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”