How to Outsmart Your Mental Accounting to Save More

Have you ever gotten an unexpected check in the mail or a big tax refund, and your first impulse is to go spend it on something amazing that you wouldn’t normally buy yourself, like a lavish dinner? Me too. Why do we do that and how do we make better choices with these “bonus” windfalls?

How to Outsmart Your Mental Accounting to Save More www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I know that money is fungible, that I can use any part of my money on any one of my expenses, even though I have different mental buckets for my money. So rationally, I would add those bonus windfalls to my biggest goal of the moment, doubling my net worth. But that’s not always how it works.

We use mental accounting, or dividing our money up into “mental buckets,” for a lot of reasons. It’s a lot easier to think “I have $700 to spend on groceries this month” than to pull it out of one big account. That’s too confusing and I might spend too much without those mental buckets in place to help me categorize things. If we get extra money that falls outside of those buckets, then it does feel like extra, and shouldn’t have to be spent according to the same rules. Continue reading “How to Outsmart Your Mental Accounting to Save More”

8 Ways to Save Money on Summer Camps

The countdown is on. School will be out for the ThreeYears in 4 weeks, exactly (not that we’re counting or anything). Soon, summer will be upon us.

8 Ways to Save Money on Summer Camps www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

For our family, summer is a time to be together and visit family, since I’m a teacher and am off during the summers. However, when I worked during the summer, camp planning was a big preoccupation this time of year. The massive expense of camp was a big concern, because I needed a safe, fun place for my kids to spend their days during the summer weekdays. But camps are pricey. Here are some ideas for ways to decrease the cost of camps for your kids this summer.

Research “hidden gems”

Three years ago, a friend told me about a camp in a neighboring town. It was a one-week day camp held at the local airport, and it was completely free! The kids who attended were able to fly with local pilots and learn the basics of aviation, at no cost. The camp was started as an initiative for this lower-income community, but anyone could participate. In subsequent years, they increased the cost to $40 for the week, still an incredible deal for a camp that takes kids flying.

The camp wasn’t well publicized and I only heard about it through several friends who lived in the community. We put it on our list for this summer as this is the first year both boys would be able to participate.

There are lots of day camp opportunities available for little or no cost, but they’re not always easy to find. Sometimes, they’re advertised in local newspapers, on town websites, or other out-of-the-way places. I let friends know that I’m looking for interesting, low-cost opportunities for my kids so they’ll pass on any info. Continue reading “8 Ways to Save Money on Summer Camps”

April Net Worth Update

Happy May! How are things going for you? We finally have no snow on the ground as of yesterday, and that is not an exaggeration. Winter definitely held on as long as it’s ever held on this year, which is my eighth winter in New Hampshire. For the past seven winters, we’ve had all snow melted by April 23rd (even if we’ve gotten a freak snow storm in May afterwards) but this year, we had snow cover for a whole extra week (lucky us!).

April Net Worth Update www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We did get some beautiful 70-degree days at the tail end of this month, which made everything feel hopeful and Springy. Our crocuses have bloomed (all 2 of them) and our daffodils are pushing up, as well as our alliums and the dahlias. We spent this month doing a variety of activities, some of which I’ll be revealing down the road (hint hint!). It’s been a busy month. Over Spring Break, Mr. ThreeYear and I took a fun trip to Portland, Oregon, while my mom flew up from sunny South Carolina to watch the boys. She had horrible snowy, icy, weather, so we appreciate her sacrifice even more!

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. 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.

Last month, even though we enjoyed more lackluster results from the stock market, we got a huge jump in net worth since Mr. ThreeYear’s annual stock gift was given out. Each December, his privately-owned company, which is 100% employee-owned, invites outside auditors to set the stock price. Given the wild surge the stock prices took in December, his company’s stock was given a much higher valuation than the year before. That meant all of the stock we currently hold in the company rose substantially, and we received more stock (valued at more money).

Continue reading “April Net Worth Update”

Bank Your Raise

Most of us, when we hear we’re getting a 3, 4, or 5% raise, go out to dinner to celebrate and then, without even realizing it, slightly adjust our spending to the “new” income level.

Bank Your Raise www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

One of the most powerful tools you have, though, especially if you find it hard to save, is your yearly raise. For the last six years, Mr. ThreeYear and I have used every cent of his annual raise to increase our savings and investing.

