10 Things I Learned This Summer

On Wednesday, the school year starts for the ThreeYears. The Junior ThreeYears start fifth and second grades and I return to my two school districts to teach ESL.

This is the second year that I’ve been off in the summer. We spent part of it on an epic road trip, then spent the rest of the summer enjoying how beautiful New Hampshire is in August.

10 Things I Learned this Summer--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I didn’t work this summer. Aside from writing blog posts 2-3 times per week, I did not write or do freelance work. I did not take online classes for my master’s. I just took care of my kids (ok, that is admittedly work, and a lot of it. But I didn’t do other work).

We had lots of beautiful time at the beach, the lake, and at home to hang out. I wasn’t particularly good at making the kids keep up with reading or math, or any other schoolwork. They mostly played. We used a lot of the strategies I wrote about here to keep ourselves occupied.

I tried to rest as much as possible, and think. I read a lot of books. I watched some TV. I wrote in my journal, something that’s gotten short shift since I started this blog. I followed links I read about on other blog posts.

Here are ten things I learned, or learned about, this summer, that I thought I’d share:

1. Quitting Social Media is Possible.

I watched this TED talk by Dr. Cal Newport, then read his book, Deep Work. This guy is not on social media, and he’s young. But he’s rejected it his whole life. He says the three common objections that people have for quitting are not true objections: it’s a fundamental technology. No it’s not, he says. It’s a form of entertainment that is addictive. It’s vital to my success as an entrepreneur, etc. Actually, he argues, doing work that is thoughtful and profound is rare and valuable in this day and age. And you can only do that type of work by shutting down distractions. What’s the harm? It’s no big deal if I’m on FB/Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat/etc. It’s more harmful than you think, he argues, as these technologies are designed to be addictive, and as you spend a larger and larger portion of your day on social media, your attention becomes more and more fragmented and you permanently lose your ability to sustain attention.  Continue reading “10 Things I Learned This Summer”

Book Review: The Truth About Your Future

I read a lot, but I generally pick up books from the library or from our Overdrive service–the online library my local library provides. This fits in well with our minimalist and frugal philosophies, both.

Our library is small. We live in a town of about 3,500 people, so the library doesn’t always carry the latest releases and it carries few personal finance tomes. Sometimes, though, I’m surprised by the books I find.

Two weeks ago, I happened upon The Truth About Your Future: The Money Guide You Need Now, Later, and Much Later, by Ric Edelman.

Truth About Your Future--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I’d never heard of Ric Edelman before, but he “has been ranked the nation’s #1 Independent Financial Advisor by Barron’s three times, named among the country’s Top 10 Wealth Advisors by Forbes and one of the “10 most influential figures” in the advisory field by RIABiz.” He also has a radio program that has been around for 25 years.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of his book, then. Well, truthfully, I expected more of the same financial information every other personal finance books has ever regenerated. But this book was different. Way different. Continue reading “Book Review: The Truth About Your Future”

Thinking of Changing Careers? Why and How I Did at 36

Have you ever dreamed of changing careers, but don’t know how to start?

I haven’t. Seriously. Except for my first few years in the workforce, I’ve always worked in marketing or sales in one capacity or another, and I had always loved it. Two years ago, this month, I was a marketing manager for a theater company. But here’s why and how, two years ago this month, I changed careers.

Changing Careers--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I really liked my marketing job. It was part-time, flexible, and the first real job I’d had in the almost-eight years since my first child had been born. I loved the autonomy, the professional identity, the praise I was getting for a job well done. Everything about the job, basically… except the summers.

See, I worked for an opera company, and the “season,” the time when we staged our three big productions, was the first week of June through the second week of August every year. During the season, my part-time job became a full-time job, and I worked nights, weekends, whenever. I was salaried, so although I could work less during the rest of the year to make up for the summer weeks, I earned exactly the same paycheck through the summer while I worked like crazy.  Continue reading “Thinking of Changing Careers? Why and How I Did at 36”

Are You Camp Earning or Camp Saving?

I have subscribed to Ramit Sethi’s emails for years, ever since he was a fledgling blogger at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. His websites are now slickly professional and he runs a multimillion dollar empire, selling courses on how to increase your earnings. I’ve never bought a course, but his emails are full of advice about negotiating and growing your business, and he writes compelling headlines (if you don’t believe me, sign up and see what I mean). He’s helped thousands of people earn more money in their businesses.

Are You Camp Earning or Camp Saving--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Three days ago, he sent out the email, “What Successful People Don’t Tell You.” It linked to an article by the same name. The premise of the article is that people who truly love their jobs will never stop working, no matter how much money they make, because “you would enjoy being on the beach for about 3 weeks…then you would get bored and want to get back to work.” Apparently everyone that this guy has ever met who’s made big money feels this way. Okay. Let’s accept that premise for a sec.

Ramit goes on to slam the FIRE community, for delaying gratification and staying at a job they potentially hate, eating rice and beans, and leading colorless, boring lives (including WALKING as a hobby for God’s sake), only to retire early and then have no purpose for the rest of their lives.

Apparently, there’s a subreddit detailing the dark underbelly of FIRE, which is that once people have sacrificially saved for 14 years, they then have no purpose beyond amassing their $600,000 so they can live off the $24,000 a year in perpetuity.

The article ends by asking you to pick a camp: Continue reading “Are You Camp Earning or Camp Saving?”

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”

July Net Worth Update

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent so we can move. Each month(ish), I’ll keep you apprised of our progress. This year, we’ve got some major goals, including paying off our outstanding debt (car and apartment in Chile), replacing our roof, AND saving around $70,000. As of June, we were roughly 18% of the way to doubling our net worth.

