Like so many of my posts, this is one I’m writing for myself. Because my spending is…
Luckily, our investments are doing well (as are pretty much everyone’s at this point). Mr. ThreeYear and I have been investing most of our adult lives, and are finally at the point where our net worth increases more each year than we make.
We’ve never been particularly frugal (I haven’t, especially), so we are cruising through life at this point, eating out, buying food (food is always our Achilles Heel), planning vacations, and generally not being especially careful with our money.
Luckily, our old standby tricks of saving are helping, somewhat, but as I look at our cash reserves throughout the year, they are decreasing, precipitously, as the months roll on.
Years ago, I published pictures of what I called our semi-minimalist home in New Hampshire. Minimalism isn’t a contest and there is no right way to undertake it, but I hesitated to call myself a full-one minimalist because I don’t believe I have gotten to the place where I eschew material items enough to warrant the full title.
Still, we practice a reduced aesthetic in our family, and while we still consume too many material goods, we regularly reflect upon and rid ourselves of extraneous belongings in order to make our home calmer and more inviting.
I gave you a tour, four and a half years ago now (wow!), of our New Hampshire home, and I thought you might be interested in seeing how we’ve organized our North Carolina home. It has taken a lot to get our home pared down, as it is a full one thousand square feet smaller than our previous home, but luckily it has more bedrooms, so we have been able to create spaces for everyone in the family (and for Mr. ThreeYear’s office!) and to make our home work. And we’re trying valiantly not to move into a bigger home, given that we would probably have to spend double to find a larger home in this crazy market.
Our home was built in 1999, so it is a bit of an older home, but it has been a great home in a solid location for three years now.
In early November, I posted about how our family had made the decision to eat plant-based. Ok, I made the decision to eat plant-based and made my family go along with me.
So how’s it going?
It’s been approximately eight months since we transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle, meaning we mainly eat veggies, fruits, and grains (lots of grains to keep full) and rarely or ever eat meat, cheese, or other dairy products. I say rarely because I have occasionally eaten ceviche and cheese, and my boys eat meat as often as they can, which is usually when we go out to eat.
How has the transition gone, and have we noticed any benefits or any negatives to this lifestyle?
For much of the life of this blog (five years in October?!), I have talked about my family’s desire to be location independent. When I first began blogging, Mr. ThreeYear and I considered the possibility of moving abroad, teaching in international schools, or becoming digital nomads.
In the end, we moved to North Carolina. Although we were technically location independent when we moved, we have since made decisions that tie us firmly to one area of the world. We bought a house, I got a location-dependent job there, and I now have a second location-dependent job that I hope to stay in until at least both boys graduate high school (in May of 2028, which is crazy close for us to be empty nesters! Whaaahh!!).
We haven’t talked about, or really even thought about, moving, moving internationally, or otherwise taking advantage of location independence in three years.
I recently listened to an excellent podcast on Boundaries, We Can Do Hard Things (Episode 2). In it, author Glennon Doyle and her sister Amanda Doyle discuss setting boundaries in many parts of your life (one thing in particular they said really stuck out to me, “You are not responsible for people’s feelings about the boundaries you have set.” How great is that piece of advice?).
I admit, I am not someone who has strong boundaries, or even completely understands the concept of boundaries. My boundary-setting is apparently so bad, my friend’s husband recently gave me the book The Book of No: 365 Ways to Say It and Mean It.
So this blog post is my exploration of and attempt to better understand boundaries, specifically boundaries around time, organization, and finances.
Hello! I am not dead, as I hope you’ll be glad to hear. I’ve been overwhelmingly busy this spring with school (which coincides with students going back full time and my mornings no longer being quite as flexible to blog).
This post is a follow up to my post Why We Put Our Kids in Private School. In it, I detailed our decision to put our kids in an expensive private school (where I worked) and outlined our thought process to get there.
If you had asked me five years ago whether or not I would put our kids in private school, I would have laughed in your face. Then again, my ability to imagine a global pandemic was limited. If this past year has taught me anything, it’s that we have to make the best decisions we can, in real time, given the unique set of circumstances we face.