Why? Because we live a very good life at our current level of spending, and we don’t need to spend more. If we want to go out and celebrate, take a trip, or spend the money some other way, it will be waiting for us in the savings account. If we didn’t squirrel the money away where we didn’t see it, we’d spend it without even realizing it, and then all the effort behind earning that raise would be for nothing.

We’ve frittered away money over the years in exactly this way, and it always made me feel powerless over our spending. “But where did that raise go? How do we spend more now? Where is that money?” Now, as I watch our savings grow, I realize that we’re the ones in control of the money, and we’re holding on to it until we’re ready to use it in a thoughtful way (or invest it, which is my favorite thing to do with our money besides travel!).

Continue reading “Bank Your Raise”

March Net Worth Update

It’s raining right now, which is a small hint that Spring is making its way, slowly, to New England. The start of April signifies that we’ve entered the fourth month of the year and our experiment continues.

March 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.

March is always my least-favorite month of the year. The rest of the country is enjoying the first signs of Spring, and we’re still covered under snow. This year, March lived up to the adage, and came in like a lion, with storm after storm that buffeted us with snow and left the skies gray and damp. It went out like a lamb, with a few days at the tail end full of blue skies and (slightly warmer) temps. But April has brought wind storms, more cold weather, and a reminder that here in New England, there is no such thing as Spring.

Spring New England town church www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
A view of our small New England town from the library. This is what Spring looks like.

Continue reading “March Net Worth Update”

Ladies, Time to Figure Out Your Worth #WomenRockMoney

It’s International Women’s Day. Go women!
 Women rock money—www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Do you know why women are awesome? Well, here are a couple of facts:
  • More than half a billion women have joined the world’s labor force over the past 30 years, and women now account for more than 40 percent of workers worldwide (IMF, 2012).
  • When a mother has control over her family’s money in the world’s poorest countries, her children are 20% more likely to survive (Melinda Gates).
  • 90% of married women identified themselves as the principle household shopper in their household (Statistic Brain). #mamacontrolsthemoneyhoney
Women have come so far in the last fifty years! It is amazing. However, in the areas of financial literacy and business development, we still have a ways to go.

Continue reading “Ladies, Time to Figure Out Your Worth #WomenRockMoney”

What We Teach Our Kids About Money: Part 2

Last week, I published a post that talked about the things we do to teach our kids about money. Since it turns out that we actually do quite a lot of things to teach them financial literacy, today is Part 2 of What We Teach Our Kids About Money. If you missed Part 1, read it here!

What We Teach Our Kids About Money Part 2--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We Give Them Age-Appropriate Books to Teach Them Financial Literacy

We were given an old kids’ toy book from Chick-Fil-A many moons ago, called The Super Red Racer: Junior Discovers WorkTurns out, it was from a Dave Ramsey series of books for kids that taught about different financial topics like saving, giving, and investing. Junior ThreeYear loved the book so much that we eventually bought him the whole series for Christmas one year.

Those books have gotten a lot of traction. Continue reading “What We Teach Our Kids About Money: Part 2”

What We Teach Our Kids About Money

Parenthood is a big responsibility and I feel like I’m messing it up a dozen times a day. When it comes to teaching our kids about how to manage their money, though, I feel like we really need to get it right.

What We Teach Our Kids About Money--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Mr. ThreeYear and I got out of debt by following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, and we also listened to what he had to say about kids and money. He has a lot of great advice when it comes to teaching your children about financial matters, so we started there. But money is such a complex and important topic that we certainly didn’t end there.

Here’s what we currently do to make sure that our kids have a good relationship with their money.

We Give Them an Opportunity to Earn Money

Ramsey recommends giving your children, at as young ad 3 years old, three jars in which to put their money: Save, Give, Spend. We made jars for the boys early on. They have the opportunity to earn money by doing their chores every week. They can earn up to $6 per week for doing their three chores (these are age appropriate chores–for my 10 year old, it’s making his bed, clearing the table, and doing his laundry each week, and for my 7 year old, it’s setting the table, making his bed, and tidying his room). If they don’t do their chores, they don’t get paid.  Continue reading “What We Teach Our Kids About Money”

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”