Making Money Simple

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One of the ways that Mr. ThreeYear and I have been able to succeed over the years is to radically simplify life.

Making Money Simple www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

As we get older, life has gotten more complicated. There are more apps you should be using, more activities to choose from, more long-form articles to read, more appointments and check-ups.

And, if you haven’t noticed, there’s a reason that things are legitimately harder for adults nowadays. With the advent of technology, the burden of completing many of the services that used to be done by others is now on us. We used to have attendants to pump our gas, travel agents to book our flights, telephone operators to connect our calls. But these, and thousands of other tasks, have been shifted to the consumer during the last several generations, leaving us with more to do than ever. Sure, we’ve saved money in the process, but the result is that we’re so busy straining to keep up with the overwhelming amount of small tasks to complete, that it’s hard to keep up.

About four years ago, I began to embrace the idea of less. I embraced the KonMari method, getting rid of about 35% of our stuff, including about 30 boxes of books that I’d kept since school, 70% of the kids’ toys that were broken or they no longer played with, half of my clothes that I didn’t wear, and pictures, mementos, and tchotchkes that didn’t serve any particular purpose. Continue reading “Making Money Simple”

3 Specific Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Life

Happy Monday! A new week for me feels like a fresh start, especially after two unexpected hurricane days for the boys that decimated my productivity at the end of last week.

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After (another) four-day weekend courtesy of Hurricane Michael (which brought a lot more rain and wind-related damage than its cousin Florence, with only a modicum of hype), this new week filled with five beautiful days of school for my kids feels like a gift.

Speaking of gifts, I’ve been relishing some quick wins lately. There are pockets of my house that are still, shall we say, disastrous, even four months into our move, and the small things I’ve been able to do to stay sane have been lifelines.

The Closet of Horrors www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
The closet of horrors, aka the guest room closet.

So, in the spirit of small wins, here are three things you can do right now to feel more in control, focused, and orderly, today.  Continue reading “3 Specific Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Life”

Is Focus is More Important than Intelligence?

Hi guys! We’re waiting for heavy rains and possible power outages with Hurricane Florence. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this post I wrote last year. Every word is as true (or truer!) today and I definitely need these reminders again, so I’m republishing. Have a good (and safe!) weekend!

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?”

7 Things I Learned This Summer

This week is back-to-school week for the boys. Last year on back-to-school day, I wrote about the ten things I learned last summer. I reread it recently, to remember the important lessons I learned last summer. In honor of that post, and as a memorial for myself for next summer, here are some of the things I learned this summer.

7 Things I Learned This Summer

1. Moving is hard.

I had forgotten, or perhaps blocked, how hard it is to move houses. For several months I could barely keep a thought in my head. I ran around from place to place, trying to get everything done in order to move. Then, when our furniture and boxes arrived here, unpacking was the pits. Chaos reigned supreme for weeks. Apparently, a lack of order in your home causes spikes in the stress hormone cortisol for women (not men, for some reason). Let me assure you that is true with me. And pro tip, don’t take an eight-week intensive online master’s class in the same two months you’re moving. Bad idea.

2. It is possible to change your life.

There was a small part of me who thought that we would never be able to make our dreams of location independence come true. I know, I know, we’re not traveling around the world. We moved to one spot. But we moved to the spot we picked, close to the people we love, and we are now both work from home, which is a sugar-sweet set up that Mr. ThreeYear and I are loving. We looked into the future, which is inherently unpredictable, and did everything we could to change our setups, and it worked.

3. The best things in life are (still) family.

When I think that I live so close to my family I get a thrill of joy that shoots up and down my body. I still can’t believe it’s true. Can’t believe my boys will grow up right down the road from their cousins, just a few hours from their grandparents, just a few hours from a huge extended family. Continue reading “7 Things I Learned This Summer”

How Our New Home is an Investment in Our Health

Last month, we moved from our home in New Hampshire, where we’d lived for six years (and a total of eight in the town), to Davidson, North Carolina.

How Our New Home is an Investment in Our Health www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Despite massive spending last month to get settled (thank you fifteen year mortgage for mountains of equity to help get through that), I expect our new home will be a financial boon. We’re closer to family, so we’ll spend less on travel to see them. We’ll be able to spend more on travel to places we’ve been itching to go as a family (Hawaii, Ireland, Australia) and we’ll have the time to do it. We took out another fifteen year mortgage with a low interest rate, which we plan to pay off early. It’s our only debt.

While I’m not working as an ESL Teacher next year, so we won’t have my income to save and invest, I expect to spend this year figuring out ways to lower our expenses–through an energy audit, shopping at Aldi, and new cell phone plans.

We’re definitely temporarily spending more with our move, as last month’s spending shows. But ultimately, through gas savings, food savings, property tax savings, and do-it-yourself savings (yard and house cleaning), I expect to see our overall spending decline and our overall savings increase in 2019 (because we’ve got a net worth goal to reach!).

Let me be clear: we didn’t move for financial reasons. We moved because it’s been our dream to achieve location independence, and be able to travel at will and be closer to our families. But we chose a smaller house, in a travel hub, where we can also continue to save and invest for our retirement and education goals.  Continue reading “How Our New Home is an Investment in Our Health”

A Decade of Progress

Yesterday was my birthday. My family and I were sitting around the table, eating takeout subs (which is what I requested), when I asked Mr. ThreeYear what we’d been doing ten years ago. We dialed back the years and realized that was the year of the layoffs, when he’d been working in a job that was not right for him just to pay the bills, battling terrible anxiety and, in hindsight, depression, and I was staying home with our one-year-old.

