The Consumption Diet

This season of my life, that is, the last six months, has brought a mountain of consumption. It started when our family moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina. We began spending gobs of money to move our belongings and settle into our home (just look at this spending report if you don’t believe me). 

How many posts, articles, and book chapters do you consume each day? Here's my plan to take a break from an endless stream of words. @lauriethreeyear #consumptiondiet #consumeless #producemore #socialmediabreak

We bought a new dog and subsequently bought the related accoutrement: water bowls, food, shots, kennel visits, Kong toys, cages,  leashes, chew sticks, and rawhide bones, amongst other necessary pet purchases. 

We bought a trip to Disney and had a fabulous time, but in addition to the many dollars we spent, we stuffed our faces with food and drink for a week.

Since we’ve begun to work at home, Mr. ThreeYear and I have increased our food consumption. We have the weight gain to show for it.

It’s Not *That* Type of Consumption

There’s a different type of consumption going on, as well. I have been mindlessly consuming every printed piece of garbage I can pour into my brain. Romance novels (a particular vice) and crime thrillers–I average about one trashy book every two days (I read fast). Instagram feeds. Twitter. Facebook, which I occasionally stalk. Personal finance posts. My phone is in hand for multiple hours a day, according to my tracker (I read on it through the Kindle app, too). 

I’ve taken steps to slow the trickle of information flooding into my brain, but at this juncture, I’m gorging on information like I’m gorging on Christmas cookies.

Continue reading “The Consumption Diet”

Our Worst Money Moves

In Monday’s post, I shared the things Mr. ThreeYear and I have done that I consider our best money moves. They were the habits or disciplines we adopted that have served us the best over our fifteen years of marriage. BUT, we’ve also made our share of bone-headed money moves, and today, you get to hear all about our very worst money moves of the past fifteen years. 

Have you ever made a really dumb money move? Here's a list of some financial decisions we wish we could go back and redo! @lauriethreeyear #financialindependence #worstmoneymoves #budgeting #cars #debt

Buying Expensive Cars to Repair

When I was pregnant with Junior ThreeYear, we had two cars–a Jeep Cherokee Mr. ThreeYear bought after we moved to the States (used, because with two exceptions, we’ve only bought used cars) and an Acura Integra. This was the car my parents gave me, brand new, because I got a scholarship to college. It was a two-door coupe, standard, leather seats and CD player (rare at the time). It was such a good car. But we thought that because I was pregnant, we needed to get rid of the Acura and get a bigger car for the baby. So we went car shopping, and found a used BMW X5. I remember being transfixed because it had built-in shades that you could pull down in the back. 

Our neighbor, who had just traded in his Audi, warned us that foreign  luxury cars were expensive to repair, but we brushed him off.

Related Reading: What Our Cars Really Cost

Instead of trading cars with Mr. ThreeYear, I sold the paid-for, gas-sipping Acura and bought this BMW for about $16,000 (financed). For the first few years, the car needed a few repairs, but nothing too terrible. BUT, three years in, just when we moved to New Hampshire, it started to fall apart. 

Junior ThreeYear and I were on the interstate when all of a sudden, the car just slowed down. It wouldn’t respond to the gas. I managed to pull over on the side of the road before it completely died. We had it towed, and luckily, it wasn’t the engine, but it was something else that cost $1,000. Meanwhile it had stranded a pregnant me and my not-yet-three-year-old son on the side of the interstate!

We only had two mechanics in town, and the honest one didn’t work on BMWs, so we had to take it to the shady one (who was later incarcerated for dealing meth. Lovely guy). Long story short, the BMW cost us around $7,000 to repair that year before we wised up and traded it in. 

Continue reading “Our Worst Money Moves”

Our Best Money Moves

Mr. ThreeYear and I will have been married for fifteen years this May. During that time we have done a lot with our money, good and bad. Today, I’ve detailed our best money moves in our decade and a half together, and on Wednesday, I’ll share our worst money moves

We've made both good, and bad, money moves in our fifteen years of marriage. Here's a list of our smartest financial moves to date. @lauriethreeyear #fi #smartfinancialmoves #personalfinance

Contributing to Retirement from the Beginning

Even though Mr. ThreeYear and I didn’t max out our retirement accounts from the beginning, we did contribute to them. 

While I don’t remember the exact percentage that we contributed in the early days of our first jobs in the US (in Chile, I contributed a certain portion of my income to retirement because there it’s mandated by law), I believe it was enough to get the full company match (for him) and a few hundred dollars a month (for me). 

Related Reading: The Boon of Investing Early

We continued contributing to the accounts in 2008, until we adopted Dave Ramsey’s method of paying off debt. We stopped contributing to retirement for 18 months while we paid off our $38,000 in debt. Once we paid our debt off in late 2009, we began to again contribute to retirement accounts again. When we moved to New Hampshire, we again took a short break while we saved up a house downpayment, since we sold our Atlanta home at a loss in 2010. Finally, when we moved into our New Hampshire house in 2012, we started maxing out Mr. ThreeYear’s 401k (because I wasn’t working), and then started contributing heavily to my 401k once I started working. 

