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”

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”

Our Summer Road Trip

Summer’s here! At least it is for the Junior ThreeYears and me. All three of us are out of school for the next nine weeks. So, what better time to whet our appetites for location independence than a summer road trip?

Last year, the three of us hopped in the trusty Prius and drove all the way from Northern New England more than 14 hours to North Carolina, to stay with my sister and her family, and then South Carolina, to stay with my parents. We spent four glorious weeks with no agenda and no plans except to spend time with our family and enjoy the summer.

Summer Road Trip--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This year, we’re going to repeat the experience. We’re currently busy preparing for our departure. How did we decide to spend a month “down South” and how did we make it happen? Continue reading “Our Summer Road Trip”

A Year of Good Habits: Don’t Throw Away the Food!

We have entered the first days of June. June, sweet June, has continued wet and cold here in New Hampshire. I’ve tallied the rain days–fourteen and then, after a few days of respite, seven. Still, school ends in eight more days, flowers are blooming, and the boys and I are headed to the South for our annual summer road trip at the end of the month. Life is sweet this time of year.

Don't Throw Away the Food!--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

It’s amazing that at the end of the month we’ll have finished half of the year! In some ways, it’s lovely to see the progress towards our goals we’ve made this year, and personal growth we’ve made as a family, in helping the kids navigate school and friendships, and finding the best combination of after-school activities and fun without going over the top.

We’ve also started the process of replacing our roof, and just sent a check in for 50% of the cost–$7,000 dollars of our hard-earned, after-tax dollars. I just keep telling myself that we’ll have a beautiful new roof that won’t leak and will make the house sellable! And I’m grateful that we’ve saved up that cash so we don’t have to panic or take out a loan for this major home repair. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Don’t Throw Away the Food!”

My Favorite Online Tools to Save Time and Money

There are hundreds of new apps that purport to make our lives better, but sometimes it’s hard to wade through and figure out which are really worth incorporating.

That’s why I wanted to share a couple of apps and browser extensions that I’ve been using lately that are awesome.

Online Tools--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Unroll Me

Unroll Me is a free service that cleans up your inbox. I get a lot of subscription emails from LinkedIn, my local hardware store, the National Council of English Teachers, etc. These are emails that I don’t want to unsubscribe from, because the information they contain might be useful. But it mostly clutters up my inbox (there should be an “appropriate amount of emails to send weekly” course for these stores!). This brilliant service allows you to either unsubscribe from or “roll up” the emails you don’t want to hit your inbox. Continue reading “My Favorite Online Tools to Save Time and Money”

Planing Our Way to Frugality

When Mr. ThreeYear and I decided to turn our financial lives around in 2008, we had a lot to learn. When we first started to budget, we wasted tons of money on what we now consider unnecessary expenses (things like alarm systems, cable, and yard service).

Planing Our Way to Frugality--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We were living in Atlanta at the time, and the dominant culture in that city can be a bit… showy. Since public transportation is limited there, as it’s one of the most spread-out metropolitan areas in the country, cars are a must. And one of the most popular Atlanta pastimes seems to be car one-upmanship. There was even a Lexus Lot at Turner Field, so that Lexus owners could park their cars in an exclusive lot much closer to the field. We were driving a BMW and an Acura at the time (although they were both very used), even though we had debt.

Then we moved to New England and we were exposed to a completely different culture. In the rural New England hamlet where we live, people like to say that they’re of hardy stock. After all, you have to be tough to brave seven months of snow, mud season, and the fierce weather that characterizes the very northeastern-most region of the country. Natives of this region are often seen in January in nothing more than plaid shirts, jeans, and boots, with temperatures in the teens (that’s roughly -10 for you users of Celsius). Continue reading “Planing Our Way to Frugality”

Our Secret Weapon Towards Financial Independence

On our journey to financial independence, most of us know by now that we need to spend less than we earn and invest the difference. There is no magic formula for building wealth, other than focus, restraint, and patience.

Or is there?

Our Secret Weapon Towards Financial Independence--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

It’s been said that personal finance is 90% behavioral. For our family, that was definitely true. We understood the how of personal finance pretty quickly, and in fact, the more we simplified, the better results we had. Pay off debt, max out retirement accounts, invest in low-fee index funds. The why of personal finance was much more difficult. It’s been much harder to curb our desire to spend in the here and now for such a distant goal. Continue reading “Our Secret Weapon Towards Financial Independence”

A Year of Good Habits: Drop Your Phone in the Toilet

It’s May! At last, in New Hampshire, flowers are starting to bloom. The trees are changing colors–light greens and yellows, deep reds, are starting to emerge in the vast forests along the interstate. It’s the time of year to be out in nature, to rejoice in the sunshine and the promise of warmth. It’s also a time when it’s easy to get distracted from your financial goals, to let the warmth and ease of summer melt away the self-discipline and resolve needed to make it through winter. (Figurative winter, we’re talking about. Spring is a time, apparently, when I wax poetic).

There are about six weeks left for me in the school year, and I’ve begun to reflect on this past few months as summer approaches. Professionally, it’s been a great year. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Drop Your Phone in the Toilet”