidation–a healthy fear–towards buying stuff, and you instinctively pause before buying a material item, and think about whether you actually need it or not. Continue reading “How to Save Money When You’re Not a Saver”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Heather

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. I’ve interviewed some fascinating individuals who all have slightly different takes on location independence or living internationally. Recent posts include Steve from Think, Save, Retire,  Mrs. Adventure Rich, and Mavis, an international teacher.

Guest posters will be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now.  

The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Since we’re not sure which route we’ll take, we thought we’d hear from people who’ve already achieved one or the other, so we can learn more.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Heather, a twenty-something ESOL teacher who lives in New Hampshire. 

I know Heather from my Master’s program and we have a lot in common, which is why I asked her if she would share her story on the blog. Heather moved to Chile after college, just like I did, and taught English as a Second Language, just like I did, and fell in love with Chile (easy to do!) just like I did. And we both live in New Hampshire and attend the same Master’s program in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). But, our stories are a bit different, and probably more importantly, we’re about a decade apart in age. So Heather is at a different place in life than I am, which is cool, because she can do things like introduce me to SnapChat. Okay, without further ado, I give you Heather! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I’m from Sandwich, New Hampshire. [Laurie: I love that town name]. I have a B.A. in Italian Studies from Connecticut College.

 

Heather--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Heather in Gran Torre Santiago (the tallest building in Latin America), overlooking the north part of the city.

How did you make the decision to move internationally?

I was finishing up college and was set on working abroad as an English teacher. I had done the CELTA course between freshman and sophomore year and wanted to get a job where I could be the principal teacher since previously I had volunteered or tutored (CELTA stands for Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults–it’s affiliated with the University of Cambridge ESOL examinations). I didn’t apply for any US jobs and put all my energy into looking for something abroad. I figured this was a perfect time to do it since I would be graduating and needed a break from school. Also, I wanted to confirm that TESOL was my career path before jumping into grad school. Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Heather”

Why You Should Spend Money on Travel

One thing I’ve learned about the journey of personal finance is that it’s personal. We all have different priorities for our money.

But today, I’m going to argue that everybody who can finagle it should spend money on travel. Whatever you call them–get aways, mini breaks, vacations, holidays–no matter how close or far from home you go, I believe there are major benefits to regular travel.

Spend Money on Travel--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Our family has been a fan of traveling for a long time. Because, what better way is there to prepare for a life where you can travel anywhere than to travel, well, somewhere? If you’re interested in becoming location independent, I recommend making it a priority to take at least one trip or mini-trip per year.

Yes, there is always debt to pay off, emergency funds to fill, and possessions to pare, but the benefits of travel are many. Taking a small percentage of your take-home pay and reserving it for a trip each year, even a brief, close-to-home one, is worth delaying those other goals by a few months.

Mr. ThreeYear and I took a weekend trip to Montreal several years ago, and it was nectar to our traveling souls. We’re only three hours away by car from Montreal, so we booked a hotel using our credit card rewards (thank you SPG card), drove up, and spent a fabulous weekend exploring the Museum of Fine Arts, the eponymous city park Mont Royal with the fabulous view of the city (boy were my legs tired after that climb!), and the heart of Old Montreal. We ate delicious ethnic food (including Korean BBQ and Szechuan) and drank lots of cappuccinos. Our trip lasted three days, and cost us about $350, but it reminded us why we love to travel so much and why we’re working so hard to become location independent.

Quebec--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
A long weekend in Quebec was a balm to our parenting-weary souls.

Michelle from Making Sense of Cents recently highlighted a blogger, Penny from Penny and Rich, who spends $53,000 a year on her family of six, with $22,000 of that going to pay back student loans. Even though the family earns so little income that they qualify for federal food assistance, her family makes travel a priority. They set aside a little less than $2500 last year for vacations for their families. Some snarky commenters gave Penny a hard time for spending money on vacation while qualifying for food stamps, but I believe she has her priorities in order. Here’s why you should spend money on travel: Continue reading “Why You Should Spend Money on Travel”

Location Independence, International Jobs: Pete of Do You Even Blog

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. If you haven’t already, check out the posts from Ruby from A Journey We Love or Adriana from Italy. Guest posters will be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now.  

The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Since we’re not sure which route we’ll take, we thought we’d hear from people who’ve already achieved one or the other, so we can learn more.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Pete from Do You Even Blog, where he interviews bloggers and online entrepreneurs on his podcast, and teaches people how to blog on the website. Pete and his family have been fully location independent for about six months and he runs his own business from home. I’ve gotta share his “official bio”–what a wordsmith! 

Pete McPherson writes killer bio paragraphs. But when he’s not doing that, he’s a full-time husband and dad, idealistic entrepreneur, purple cow thinker, blogger, marketer, CPA, data nerd, STAR WARS nerd, web and iOS developer…and really fast typer. He spends his days teaching people how to blog better as well as drafting and validating various project ideas.

So get ready to hear a story about bravery from Pete, who took a leap of faith to create a location independent business to give his family a better lifestyle. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I have two kids (aged three and three months), and I have a super-corporate background in Accounting and Finance. I worked for huge companies in Atlanta, Georgia [Laurie: hey! us too!] for a few years before venturing out on my own 100%.