Maxing out our 401ks is the single best financial move we’ve made, in my opinion. We’ve lowered our taxes, increased our yearly investments, and decreased our spending (because that money is no longer available to spend), all in one fell swoop. I tell friends and family members who don’t know where to “start” on their personal finance journey to start there. In my opinion, for someone who has spending issues, it’s even more important than paying off debt, because of the effects of compound interest and time (plus it forces them to spend less). 

Maxing out our 401ks means that when this guy graduates high school, we’ll retire. 
Continue reading “Our Best Money Moves”

5 Money Moves We’re Making Before the End of the Year

It’s still hard to believe that almost another entire year has passed. As I was looking through my posts, I saw one I’d written last year about this time, and I thought it would be great to share again. 

Our family's money moves to close out this year and get ready for next! @lauriethreeyear #personalfinance #familymoney #cfomom

The funny thing is, our money moves this year are almost exactly the same as last year’s. We’re creatures of habit, for sure! 

The biggest difference between this year’s end-of-the-year money moves and last year’s is that last December, we paid off all non-mortgage debt so this year, we have nothing to pay off. It feels amazing, and has felt amazing since we did it last December. We feel so much more in control of our finances this year, in large part because we keep more of our money and are able to save and invest more. 

I’d love to hear your end-of-the-year money moves! Let me know in the comments!

While we’re still over a month-and-a-half from the end of the year, we know that soon, December 31st will be upon us, so the ThreeYears are currently working on end-of-the-year money moves to make sure our finances are in good shape.

Here’s what we’re doing to close this year out:

1. Contribute as much as possible to my i401k

Since I’m self-employed, I have an i401k (if you’re interested in the particulars of opening one, read this post). I am playing catch-up with my contributions since we had so many cash goals that we funded with my income this year. So, in the final quarter of the year, and in the first quarter of next year (or at least until we file our taxes), I’ll be contributing a lot to my 401K. Even though the market is high now, I don’t want to miss the tax contributions of these contributions. I estimate we’ll save several thousand dollars on our taxes if I reach my contribution goal for the year.

2. Fulfill our outstanding financial obligations

We’ve got a few outstanding financial obligations, including completing our yearly pledge with our church. We usually wait and pay the majority of our pledge in the fourth quarter of the year, when our cash flow’s better (as a teacher, I don’t get paid in the summer and it takes a month or so after school starts to begin getting paid, so our income rises in October, November, and December).

I also have to pay my fourth quarter taxes for income earned from September through December. I have until January 16th, 2018, to file the taxes, but I’ll probably go ahead and pay what I estimate I’ll owe before the end of the year. I set aside 20% of my income as it comes in, in my business account, so that money is ready to send in anytime I decide to pay the bill. Continue reading “5 Money Moves We’re Making Before the End of the Year”

Location Independence: Six Month Report

When Mr. ThreeYear, our boys and I moved to North Carolina this June, we realized a dream at least a year and a half in the making.

Location Independence Six Months In www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

So how does location independence feel six months in? How have our decisions turned out? I thought I’d give you an update on how we’re feeling about our move now that we’ve had some time to settle in.

First of all, just as a review, our family publicly announced on this blog, just over two years ago, that by the time I turned 40 (in July 2019), we wanted to sell our house and move abroad. I put it like this: Continue reading “Location Independence: Six Month Report”

A Year of Good Food: Grocery Delivery

Just two more months left to report for our grocery experiment. November was a month that was supposed to be short and easy to stay in budget, but, alas, it wasn’t.

A Year of Good Food: Grocery Delivery www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

The Reason for This Experiment

This year, our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food so we can save and travel more. Last year, I adopted one habit a month that would translate into better money moves for our family. You can read all about our A Year of Good Habits here.

That experiment worked so well that we tried a new one this year. In 2018, 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.

Each month, we’re trying out a new way to save money at the grocery store. Last month, I tried to cook a bunch of food each Sunday for us to eat during the week. But because I didn’t make clear menus for each week, it didn’t work as well.

November

While November was a short month, we packed a lot in. Mr. ThreeYear traveled for a week to New Hampshire. We went to South Carolina early in the month to visit my parents. We went to the beach for Thanksgiving. That meant that we were thrown off our routine and weren’t consistent and thoughtful grocery shoppers.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Grocery Delivery”

November Net Worth Update

Wow! It’s almost December, which means we’ve got just one month left of this year. This year has definitely been an eventful one for our family.

November Net Worth Update www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This month has been a good one. We’ve been surprised by how cold it’s gotten in Charlotte during the fall (it’s been in the 20s this week in the mornings, but it does warm up to the mid 50s or 60s during the day). The boys both seem to have gotten into a groove at school, I’m running now with a running group, and Mr. ThreeYear has been regularly playing tennis.

