Happy Valentine’s Day. And Happy Ash Wednesday (aka the first day of Lent). It’s the first time since 1945 that Valentine’s and the start of Lent have fallen on the same day.
So in honor of such an auspicious occasion, I’m taking on a new challenge. While Valentine’s is usually about eating as many chocolates as you can get your hands on, Lent, at least for those in the Christian tradition, is a 40-day time of inner focus, of taking a look at yourself and seeing if there’s anything that you could improve upon. It’s traditionally a time when practitioners make a sacrifice, give up a vice, or adopt a new, perhaps self-sacrificial habit for 40 days.
Life is short. Do not forget about the most important things in our life, living for other people and doing good for them.
Life is short. I was reminded of that yesterday when I heard the news that yet another friend’s sister entered Hospice. I’ll spare you the details, because it’s a heart wrenching story. They all are.
It wasn’t that long ago that I hugged my friend Pam, both of us sobbing, as we absorbed the news that her sister had three days to live.
Life is short. Eff it. Buy the car, I hear people say. Sometimes death feels like it’s all around, especially with the advent of social media. I’ve watched more distant friends, their spouses and children, suffer cancer, car accidents, the loss of babies. I’ve watched the intimate details of people I was sort-of close to once upon a time live unimaginable, heart-wrenching things. It’s gotten so bad at times that I’ve had to step away from social media and shut it all out. The worst part of so much heartache is that it reminds you that it could happen to you, that you or one of your people could get sick, get in an accident. Reminds you that you, too, are vencible, as Junior ThreeYear likes to say (“That should be a word, right, Mom?”).
It’s time for another net worth update! Are you in the midst of winter, or is it warm and deliciously summery where you live? The ThreeYears are smack dab in the middle of the coldest and snowiest parts of winter, but we made it through January and we’re raring to go for February (Little ThreeYear can hardly wait for Valentine’s Day and all that chocolate he thinks he’ll get from his classmates!).
This is the first report from 2018, and boy is it a good one. Subsequent reports may not be as juicy, given that the stock market may have more “small or significant corrections” coming up, so I’m focusing on January while I can!
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!
We started the month of January off in warm Santiago. We took a three week trip to visit my in-laws, and had an amazing time.
I was very excited to see how our spending would look in January as compared to spending in 2017, given we have now eliminated the mortgage in Chile and our car payment. We’re also working to keep our food spending lower than last year.
It is time to report on our first month’s progress in the A Year of Good Food Challenge.
This year, our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food, so we can reach our goal of location independence in two more years. 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.
Year Two’s Challenge is called A Year of Good Food. 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.
This year, we’ve adopted the (what we hope is attainable!) 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.
With the extra money we’re saving, we’ve created a travel fund, so we can pay for a ticket to Chile for Mr. ThreeYear, or some other travel adventure. The point of spending less on groceries isn’t just that we’ll have saved more money. It’s that we’ll develop the habit and hopefully carry it with us in future years, so we’ll spend less and waste less. Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Shop with a List”
Frugality is such an important cornerstone to financial independence. Even if people disdain the word, the concept of spending less than you earn is essential to financial independence. After all, if Nicholas Cage can blow through $150 Million, there’s really little hope for the rest of us, unless we can mind the gap and stretch the space between what we spend and what we earn.
Since my family has a pressing reason to save a bunch of money–our dream of location independence–we are actively working to get better in this area.
I am mediocre at frugality. I didn’t grow up in a particularly frugal household (my parents having eschewed the Ziploc-reusing antics of their Depression-era parents) and although we did control our spending by wearing hand-me-downs and driving our cars to the ground (my dad drove one car he had for 17 years and then gave it to Mr. ThreeYear and me after we moved back to the States), we did not practice those everyday habits of frugal living that come so naturally to some. Continue reading “5 Frugal Lessons I’ve Learned From My In-Laws”
What would your life look like with no more payments? No more car payments. No more credit card payments. No more student loan payments. How much extra money would that give you? Imagine the freedom to travel, to build your dream house, to finally retire. It’s a new year. And a chance to finally, once and for all, get out of debt. But what if you’ve tried before, and nothing’s worked? Or you’ve gotten out of debt only to get back into debt?
