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.
Hi all! Today, I’m really excited to have a guest post over on Chief Mom Officer’s awesome site on how Mr. ThreeYear and I met and how I became the financial nerd I am today. Liz, AKA Chief Mom Officer, and I have been “blog friends” for almost as long as I’ve been blogging, and we’re now IRL friends, too, since we got the chance to meet in person in Boston last fall.
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”
Happy birthday, Mr. ThreeYear! Today is the anniversary of another trip around the sun for him and I want to give him a special shout-out for being my partner in this crazy location independence experiment we’ve undertaken.
As our family gets closer to our dream of location independence, I keep getting rid of more and more of the material things that we no longer need. Since 2014, we’ve worked on creating a house that has just enough, and ridding ourselves of our unnecessary possessions.
This is the 100% true story of one of my favorite books, told by me as I remember it. I realized, after being reminded of its existence recently (details of which you will soon read) that it represented a perfect analogy of my own journey toward distancing myself emotionally from my stuff.
Minimalism an ongoing journey for me, and I still have moments. Lots of moments, when I really, really crave material things (like a new pair of jeans when I already have four pair). Or I can’t imagining parting with that stainless steel bowl someone gave me for our wedding (that I’ve never used once in all our fourteen years of marriage).
Slowly, though, over a period of just over four years, I’ve gotten better at separating the emotions or memories I have from the things I own.
But I digress…
I remember the day and the details like it was yesterday. My mother had driven me and my younger sister on a special shopping trip after school. We’d gone to the mall, which was close to the private school I attended, a 45-minute drive from my house. My own little town was way too small for a mall. But Orangeburg had the aptly named Prince of Orange Mall, and inside the mall, was the… bookstore. Continue reading “The Story of a Book”
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. I’ve interviewed all kinds of people who all have slightly different takes on location independence or living internationally. Posts include Steve from Think, Save, Retire, Pete of Do You Even Blog?, and Mrs. Adventure Rich.
Guest posters will be sharing how they became (or will become!!) 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.
Today, I’m thrilled to introduce Jim from Route to Retire. I reached out to Jim when I heard him share his plans to retire to Panama. Jim discovered the idea of FIRE (financial independence/early retirement) a handful of years ago. On regular salaries, he and his wife (Mrs. R2R) worked hard to reach a $1 million net worth in 2017. They’re now slated to retire at the end of 2019 (Jim will be 44 years old). They plan to move to Panama (along with their daughter, of course) in 2020 as part of their retirement strategy.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where you’re from, how long married, degrees, kids, ages, etc.
I’m 42, my wife is 40, and we’re both from Ohio. I graduated with a degree in Computer Information Systems and my wife with a degree in Child and Family Development.
We met right after I graduated from college – at a bar of all places! It’s a little more innocent than it sounds, though. We were both there with mutual friends that introduced us. We hit it off and have been together ever since and we’ve been married now for over 11 years.
There’s nothing worse than that creeping dread–anxiety–that steals in and leeches all the joy and excitement from life. Mr. ThreeYear suffers from anxiety, and so do several more of my family members, including both my sons. So we have lots of practice in how to overcome anxiety.
Anxiety is genetic, and I’ve learned that the anxiety gene is powerful. It got passed down to both of my kids, even though I have little-to-no anxiety myself. But once you’re aware of it, it becomes very clear who in your family suffers from it. It took me awhile to figure out why Mr. ThreeYear was always so wigged out when we took the boys for a walk around the block. “Careful!” he would yell to the boys as a car rolled by at 15 mph 500 yards from us. “They’re on the side of the road and we’re surrounding them,” I would say. “Even if that car managed to light on fire and fly through the air past us, it would still miss the kids.” Somehow those types of comments didn’t help. And my own feelings about taking a walk soon changed–it was no longer fun, it was torture.
One of the best articles I’ve ever read on how to overcome anxiety (or just live with it) is written by Scott Stossel in The Atlantic. It’s a long read, but is an excellent primer on what it feels like to live with debilitating anxiety.
Over the years, we’ve experimented with lots of different ways to overcome the anxiety and overarching fear, the low-level worry that eats away at your ability to focus and find joy in any activity. Some worked and some didn’t. Here are our five proven hacks to combat anxiety in our family. They’re tried. They’re true. They work.
Without a doubt, exercising is the number one way to overcome or at least ease anxiety. We have seen it over and over again at our house. Unfortunately, according to the American Psychological Association, psychologists have been slow to study the mental health benefits of exercise. There are scant studies showing the effects of regular exercise on anxiety disorders or OCD. However, one study done by Princeton University and reported by the New York Times sheds light on how our body adapts to stress, after long-term training, by creating new neurons that produce GABA, a neurotransmitter which inhibits brain activity. The study found that the active mice felt just as much anxiety initially as non-running mice, when exposed to stress, but were soon calmed by their new neurons, designed to quiet the brain. It turns out that when we’re able to turn down our monkey brains, we can turn down our screaming anxiety, too, creating a calmer, less tense mental space for ourselves.
But how in the world to get to the gym when your anxiety is sky high? It’s the last thing you want to do.