Last night, we went to our town’s downtown Christmas celebration via trolley! We parked in a parking lot at the edge of our neighborhood and the cutest little trolley picked us up. The boys actually got to ride standing up in the back of the trolley as we cruised the four miles downtown.

Once we got downtown, there were carriage rides, vendors, a Christmas tree display, bands playing, and Santa Claus. The boys and my niece, who was with us, had a blast. It made me so glad we decided to move to this town, because it’s ridiculous how festive and involved our town is. We are freakin’ Mayberry over here. I absolutely love it.

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Since we’ve achieved the latter goal, we’ll be primarily focused on the former in each of these reports going forward. Each month, I record our progress on our net worth and our spending. Last year, we increased our net worth by 32% over the year before. This year, we tried to increase it by more than 65% from where we started in December 2016. Even though it looks like we’ll miss our target by a wide margin, we’re keeping our goal in place to see how close we can get in 2019.  Continue reading “November Net Worth Update”

Why We Bought a Smaller, More Expensive House

When Mr. ThreeYear and I moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina, we bought a house that was about 1000 square feet smaller. It was also significantly more expensive than the house we sold. So why did we buy a house that was more expensive and smaller? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

Why We Bought a Smaller, More Expensive House www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

It all started a year ago, when we visited Santiago. We stayed in the apartment we own there, which is about 550 square feet in total, with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms (they know how to pack things in in the big cities). Despite its small footprint, we had a wonderful time together. Little ThreeYear really enjoyed being so close to us, and just being able to call out to find us in one of the bedrooms.

When we got back to New Hampshire, we had several talks about selling our house and moving into a smaller condo to speed up our journey to location independence. We looked into several smaller condos at the beach, and I even wrote a post about it.  In the end, we moved to North Carolina and bypassed the condo altogether.

But the seed had been planted. A smaller space was something that we not only could live with, we wanted  to live with.  Continue reading “Why We Bought a Smaller, More Expensive House”

Drinking My Coffee Black

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m back after a short break. This past week, I was at the family beach house for Thanksgiving. I had every intention of posting, but my computer battery had 15% life left (and doesn’t work when it’s not plugged in to the charger due to an unfortunate coffee spill a year or so ago) so I had to take it in to the repair shop.

Drinking My Coffee Black www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Guess what? New battery, $169.99, guaranteed for 90 days. PLUS, the computer now works if it’s not plugged in! It’s a MacBook Pro, so no way was I going out and buying a new computer for $1500. The fact that we could replace the battery relatively inexpensively AND it now works better was an awesome surprise this Thanksgiving!

While at the beach, I was helping my parents put together a budget for the first time. They’re not budgeters, and while they have investments, real estate holdings, and a pretty high net worth, they’ve never really had to think about controlling their expenses because they’ve enjoyed high incomes for most of their adult lives.

I could tell the experience was stressful and painful, especially as they kept thinking of new expenses to add to the total.

The First Budget

I remember the first time Mr. ThreeYear and I budgeted. It was right after I’d found The Total Money Makeover back in 2008, and I was trying my hand at estimating our monthly expenses.

I had a similar reaction as my parents. A little bit of panic. Shock, that we could spend so much, and disbelief that we’d ever be able to save anything, since we currently spent everything we made! Continue reading “Drinking My Coffee Black”

Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure for more information. Thanks for supporting the blog! 

I am so excited! I’ve been wanting to create a holiday gift-giving guide for a while and I’ve finally done it. I hope you enjoy. I really love everything I’ve picked.

Holiday Gift Giving Guide www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Christmas is upon us! Hanukkah starts in two short weeks. Get your kinara out; Kwanzaa is coming. Festivus is right around the corner.

Whatever you celebrate (or don’t) in December, this is one of my favorite times of year. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that I absolutely love Christmas and tend to go a little crazy at Christmastime.

My love language, if you know about that, is giving. Over the years, I’ve dramatically toned down the level of gift and amount of giving I do, but it still brings me great joy when I can find that perfect gift for my loved ones.

Last year, we gave the gift of experience to our family: a paddle board lesson for my dad, a cooking class for my sister and brother-in-law, and rock climbing for Junior ThreeYear.

Giving experiential gifts is fun, but it can get expensive. So, this year, my sister recommended we adults give each other stocking stuffers only, under $20. I love this idea because you’re not spending a ton, the gift can be practical (and/or a consumable that the recipient would buy anyway), and adding parameters somehow makes it easier to choose for each person.

In the spirit of stocking stuffers, I decided to create a gift-giving guide to highlight some wonderful gifts I’ve come across this year. And because I love books so much, I’m throwing in some book ideas, too.

All gifts come in under $20, to boot!  Continue reading “Holiday Gift-Giving Guide”