If you’re reading this, you may have an overwhelming amount of debt to tackle. Or you may be a personal finance guru, and need this advice like you need an extra helping of pasta with dinner.
Never fear! This guide is designed to help you get out of debt, but much of this advice will also work for other large, looming goals you’ve set for the year.
But why, you may be asking yourself, should I listen to this random voice on the internet? What does she know about how to get out of debt or how to accomplish my goals?
I have written every detail of how Mr. ThreeYear and I managed to get out of debt in this post and this follow up post, but in case you’re new, here’s a recap.
When Mr. ThreeYear and I got married, we were both debt free. This is something of a miracle when most college graduates finish college with debt. According to Tica, The Insitute for College Access and Success, 76% of graduates from New Hampshire, where we live, have college debt upon graduating as undergraduates, and the average debt burden is $33,410. That’s for undergraduate education!
I was fortunate to have scholarships to college and parents who paid the rest. Mr. ThreeYear was fortunate to live in a country where undergraduate education is more reasonably priced: Chile. When we met (in said country), neither of us had any debt. We spent a few years living like the DINKS we were, but Mr. ThreeYear’s way: we bought everything in cash. If we couldn’t afford to buy it with cash, we couldn’t afford it. I scoffed at Mr. ThreeYear as he saved up to buy a car, in cash. “Why don’t you just take out a car loan?” He looked at me like I was crazy. “I don’t want to take out a car loan! I’ll just wait and buy it when I have enough money.”
Two years later, we moved to the States. We moved to the fast and furious city of Atlanta, where Mr. ThreeYear, and then I, found jobs, and slowly, every-so-slowly, we began to adopt the Atlanta way of life. First, we bought a house. We had been renting a very nice, 1100-square-foot apartment that was 15 minutes away from Mr. ThreeYear’s job (it was literally two miles away from us, but you know, Atlanta traffic). It had tennis courts and a pool, and a low rent (we paid around $850 a month for a two-bedroom in the heart of the city), but we decided we should buy a house, instead. Continue reading “The Average Joe’s Ultimate Guide to Getting Out of Debt”
It’s incredible to believe that we’ve completed one year of our Three Year Experiment! Our goal as a family is to double our net worth and become location independent within three years, or right as I turn 40. Our family currently lives in New Hampshire, which is a beautiful state, but far from both my and my husband’s families. And so cold! For someone who’s suffered from seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) for years, winters are really tough for me.
So, we sat down just over a year ago, and created the big, hairy, audacious goal of doubling our net worth in just three years, so we wouldn’t be as dependent on traditional jobs and therefore not as tied to one place. Our dream is to be able to split time between two continents, or perhaps move to an international country for several years, and travel extensively, as we love to do.
Last year I dubbed “A Year of Good Habits.” Each month of the year, I focused on adopting one new habit to help us achieve our goal (I wrote about the results of that experiment here). I found that yes, making your bed each day does help you get better at financial stuff. Strange, but true. When you start the day with small accomplishments, you start to believe you’re someone who gets things done. You begin to trust yourself more. And that trust carries over into how you manage your money, how you spend, and how much you save. We were able to save up cash for several costly home repairs, completely pay off our apartment in Chile, and kill our last car loan. We increased our net worth by more than 32%, getting us really close to hitting 1/3 of our goal of doubling our net worth in Year One.
Since last year’s experiment was such a success, I thought this year needed its own theme, a new challenge. Mr. ThreeYear and I sat down and talked about the one thing that we could do to help us reach our goal more easily. Both of us decided that we could do better in food spending. In 2017, our average monthly spending was $966. We spent almost $12,000 in just groceries last year. While we live in an expensive part of the country for food, we feel that we waste a lot of food, and could do much better at our food spending. Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Spending Less and Eating Well”
At the beginning of 2017, our family of four started a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Doubling our net worth in just three years is our family’s big, hairy, audacious goal, and becoming location independent is a work in progress. We’ve still got to figure out where to move, what jobs we’ll have, how our kids will go to school, and lots of other decisions. We have many ideas that we’re working on, but we don’t have one clear decision made about what we’ll do at the end of 2019. But big, life-changing goals are like that sometimes. We muddle through and take each step on faith, hoping that we’ll eventually see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Let me let you in on a little secret–I love the holidays. For me, the time from Thanksgiving through Christmas all the way to the New Year are a time of family, food, and excess.