We chose to put both boys in private school for this school year and they had an incredible year. Truly, it was magical.
Mr. ThreeYear and I fell in love with Costco when we lived in Atlanta. It was conveniently located, the prices were great, and you could occasionally find very good deals on cool items for your yard or your house. But in New Hampshire, the closest Costco was over an hour away. So, for eight years, when we lived in New Hampshire, I occasionally shopped BJ’s Wholesale Club (we could get a discount membership through Mr. ThreeYear’s work). But it really wasn’t the same.
Fast forward to December, 2019, when my good friend and fellow deal lover took me to the newly-opened Costco near our house. I bought a membership that day, loaded up my buggie, and several hundred dollars later, decided I needed some ground rules regarding how I shopped at Costco.
Only Shop with a List
First of all, if you are browsing in Costco, prepare to check out with a much-higher grocery bill than you planned. You will be tempted by the fourteen-pack of ready-to-eat Indian Chana Masala, the chocolate-covered almonds, or whatever your weakness is. Costco is a master at products that entice you to buy them when you weren’t planning on it. I think their products have some weird electronic signal that attracts you to them.
Instead, when you go into the store, have a list of what you’re planning to buy. It’s okay if your list is vague, like “Boys’ Pants”–sometimes you don’t know exactly what they have for sale–but have an idea, and a price range, of the items you’re looking for. Otherwise, you will buy things you don’t need.
I decided to budget a portion of our end-of-the-year bonus to updating our downstairs half-bathroom.
It was in terrible need of a refresh, since it had holes in the walls, mismatched paint, and dated fixtures. It was not a place I wanted to welcome guests when they came over.
Still, I knew the bones of the room were good, and it had a decent pedestal sink, so I felt pretty confident we could get by with a cosmetic makeover.
I’d always wanted to try peel and stick wallpaper, and I thought it would cover the holes in the sheetrock without me having to do much, so I decided to incorporate it into my budget.
Still, I wasn’t exactly sure how much everything was going to cost. I priced out a few fixtures online, a new light (the current one was a 90s monstrosity of painted-rust vines), and some wallpaper, and ended up with a budget of $650. I figured that would probably do it, but decided I could budget more later if I needed to.
In January, we learned we had to replace our downstairs HVAC system to the tune of about $8,000. We decided, after that big spend, that a no-spend month was in order.
So we deemed February our no-spend month. We would not spend money in any category other than food, gas, and essential bills. The idea was to use the money we didn’t spend to replenish our savings after spending so much on the furnace.
How did we do?
Well, it felt like we did terrible. We didn’t take the no-spend month very seriously, especially towards the end of the month, and we broke a lot of our rules about spending.
Still, we managed to save quite a bit of money, so despite our mediocre performance, I’d still call the month a win. And I feel like we have some momentum to keep going in March, so we are going to keep saving.
Two wins: Junior ThreeYear decided to stop swimming with his expensive swim team and is now running track, which doesn’t have a monthly cost. We saved money in lawn care because it was February and no lawn care was needed.
Do you ever get that feeling of existential dread that runs down your belly and into your legs, leaving everything numb? I’m having that now. I think it’s anxiety-related, due to me not being at work during the middle of the day (because I wasn’t scheduled for any classes) and feeling guilty about it.
Aren’t humans weird? I have no reason to feel guilty, no reason to feel bad. It’s all in my head but I can’t shake it. I know this, but the feelings remain.
Seems like every winter about this time I write a post about how much I hate winter. It isn’t just lip service. My body chemistry changes in the winter and I wrestle, in a real way, with depression. Luckily mine is seasonal and usually dissipates right around the time that Spring begins, something that occurs much earlier in NC than it did in NH. So I know this is a temporary feeling.
It still makes me question everything, every year. It makes me cranky and short-tempered. It makes me want to drop all responsibilities and move to a tropical island.
Every single year, I tell myself I need to book a vacation in February.
And every single year, I do not do it. My current excuse is that I don’t have any time off in February. While this is true, there is a long weekend or two during the month, and I could probably get away with taking enough days off to fashion a week-get-away.