A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store

Happy April! Time for this month’s recap of A Year of Good Food.

A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store (March) www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food this year so we can reach our goal of location independence by the end of 2019. 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.

This year, we are challenging ourselves to do better at our food spending. Last year our family spent over $12,000 in groceries, or $966 per month.

This year, our goal is to spend 20% less on groceries. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s almost $200 per month in food savings. The extra $200 per month is going into a travel savings fund, so we can see the results of our hard work in spending less on food.

We could have adopted a radical goal to keep our spending under $500 or something like that. But we know better. We thought it made much more sense to consistently hit our modest target, month after month, for an entire year, to show ourselves we could do it, than to maybe hit the $500 goal once or twice and then face plant with more $1000+ grocery bills.

And if we consistently hit sub-$772 spending, then perhaps we’ll challenge ourselves next year to shave off more.

For some people, $772 is a huge amount to spend on groceries. Others couldn’t imagine spending so little. The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion says the average that monthly expenditure for a low-cost food plan for a family of four in the US was $731.20. The liberal food plan average expense was $1093. I’ve seen bloggers who spend $60 per month on their food (they garden and eat two meals a day). I know friends who spend $400 a week for their family of five. Food spending really does seem to be all over the place for people.

This experiment is about behavior change for our family, so by teaching ourselves to spend less and not waste food (which we can be pretty bad at) my hope is that at the end of this year, we’ll have developed permanent habits around spending less and eating everything we have in the refrigerator.

So far, it has not been easy to achieve this goal.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store”

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”

The Most Romantic Lenten Sacrifice

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.

The Most Romantic Lenten Sacrifice--www.thethethreeyearexperiment.com

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.

Continue reading “The Most Romantic Lenten Sacrifice”

Life Is Short. So Why Not Buy What You Want?

Life is short. Do not forget about the most important things in our life, living for other people and doing good for them.

-Marcus Aurelius

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.

Life Is Short--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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?”).

If we don’t ever know how long we’ve got on this beautiful planet, why even bother saving for the future? Thinking about the future? Sacrificing now for a better tomorrow? Continue reading “Life Is Short. So Why Not Buy What You Want?”

January Net Worth Update

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!).

January Net Worth Update--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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.

La Moneda--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
The boys had a blast during our visit to Santiago and San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, even if some of the smiles look forced!

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.

Continue reading “January Net Worth Update”

A Year of Good Food: Shop with a List

It is time to report on our first month’s progress in the A Year of Good Food Challenge.

A Year of Good Food List--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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”

5 Frugal Lessons I’ve Learned From My In-Laws

5 Frugal Lessons--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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”

The Average Joe’s Ultimate Guide to Getting Out of Debt

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?

Average Joe Ultimate Guide Debt--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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?

Our Story

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.”

hiking in Chile--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Mr. and Mrs. ThreeYear, very long ago, in Chile.

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”

A Year of Good Food: Spending Less and Eating Well

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.

Year of Good Food--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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.

Further Reading:

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”

2017 Net Worth Update

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.

2017 Net Worth Update--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Already, we’ve seen amazing progress this year that we didn’t think we were capable of. I completed A Year of Good Habits, we paid for a new roof in cash, we saved and invested more money than we ever have, on top of that big expenditure, and thanks to a very robust stock market…. Continue reading “2017 Net Worth Update”