A Year of Good Habits: Laugh

After getting up today, for the second day in a row, at 5am (okay, it was 5:09; I pushed the Snooze button once), I’m reminded of why habits are so important in my life. When life gets busy, I can fall back on my habits to help me cope. And life has gotten really busy. We are racing toward the finish line with our to-do list to get ready for our trip to Chile. It feels like every second of my day is booked with something to do.

A Year of Good Habits: Laugh--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

So getting up at 5am, which I’ve been moderately successful at over the last month, has given me time and space that is unscheduled. I can write, think, make goals for next year, and all that nerdy financial stuff my family rolls their eyes at.

It’s amazing that this is the last month of my A Year of Good Habits year-long experiment within our larger three-year experiment. Focusing on a different habit each month has brought me awareness of how important these rituals are to my short- and long-term happiness. I’ve undertaken eleven habits so far, some for the whole year and some for just a time, but they have all helped me realize how my life has improved by changing my behavior.

I’ve also undertaken a few habits I haven’t written about in my Year of Good Habits, for one reason or another, mainly because I thought they wouldn’t apply to a wider population of readers. I stopped drinking alcohol at the end of June and started intermittent fasting at the beginning of August. I had been having some health problems, and changing what (and how much) I eat and drink has radically changed my health for the better–plus I’ve lost fourteen pounds! The health problems, including my stomach and lower back pain, have virtually disappeared. I’ll write about both topics in future posts, because they’ve contributed to our Three Year Experiment in major ways.

December’s Habit

Inspired by Amy at Life Zimplified, I’m going to make it a habit to Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Laugh”

November 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 has been a year of fixing our house (the roof) and paying off debt, plus saving as much as possible. As of October, we were roughly 24% of the way to doubling our net worth. 

At the ThreeYear house, we’re in the midst of colder temperatures (it’s currently 21 F/-6 C). Our Christmas decorations are up and we’re enjoying the few weeks of winter until we pack up and head to South America for a few weeks, where we’ll enjoy delicious summer weather.

November Net Worth Update--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

It’s hard to believe that the end of the first year of our experiment is coming to a close. It’s been amazing to document this journey on the blog.

November was a month of higher expenses. We had my family in town, so we did some home improvement projects related to that. And we stocked up on food. My mom very generously donated money to our food costs, which I put into our savings account. Yay for extra savings! We started buying Christmas gifts for our family in Chile. We had a second month of high medical bills. For next year, we’ve switched our insurance from the high deductible to the higher cost, everything-is-covered policy. 2017’s experiment with the high deductible healthcare didn’t work for our family. Between physical therapy, psychologist visits, braces, and managing our sons’ ADHD, we pay a lot in medical costs. It would have been cheaper to pay the higher bi-weekly premiums and have less to pay out-of-pocket. Mr. ThreeYear will also rest easier knowing that whatever medical issues life throws at us, they’ll pretty much be covered by our healthcare plan. When he developed tennis elbow and decided not to pursue any more physical therapy because of the cost, it was a pretty frustrating situation for him to be in.

Thanksgiving turkey--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Our Thanksgiving turkey. My sister and I made a low-key, low fuss meal, and her turkey turned out beee-uu-ti-ful and delicious.

We know that December will also be a very high spending month, because of our Chile trip. We’ll also pay the remainder of our church tithe (which doesn’t show up in our monthly spending report, because we want to keep our giving on the downlow). We’ll pay off the Prius and the apartment in Chile, pay a little extra on our mortgage, and pay our house taxes.

We’re grateful that we only have one more month of monthly payments for our apartment in Chile and our Prius!!

Continue reading “November Net Worth Update”

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”

Effort, Achievement, and FI

As educators, wrote an article I recently read, we must teach our students the relationship between effort and achievement. That is to say, there is a direct correlation between the effort we expend on a particular endeavor and the likelihood that we’ll have success in said endeavor.

Effort, Achievement, and FI--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This may sound like a basic concept, but, like so many basic concepts, once you take a minute to unpack it, it has profound implications.

The more effort I put into something, the more likely I am to have good results. 

Many times, I water that advice down in my head. I pretend there’s not a direct correlation between my level of effort and my achievements: “I’ll just run three times this week instead of four. I’ll skip the mid-range run.” Every time I skip a mid-range 6-mile run, my longer 10-12 mile run is super painful and I’m slower. Over an entire training period, that means I’ll run (even) slower on race day.

“I’m tired, so I’ll wake up at 6am instead of 5am. I can still write a blog post.” That’s when I publish 2 posts per week, not three. Over time, I notice my page views slipping and readership going down.

“I’ll just wing it in class, instead of preparing a lesson plan for the week. I can prep before class each day.” My classes are not as good, I’m scrambling for activities to fill the time, and over time, my students don’t make as much progress learning English.

The truth is, consistent, daily effort pays off. It pays off in life, and it pays off (literally) when you’re working towards financial independence.

Making More Money

In the past two and a half years, I have expended a great deal of effort towards my new career–ESOL Teacher. When I started teaching in September of 2015, I knew very little about teaching English. I worked very hard to network with other teachers, observe their lessons, ask questions, and take copious notes. I started a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and many nights and weekends were spent reading, on our online classroom, or in class, an hour and a half away. Continue reading “Effort, Achievement, and FI”

A Year of Good Habits: Quarter Three Update

We have officially completed the first quarter 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 focus 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. (But, just for totally transparency, I would not recommend starting so many new habits in one year for the average person. This is more an experiment for the blog. In real life, I try to add in one or two new habits a year).