Oh, and my wonderful wife and I have been married four years!

Pete--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Pete from Do You Even Blog and his family.

Continue reading “Location Independence, International Jobs: Pete of Do You Even Blog”

A Year of Good Habits: Quarter Two Update

We have officially completed (slightly more than) half of the year! We’re calling this year, which is Year One of our family’s plan to reach location independence, the Year of Good Habits. Each month, I’ve focused on improving or developing one new habit. Sometimes the habits are directly related to personal finance and sometimes they’re related to general self-improvement.  At the end of each month, I have been continuing the last month’s habit (or trying to) and adding a new habit in. (May I suggest, however, that you not try to adopt more than one or two per year? Twelve is a lot. This is more an experiment in extremes for our doubling-our-net-worth-in-three-years goal).

Quarter 2--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Habits–whether intentional or not–have been proven to be incredibly important. They are routines that are so ingrained into our days that many of them we follow without realizing we do so. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Quarter Two Update”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Mrs. Adventure Rich

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 (check out previous stories here, here, here, and here!). Guest posters will be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now.  

The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Since we’re not sure which route we’ll take, we thought we’d hear from people who’ve already achieved one or the other, so we can learn more.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Mrs. Adventure Rich, a twenty-something Midwesterner married to Mr. Adventure Rich, a thirty-something handyman. The couple recently had a kid, bought a house and property, and began documenting their journey to financial independence on their blog, Adventure Rich. Mrs. AR gives us tons of great details on how she negotiated a remote position and moved back home to Michigan to be close to her family. Take it away, Mrs. AR! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Adventure Rich--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Mrs. Adventure Rich enjoys all things outdoor.

I am originally from northern Michigan (Traverse City area!). My parents were small business owners who hustled to grow their ski shop at a local ski resort, and I was raised with a passion for all things outdoors. I attended a small, Great Books liberal arts college in southern California where I graduated with a liberal arts degree and headed into a business career based north of Los Angeles. During my first summer working, I “met” the future Mr. Adventure Rich (we knew of each other, but never on personal terms). He took me mountain biking on our first date and the rest is history 😉 We got married in October 2013 and our son, Adventure Rich Jr., arrived in July 2015. In the two years of his life, he has developed into a crazy-energetic kiddo whose favorite pastime is challenging us to running races down our driveway (yes, really… I’m a runner and he tires me out!). Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Mrs. Adventure Rich”

June 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 so we can move abroad. Each month, I’ll keep you apprised of our progress. 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 April, we were roughly 16.5% of the way to doubling our net worth.

It’s now mid-summer (sigh! can summer go a bit more slowly, please?). The junior ThreeYears and I are currently on a month-long road trip in the Southeastern US, visiting family, and Mr. ThreeYear just flew back to New Hampshire, having joined us at the beach for a lovely, sun-burned week.

June Net Worth--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Part of Mr. ThreeYear’s plans upon return will be overseeing the replacement of our roof. Unfortunately, our thirteen-year-old roof had defective shingles, and so must be replaced. For most of April and May, we priced out having new roofs put on, having previously exhausted our options of using the warranty (it was invalid since we were the second owners of the home) and seeing what the builders of our home would do (nothing). All over our little town, homeowner after homeowner is having to replace his or her roof earlier than expected because of this particular brand of defective shingles. Our freeze/thaw climate is very hard on shingles, and this brand did not pass muster.

That “little” purchase, which we’ve been saving for all year, and will cost, all told, $14,000, was big enough that our net worth was negatively affected. While we didn’t count the money we’d saved toward the roof in our net worth calculations, we did have to take some money out of savings, which meant our number dipped down, very slightly, from the month before.

Continue reading “June Net Worth Update”

How We Survive and Thrive in Summer

Summer looks and feels a little different for most of us, but for those of us with kids, there are some big logistical challenges to overcome. My friend who has works full time starts planning her kids’ camp schedule in February. Another friend who works part time has her husband work remotely on days she goes into the office. I’m home with my kids all summer since I’m a teacher, but I definitely need a plan for fun and sanity.

Read on for how I’ve finally figured out, after many summers, how to include both, without spending a fortune.

Survive and Thrive in Summer--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Two years ago, after seven and a half years as a stay-at-home mom, then two years as a part-time marketing manager, I did an abrupt career change and became a part-time ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher at my kids’ elementary school. It’s been such a wonderful way to make a difference, earn money, and see my kids every day.

And the best part of it is that when summer finally arrives, the boys and I are off! We are free to enjoy the summer, go to the beach, and have playdates.

Even though we look forward to summer all year, I’ve learned over the years that ten weeks of expansive free time makes mama and boys less-than-happy. Continue reading “How We Survive and Thrive in Summer”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Ruby from A Journey We Love

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 (check out previous stories here, here, and here!). They’ll be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now. 

 

The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Since we’re not sure which route we’ll take, we thought we’d hear from people who’ve already achieved one or the other, so we can learn more.  