August has arrived. The ThreeYear family has been reunited, after the boys and I were away for the month of July in North and South Carolina. New England has a decidedly cool, rainy bent this month and, to my utter frustration (repeated every year at this time), tops of the trees are starting to change colors, and little red leaves are falling down all over my driveway. “I’m not ready for fall!” I always think, but it is coming, nevertheless.

The month of July was fantastic, in terms of deepening family relationships and making lifetime memories. It was not fantastic in terms of spending less and saving more, as I’d hoped. Our income always drops in the summers, since I’m not teaching, and while we were away, we spent a lot more than normal on eating out. Plus, we had the other half of our new roof to pay for. Still, thanks to the bull market that just won’t quit, our net worth continued northwards.

July Net Worth Update--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

 

Continue reading “July Net Worth Update”

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”

Putting On a New Roof

Experts say to set aside about 1% of the purchase price of your home each year on maintenance costs. This year, we set aside a lot more than that.

About a year and a half ago, we noticed that our shingles were curling. Every so often, we’d look at our patio and see bits of asphalt from the shingles littering the concrete. We did some research, and found out that our house had been roofed with a type of shingle that was failing across New England. Many homes in our small town had been shingled with this particular company’s shingle, which, unfortunately, were not holding up in New England’s severe winter weather.

Putting On a New Roof--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

No problem, we thought. Shingles have 15-year warranties, so we’ll just look into that. Well. Turns out, our shingles did have a warranty, but like many things in life, there were caveats:  Continue reading “Putting On a New Roof”

Location Independent, International Jobs: Kerri

Hello! Welcome to “Location Independent, International Jobs,” the Wednesday series where I showcase stories from people who have become location independent, work internationally, and/or continuously travel (check out previous stories here, here, here, and here!). Guest posters will be sharing how they became location independent or how they got jobs abroad, but most importantly, they’ll share how their lifestyle has positively or negatively affected their finances and how they got to the life they’re living now.  

The reason for this series is to showcase people who have already achieved what the ThreeYear family is working towards: location independence and/or securing international jobs. Since we’re not sure which route we’ll take, we thought we’d hear from people who’ve already achieved one or the other, so we can learn more.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Kerri, who happens to be… my sister! Not only is she one of the most creative people I’ve ever met, she and her husband Joel have created an incredible Etsy business making handcrafted leather goods. Their business was recently featured in the Charlotte Observer (they live in the Queen City). About a year and a half ago, the business had grown to the point that Kerri was able to quit her job at a design firm and work full-time from home. I interviewed her last week while I was staying with her for a few days. Here’s her inspiring story of entrepreneurship and location independence! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was a graphic design major in college. I’ve always been someone who likes to make things and I’ve always been crafty. When I was a kid, my definition of playing was making things. [Laurie: Yep. She and I had many a Barbie fashion show, and Kerri created fabulous Barbie outfits out of bits of fabric and ribbon. She also made crazy cool tree houses and forts in the woods]. After college, I got a job with a yearbook design company doing corporate marketing and I worked there for one year. After college, I moved to Milan, Italy, to attend Domus Academy, a prestigious design school, to obtain my masters in design. I’d always wanted to move abroad, and I teamed up with a friend of mine from college to plan a way to get there. I was there for a year and while I was there, I got a crash course in product design and the Italian design process.

Kerri in her studio--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Kerri in her Charlotte, NC, leather working studio.

When you think of Italian design, you think of some of the greatest designers in the world. And I was heavily influenced by the Italian way of doing things. They have such an incredible sense of history and craftsmanship there, a strong sense of history and tradition in everything they do. There is always a nod to the past and to the process. That stuck with me, not to mention the leather.

When I got back from Italy, I moved back to Charlotte, where I’d been living before I got my Master’s. It was a down economy, so I felt very lucky to get my old job back. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was stable design work. Joel, my then-boyfriend, and I had been dating for a few years at that point, and we got married in 2010. We met in college, where he was also a graphic design major. While I was in Italy, he’d gotten a job with Rubbermaid designing their packaging.
Continue reading “Location Independent, International Jobs: Kerri”

What Money Can’t Buy

Last week, the boys and I returned back to New Hampshire from a month-long road trip in the Southeastern US. The Junior ThreeYears and I had taken our trusty Prius down to North and South Carolina to visit family, go to the beach, and soak up the sun and humidity. I find that when I get Southern heat and humidity a bit in the summer, winters in New England are easier to get through. To me, it never gets hot enough for long enough here. I need the “walk out into a sauna” experience to feel like I’ve truly had a summer.

What Money Can't Buy--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We were on our way from the coast of South Carolina to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit my sister, on a busy stretch of interstate near Columbia, the state capital. It was around ten in the morning on a Monday, and traffic was heavy.

Up until then, we’d had almost two full summers of uneventful road travel. Everything had gone just swimmingly. But luck was against us that morning. I was in the left hand lane, and was completely surrounded by fast-moving eighteen-wheelers and cars. Suddenly, right in front of me, I saw a piece of tire that had come off of a semi–they’re called road gators in trucker parlance–and I realized there was nothing I could do to avoid it. I thought about veering left, but there was no shoulder on the road. I couldn’t get over to the right, because I was hemmed in. I slowed down as much as I could so that the huge truck beside me wouldn’t plow into me, and ran over the piece of tire. Continue reading “What Money Can’t Buy”