A Year of Good Habits Quarter Three Update: www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

In his book Happier, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar talks about creating rituals. He takes an idea from The Power of Full Engagement and recommends that “instead of focusing on self-discipline as a key to change,” we should instead develop rituals. Developing rituals involves  “defining very precise behaviors and performing them at very specific times, motivated by deeply held values.” For example, brushing your teeth is a ritual and doesn’t take any special self-discipline to complete. Hygiene is a deeply held value for many of us, so brushing our teeth is something we do each day. Making an activity part of your daily life and making it value based, rather than discipline based, is an excellent way to create a lifelong habit.  Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Quarter Three Update”

Is Focus is More Important than Intelligence?

I recently stumbled across this quote in an old journal, “Focus is more important than intelligence.” Is focus more important than intelligence? I certainly believe so, and I think the more I live and navigate smart phones and the beginning of the internet revolution, the more I realize that focus is essential to having a good life and making progress towards your goals. I’m sure I wrote it down because it resonated with me, and I felt it in my bones to be true. Also, focus is a struggle, each and every day, for me. I have two jobs, a husband who travels, kids to take to activities and appointments and help with homework, a Masters course, lesson plans, and this blog. It’s a lot of code switching.

Is Focus More Important Than Intelligence?

Why is focus so necessary nowadays and what can we do to get more?

Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, argues that focus is intelligence. He states that “focus is the new I.Q. in the knowledge economy, and that individuals who cultivate their ability to concentrate without distraction will thrive,” in his bio. His theory is that workers who will be most sought after in our new economy will be those who can quickly master hard things and those who produce at an elite level. Both of these qualities require focus, he argues.

Newport is an author and professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, and he’s fairly young, young enough to have had social media around in college. But he’s always been very careful where he puts his attention, shunning social media from the start.

“Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction,” he says. For Newport, standing in line at a supermarket is a chance to practice letting our minds wander, rather than checking our social media accounts. The more we wean ourselves from technology and constant distraction, he argues, the better we’ll eventually get at working at a deeper level. Like anything, he argues, it takes practice, and in today’s highly distractible world, it is not a common commodity to have.

No More Social Media?

If you don’t wean yourself from a dependence on your smart phone, or something else that distracts you constantly, then you won’t be able to perform at such elite levels of focus. But how? Continue reading “Is Focus is More Important than Intelligence?”

A Year of Good Habits: Practicing Gratitude

It’s a busy time in the ThreeYear household. School (which is work, for me) has started. We’re on tight schedules, up early, and racing to get ready for our days in the mornings.

In the afternoons, we have swimming, soccer, and homework. My older son has lots of homework this year and a large part of my afternoons are spent managing that (i.e., making sure he’s actually doing it).

Practicing Gratitude--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Weekends feel impossibly brief, especially since I’m taking a class on Saturday mornings and am gone from 8am-1pm.

It is a transition time, a time when our lives have changed radically from one season to the next. We have to give ourselves time to figure out these new rhythms in our days. I have to remind myself to prioritize sleep over almost everything (I’m so tired that I’m usually ready for sleep by about 8:30, but then again I do get up at 5am).

So what is a habit that can possibly support me this month? Picking going to bed early wouldn’t be super helpful, because I go to bed as soon as I can every night. Luckily, I’ve already developed the habit of keeping my phone and Ipad in another room, so I’m not tempted to scroll through them right before bed. That’s helped me tremendously, because I’m almost never tempted to stay up late (unless I’m reading a really good library book).  Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Practicing Gratitude”

A Year of Good Habits: No Eating Out

For the past three days, we’ve had Mr. ThreeYear’s cousin and her family staying with us. We’ve been living the best of August. Mr. ThreeYear took a couple of days off work, and we’ve been showing our family our town’s local lake, a craft fair, a dairy farm, and more. The five cousins have been playing, building forts, swimming, and eating ice cream (okay, the adults have enjoyed that one, too).

No Eating Out--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

The weather has been warm in the day and cool in the mornings and evenings. In short, they’ve gotten to see the best of our area while they’re here. One of the nice things about their trip is that we’ve eaten all our meals, save one, at home. Since they’re Chilean, we’ve eaten the most delicious Chilean meals–empanadas, ceviche, and we had a killer asado. Asados are barbecues (not the Southern kind) where you cook chicken, sausages, and steak on the grill, then you make simple salads to accompany all the meat. Did I take pictures of any of this? Of course not. I was too busy eating! But it’s been delicious. All the delicious home-cooked food inspired this month’s habit. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: No Eating Out”

Tools of the Frugal Trade

There are certain tools that I believe are essential for saving money and getting longer life out of your possessions, especially in your home.  The following is a list of my tools of the frugal trade, simple tools or ingredients that I use time and again for saving money.

Frugal Tools--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

The truth is, in our modern world, we’ve lost sight of part of the old adage,

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

It’s the “make it do” part that is an anathema to us. In our age of planned obsolescence and products engineered to fail, we’ve lost the repair skills that seemed like second nature to our parents and grandparents. It’s only natural that we buy new instead of repair, because:

  • We often have no idea how to repair things, and
  • It’s cheaper to buy a new version of something rather than replace it.

That’s true of a lot of things. For example, when I broke our blender a couple of months ago (long story), I didn’t destroy the motor, just the jar (the top part where you put your liquids). But to replace that part cost about $50! Mr. ThreeYear opted to get a brand new, on sale Ninja blender with two single serve cups for just $70. While it was $20 more expensive, it’s a way more powerful blender. We plan to sell the motor on eBay and recoup some of that cost, as well. Continue reading “Tools of the Frugal Trade”