What Our Cars Really Cost

On Wednesday I wrote a post about all of the cars Mr. ThreeYear and I have owned in our time together (it was actually about most of the cars we’ve owned. There were a lot!).

What Our Cars Really Cost

Today I thought I’d delve into the financials of those cars, or as much as I can remember and piece together, and see what the total operational costs of our cars have been over time.

I predict that I will be shocked and disgusted by how much we’ve spent on transportation. A keystone to Mr. Money Mustache’s low spending is his reliance on bikes. Operating cars is one of the big three expenses that we’ve worked on reducing. But I suspect we’ve still spent a lot.

Let’s dive in: Continue reading “What Our Cars Really Cost”

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 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”

On Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is an idea that comes from the business world. After World War II, Japanese manufacturers invited W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, professor, and management consultant, to their country to help them improve their manufacturing and production processes.

On Continuous Improvement www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Before the war, Japan was synonymous with cheap goods and shoddy craftsmanship. Deming taught leaders that improving the quality of their products would reduce expenses while increasing productivity and market share.

“It’s simple. You just take something, and then you do something to it. Then you do something else to it. And then something else. Keep this up and pretty soon you’ve got something.”

-Jasper Johns, Twentieth century American artist (who, incidentally, grew up near my hometown)

In 1982, Deming published a book, Out of the Crisis, outlining his philosophy. “Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment.” Continue reading “On Continuous Improvement”

How Do You Plan to Pay for College?

If you have kids, no matter their ages, chances are you’ve thought about college expenses.

Unless you live outside of the US.

How Do You Plan to Pay for College? www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Why is college (or university) so expensive in this country? We’re all pretty familiar with the statistics at this point. College tuition costs in the US have increased by 498 percent between 1985 and 2011, which is at four times the rate of inflation.

And there’s little chance that costs will decrease any time soon, since there are so many government subsidies and low-interest loans thrown in to cushion the shock of those high costs.

In spite of such subsidies, 68% of undergraduates are leaving school with debt, and that average debt burden is $30,100 per student. That’s to say nothing of debt from masters’ and doctoral programs. Continue reading “How Do You Plan to Pay for College?”

February Net Worth Update

It looks like the stock market is giving us some buying opportunities this month. While our net worth took a dip, we hit our savings and spending goals, so I feel proud of our progress this month.

February 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!

February was a month of full-on winter antics in New Hampshire. Our time in Santiago, just a month before, seemed like a dream, an impossibility! Our lives were cold and snowy this month. We enjoyed a bit of skiing, one week of winter break where we all got sick several times, and of course the Winter Olympics!

Skiing--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
The boys and I enjoyed a few outings at our local ski slope in February, but not as many as I’d hoped, because of weather and sickness.

This is the second month in our net worth and spending reports for 2018, and although the market had a small “correction” that did negatively affect our net worth, we are still making progress towards our goals.

Continue reading “February Net Worth Update”

A Year of Good Food: Use Cash

We are already entering the third month of the year! Crazy stuff! That means it’s time for another update in A Year of Good Food.

A Year of Good Food: Use Cash--www.thethreeyearxperiment.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 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. Our family spent an average of $966 US per month on groceries in 2017 for our family of four. That’s almost $12,000 in just groceries last year.

For 2018, we’ve adopted the modest goal of shaving 20% off that number, each and every month. That means we would spend no more than $772 in groceries in any month of the year.

The extra $200 per month is going into a travel savings fund, so we can see and benefit from our reduced spending in the food budget.

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.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Use Cash”

How to Help Your Economy

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that household debt, including mortgages, car loans, and credit card debt, has risen all over the world. Shockingly, Switzerland leads the pack, with household debt at 127.5% of Gross Domestic Product (that means, for every $100,000 of GDP a household produces, they hold $127,500 in debt!).

How to Help Your Economy--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

The average citizen in Switzerland, which has traditionally been an extremely wealthy country, has substantial assets underpinning this debt, or at least four times more assets than the average American.

Even so, Switzerland, as well as nine other economies including Canada, Finland, and Australia, have debt levels that are high and rising quickly, at a pace that mirrors that of the US right before the housing bubble.  Continue reading “How to Help Your Economy”

The Financial Domino Effect

Have you ever made a change in your life–maybe a huge one, like getting out of debt, or maybe a small one, like deciding not to buy takeout coffee–that in turn, caused benefits that you never imagined?

The Financial Domino Effect--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Maybe getting out of debt made you realize that your house was too big, so you decided to move into something smaller. Maybe not buying takeout coffee helped you realize you could save in other small areas, and after a few months, you ended up with enough to go on a trip to Florida.

This is the financial domino effect, and it happened to me.

Like a chain of dominoes, where one tile makes the whole line fall down, one seemingly small change in your life creates scenarios that make it more likely you’ll create other small changes.

via GIPHY

One action that is, on the surface, completely unrelated to another action, causes the start of a wave of behaviors that can ultimately change your financial life. Continue reading “The Financial Domino Effect”

5 Proven Hacks to Overcome Anxiety

There’s nothing worse than that creeping dread–anxiety–that steals in and leeches all the joy and excitement from life. Mr. ThreeYear suffers from anxiety, and so do several more of my family members, including both my sons. So we have lots of practice in how to overcome anxiety.

5 Proven Hacks to Overcome Anxiety--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Anxiety is genetic, and I’ve learned that the anxiety gene is powerful. It got passed down to both of my kids, even though I have little-to-no anxiety myself. But once you’re aware of it, it becomes very clear who in your family suffers from it. It took me awhile to figure out why Mr. ThreeYear was always so wigged out when we took the boys for a walk around the block. “Careful!” he would yell to the boys as a car rolled by at 15 mph 500 yards from us. “They’re on the side of the road and we’re surrounding them,” I would say. “Even if that car managed to light on fire and fly through the air past us, it would still miss the kids.” Somehow those types of comments didn’t help. And my own feelings about taking a walk soon changed–it was no longer fun, it was torture.

One of the best articles I’ve ever read on how to overcome anxiety (or just live with it) is written by Scott Stossel in The Atlantic. It’s a long read, but is an excellent primer on what it feels like to live with debilitating anxiety.

Over the years, we’ve experimented with lots of different ways to overcome the anxiety and overarching fear, the low-level worry that eats away at your ability to focus and find joy in any activity. Some worked and some didn’t. Here are our five proven hacks to combat anxiety in our family. They’re tried. They’re true. They work.

Exercise

Without a doubt, exercising is the number one way to overcome or at least ease anxiety. We have seen it over and over again at our house. Unfortunately, according to the American Psychological Association, psychologists have been slow to study the mental health benefits of exercise. There are scant studies showing the effects of regular exercise on anxiety disorders or OCD. However, one study done by Princeton University and reported by the New York Times sheds light on how our body adapts to stress, after long-term training, by creating new neurons that produce GABA, a neurotransmitter which inhibits brain activity. The study found that the active mice felt just as much anxiety initially as non-running mice, when exposed to stress, but were soon calmed by their new neurons, designed to quiet the brain. It turns out that when we’re able to turn down our monkey brains, we can turn down our screaming anxiety, too, creating a calmer, less tense mental space for ourselves.

But how in the world to get to the gym when your anxiety is sky high? It’s the last thing you want to do.

Running trail---www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
If you can get out in nature and run, or take a walk, chances are the crazy calming effects of nature will soon take hold.

Continue reading “5 Proven Hacks to Overcome Anxiety”