A Decade of Progress www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I also realized that it was ten years ago (on July 4th) that I’d found The Total Money Makeover in the bookstore and we’d started our journey to financial independence.

Twenty Nine

I wonder what I was thinking on my birthday ten years ago. I was 29, facing the last year in my twenties, and was going through one of the most difficult periods of my adult life. But I had hope after reading that book. Continue reading “A Decade of Progress”

Does Where You Live Affect How Much You Save?

Bankrate recently reported that Americans are saving less, despite low unemployment and rising wages. And it turns out that some regions of the country are not as good at saving. On Wednesday, I wrote about the best places to live in the US. But could where you live impact your ability to reach FI, even subtly? Does where you live really impact how much you can save?

Does Where You Live Affect How Much You Save? www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

How Much Do You Really Need?

We’re talking about emergency savings. The article makes the oft-repeated claim that you should have six months’ savings in an emergency fund. First of all, let’s think about that claim: who makes it, and who stands to profit from it? Keeping a lot of money tied up in a checking or savings account helps banks because they then have more money to lend out (they must have 10% of the money they lend on hand). But do you really need six months of savings? Continue reading “Does Where You Live Affect How Much You Save?”

How Fixing What’s Broken Helps Your Financial Life

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In the months leading up to putting our house on the market, we spent a lot of time fixing the broken areas in our house. Our kitchen sink had been leaking for months and we finally hired a plumber to install a new faucet. There were two plastered spots in the bathroom where we’d removed a towel rack and we painted over them. For the entire time that we’d lived in the house, we’d had a light fixture in the bathroom that we’d removed, because we were scared it wasn’t water safe, and had put a metallic plate over. We finally got a water safe light installed.

How Fixing What's Broken Helps Your Financial Life www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

These fixes cost money, but not near as much as I thought they would. Once I found a handyman and an electrician who’d fix everything, I think we ended up spending around $350 to: Continue reading “How Fixing What’s Broken Helps Your Financial Life”

Curveballs

Life loves to mess up your best-laid plans, doesn’t it? At the ThreeYear house, we’ve been dealing with some curveballs that have been thrown our way lately. I can’t really go into details, because I don’t yet know how they’ll all shake out, but I can say that Mr. ThreeYear and I are currently feeling all the feelings.

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How do you keep moving on, working towards your goals, putting one foot in front of the other, when things feel unsettled and unsure?

People have lots of good, well-intentioned advice like, “Just don’t think about it.” “Count your blessings.” “A year from now this will all be a distant memory.”

This is all terrible advice because it doesn’t work: don’t think about a tropical beach with sandy white beaches. How well did that work for you?

When you’re unsettled, when you’re reminded that life is all about continual changes and things happening that you’d never expect, it’s hard to focus. You start imagining fifty different scenarios for how a particular situation could resolve itself. You have no clarity. You’re in limbo.

Limbo is a hell of a place to be. It pretty much sucks.

Several years ago, I went out and shopped to deal with my feelings. Or drank a bunch of wine. Or ate a bunch of cookies.

Now, I just eat a bunch of cookies. 🙂 I repeat to myself, “This, too, shall pass” and eat lots and lots of sweets. Or potato chips. I also know that going on a run or two, preferably with friends, is a really good idea. Continue reading “Curveballs”

The Best Christmas Gifts for That Person Who Has it All

I am a person who loves the holidays, and loves to give gifts, as I recently shared in this post.

But when you’re buying Christmas gifts, what do you get for that person who has everything?

The Best Christmas Gifts for That Person Who Has it All

A friend of mine, Liz at Chief Mom Officer, recently wrote a wonderful post called I’m Sick of Christmas Materialism – Instead Let’s Make a Difference #ActsOfKindness. As much as I love gift giving, making a difference and helping others is what Christmas is truly about. Liz challenged bloggers to think of ways to help people in need this holiday season, and several fellow financial bloggers have taken up her call to action. A complete list of bloggers and their articles about ways to impact the lives of others and spread #actsofkindness this Christmas appear at the end of this post.

So if you have that hard-to-shop for person on your list, why not take an opportunity to give to others on his or her behalf? Every time someone gives to a charity on my behalf, I feel a warm glow. The Minimalists list this as their number 1 gift suggestion.

It really is better to give than to receive.

Below I’ve listed several of our favorite options for charitable giving this Christmas season.

Chickens

The first time we received a charitable donation for Christmas, I was a teenager. My uncle gave us a card that said, “A flock of chicks has been given to a family in need in your honor.” I remember giggling over the thought, and then quickly reading more about Heifer International, the organization in question.

The website explains, “Giving an animal is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs and more. Animal donations can provide families a hand up, increasing access to medicine, school, food and a sustainable livelihood.”

The gift of chickens quickly became the most memorable of the year. I can’t tell you the other gifts my uncle gave me over the years, but I remember the chickens vividly. I loved the idea that a family in need would not just have donations to help them once, but a flock of animals from which they could receive eggs, meat, and income for many years.

When I was in high school, I went to Honduras as part of a medical mission team. The Hondurans who we helped wanted, more than anything else, Continue reading “The Best Christmas Gifts for That Person Who Has it All”