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Ruby from A Journey We Love. Ruby and her husband are thirty-somethings who travel a lot, even though they have full time jobs and are working towards FI before 45, thirteen years from now. Once they reach financial independence, they plan to become location independent and travel full time. Ruby says, “We want to have more of our time back to do what we want and focus on our passions instead of trading our time for money at a traditional office.” I’m with you there, Ruby, and I look forward to sharing your story with our readers! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born and raised in the Philippines, and only immigrated to the US four years ago because of a job opportunity. I met my husband in the US, and we’ve been married for a year but together for nearly four years. We don’t have kids yet but we plan to!

A Journey We Love--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Peter and Ruby from A Journey We Love

I was from a middle class background. I lived in the Philippines most of my life – I studied there from grade school until uni and also started my career there. Well, until that day when my employer in the Philippines (a multinational bank) sent me to the UK (this was in 2008). I met a lot of people who loved to travel and that inspired the travel bug in me. I got another opportunity to go back to the UK in 2011 (also through said employer), and I realized I didn’t want to go back home but wanted to live full time abroad. In 2013, the opportunity to move to a new office in Florida came through. It was an expansion and it was relatively new and I jumped at the chance. This contract was only supposed to be for three years, but they took me on as a full-time worker here in the US after I got married to Peter.

It was always my goal to leave the Philippines. Back when I was thirteen, I knew I wanted to go, but always thought I’d end up in Singapore, which was a first world country that’s close to the Philippines. I decided that if I looked for work, it would have to be at a multinational company to gain more exposure (and boost my resume if I wanted to look for jobs abroad).

Peter’s story is a bit different than mine. He was born in Bratislava, Slovakia and lived there until he was eleven. Then in 1997, his family moved to the US when they won the green card diversity lottery and has lived in the US ever since. I met him through work – we were working for the same multinational company that sent me to the US!

Not only did said company make my dream of moving abroad come true, it also gave me the opportunity to meet my husband!

How did you and your family make the decision to become location independent/move internationally?

My husband moved to the US when he was twelve from Eastern Europe, so he is fine with moving to different countries just to feel what it’s like to live there and be one with the locals. We also love to travel, so why not become location independent where we can earn a bit of money to sustain most of our travels? Well, that is the goal, but we’re not there yet!

Moving internationally is also a big plus for us, especially since we don’t have children yet. It goes to show potential employers that we are open to change and we are okay being uprooted and being thrown into a brand new destination to get used to other cultures and integrate with other people. It’s not as bad as you think either! You may also get to be exposed to multiple opportunities.

Where do you travel? (within the country, internationally, etc). Favorite place? Least favorite?

We travel anywhere and everywhere: it could be a state park in the city where we live in, it could be to visit family in the Philippines or in Slovakia. We also go wherever the sales are: we booked trips to Asheville, Memphis, Richmond, and St. Louis, just because the ultra budget carrier had deals for less than $100 roundtrip per person. We don’t have a least favorite place because every single destination we’ve been had something to offer: be it culinary treats or sightseeing. My favorite place would have to be London – I personally had a chance to live there for a few months. It was expensive but it was subsidized by the company I worked for at the time so it wasn’t so bad.

If you have kids, how have they adapted to the moves? Best part of traveling for them? Worst part?

We don’t have any kids yet but if we do have them, we’ll want to make sure that travel is part of their life. Expose them to the world that’s out there instead of isolating them inside the house or a community where they get too comfortable. If you are uncomfortable, it actually helps you grow and learn your real self. It also helps them to see the real world instead of just watching a manufactured world on TV.

How has becoming location independent positively (or negatively) impacted your finances (since this is a personal finance blog)?

When I first moved from the Philippines to the UK, and the US, it definitely impacted my finances! I am now earning much more than I was back at home, and so I’m saving more too. There are many more financial products I can invest in here in the US, and I can get to “travel hack.” There’s definitely plenty of other opportunities to earn and save more if you move from a third world country to a first world country! Plus, all those signup bonuses by opening bank accounts + credit cards. Oh my!

We’re not normal FI folk who cut a lot of “fat” out of their budget. If you look at our blog, we have a LOT of travel posts… and even though we want to be FI, we’re not cutting back on our travel… far from it! We actually travel more and more even as we try to achieve FI.

First off, we do travel hacking to offset our travel costs. Other specific things? We save 50% of our income by contributing the max for our HSA, 401(k) and our Roth IRA.

We also try to earn more by Airbnbing a spare room in our house. Yes, we don’t have as much privacy but who cares? The money that’s coming in from our BnB helps to pay off some of our mortgage, utilities & HOA bills. We also have a rental property which we rent out to help pay off the mortgage + a bit extra that we put towards principal pay down.

If we have a cash surplus, we save it and invest it in Vanguard funds or as a downpayment for another rental property (we’re still looking for our third property).

What are your future plans for your family?

Be able to travel more, and have more time for us to enjoy our lives without thinking much about money :slight_smile:.

Ruby and Peter have some very cool travel plans for their lives. Check out their adventures on their blog, A Journey We Love, where they record all of their travel adventures, or on Instagram (what a beautiful feed!!!) or Twitter.  Comments or questions? Ruby will be responding directly in the comments section so fire away! (No pun intended! Ok, maybe!).