That’s right, excess. For Thanksgiving, we eat a ton of food. My fridge is packed for weeks afterwards. We don’t just have one pie. We have three or four. We often have two turkeys–one baked and the other fried. Have you never had a friend turkey? They’re beyond delicious. Crispy skin on the outside, juicy on the inside…
I go a little crazy for Christmas. I love to give gifts and I like to give people nice things. I spend tons of money at Christmas and throw frugality out the window during gift-giving. We way surpass the average American’s holiday spending of $800.
In New Hampshire, we have snowy, white Christmases almost every year, and Thanksgivings are chilly and fallish–just as Thanksgiving is supposed to feel. On Thanksgiving weekend, we put up our Christmas tree, pull out our favorite ornaments, and decorate the whole house. Then, at Christmas break, we wear cozy sweaters and overeat for several days. We spend lazy days with family members, playing in the snow, playing board games, opening presents, and listening to too much Johnny Mathis Christmas music (just kidding! There is NO SUCH THING as too much Johnny Mathis Christmas music!).
Yes, it’s true. It’s my dirty little secret. I go crazy with my spending during the holidays. But you know what? I love it. I love to spend money on nice things for other people. And believe it or not, I have changed my gift-giving over the years to better match my values–to use money (a little more) wisely, buy higher-quality items you can use every day, and focus less on material goods.
For example, in 2008, when we started our get-out-of-debt journey, we realized how much money we were wasting by buying excessive toys for our son–that he didn’t even want. He was overwhelmed on Christmas Day, and afterwards, we ended up donating or throwing out many of the things we bought. So, we adopted our “Santa Gives Three” rule to focus on less higher-quality gifts. Continue reading “I Go Crazy During the Holidays”
After an unusually warm spell, we’re finally getting the insanely gorgeous leaves New England is known for. As I drive to and from work, I’m privy to the most amazing shows of reds on the trees.
We’re well into the school year. The Junior ThreeYears are adapting to their new classes and homework. I keep adding more students that I need to work with to my schedule, so I’m less and less part-time. I’ve literally used up all my hours in the school day and will now be eating lunch while working with a student. At least I’m paid hourly!
One of the highlights of the month was my first solo girls’ trip in something like ten years. I met my best college friend at my sister’s house in Charlotte and we spent the weekend perusing a local farmers’ market, checking out local dining and brunch options, and catching up. I had such a great time that I vowed to take more of these trips. The best part was, Mr. ThreeYear and the boys had a wonderful time together at home. They went to the movies, went out to lunch at their favorite Mexican restaurant, and had a great time bonding while I was away.
We spent gobs of money in September. Our biggest purchase was our tickets to Chile. Our plan was to buy them with airline miles, but in the end, we decided against that. Mr. ThreeYear wanted to go during Christmas and New Year’s, so it would have taken an insane number of miles for each ticket (something like 120,000 each). We didn’t have enough for four tickets and we thought it made sense to save them. Our second biggest purchase was my master’s course. I have three more to go after this. And I had to pay quarterly taxes as well, although those numbers don’t show up in our spending report. Since I’m working so much this year, I’m setting aside 20% of my paychecks for taxes. I may start setting aside 25%, just to be safe. It’s hard to know exactly what I’ll owe since the amount of money I make varies so much, so it’s better to play it safe.
The stock market is still bullish, and we’ve seen our net worth rise again, despite our massive spend this month. It is nice to be earning a paycheck again, so we can reach our end-of-the-year-goals faster. I’m also so ready to be done paying off our apartment in Chile and our car that I’m wishing December was already here. Wait, didn’t I just write a post about staying in the present?