Make It This Weekend: Kuchen!

This past weekend, Mr. ThreeYear’s sweet tooth was activated. Unfortunately, my emergency supply of cake mix was depleted, so we had to resort to Plan B. “I would love some kuchen right about now,” he said.

Kuchen, which originated in Germany, is a delectable cross between a fruit pie and a tart. Let’s start with the pronunciation. I know it’s tempting, but it’s not in fact pronounced like kitchen with a “u”–instead, coo at a hen and you’ve said it correctly. Continue reading “Make It This Weekend: Kuchen!”

Can You Shop Zero Waste and Be Frugal?

I discovered the Zero Waste movement, like so many others, when I stumbled on Béa Johnson’s blog, Zero Waste Home. Zero Wasters try to purchase and create as little trash as possible. People like Bea, who really originated the movement, get so good at it they can put all of the trash they generate in a year in a mason jar–everything else is refused, reused,reduced, recycled, or rotted, in that order.

The movement is super inspiring. Paying attention to how much trash you purchase and/or generate gets you thinking about how much waste we, as a society, generate. Zero wasters freely admit that for most people, creating no trash is really hard, if not impossible. The idea is to reduce as much as possible the amount of trash you create, to really think about what you purchase and be creative about ways of buying stuff with less packaging.

The biggest place you can make a difference in the amount of waste you make is at the grocery store.

Continue reading “Can You Shop Zero Waste and Be Frugal?”

How We Spent $0 on Clothing Our Kids This Year

If you have kids, you know that outfitting them can be a challenge. Kids grow so quickly that they can sometimes shoot up a size overnight. This growth magic apparently happened to my youngest son night before last, because yesterday he told me, “Mom, I can’t button these jeans. They’re too tight!” Because I heart hand-me-downs, I pulled out my Voodoo-Overnight-Growth-Thing-Happened-Larger-Sizes-Clothing Container.

I’ve heard people say (ok, it was actually just one), “I would never let my child wear someone else’s jeans. That’s just gross.” No, that’s just ridiculous.

If you have two kids, the younger one is going to wear the older one’s clothes, probably even if they’re different genders (jeans are jeans, if you get the plain kind without pink stars appliquéd on). What’s wrong with taking clothes that still have useful life in them, washing them, and then letting your child wear them? Not a thing! No one’s going to know where you got the clothes from, first of all. Second of all, it’s environmentally sound to use clothing up that still has life left in it. Lots of Zero-Wasters only shop at second-hand clothing stores to reduce the amount of waste their clothing choices make.

To me, if you have problems wearing “someone else’s clothes” there are other issues going on. I’m no psychologist, but I’ve been around plenty of people who were poor when they were kids and still bear the scars. That’s shame talking, friends, and it has nothing to do with the clothes you pick. It has to do with not feeling good enough. Let those feelings go, and embrace the practicality and environmental responsibility of used clothing!

Continue reading “How We Spent $0 on Clothing Our Kids This Year”

That Time I Moved to a Different Continent

Our family is on a journey to become location independent in three years. One of our plans is to move across the world for a few years. Today, I’ll share the story of the last time I moved to a different continent.

Travel back with me, to many, many, many (ok, not quite so many) years ago. The setting: a shabby chic apartment near my college campus. Two twenty-something women are starting to realize that the real world was closer at hand than they would like.

The Conversation

When I was a senior in college, with “real life” bearing down on me hard, I had a conversation one night with my friend Liz (maybe over martinis, I forget) about what we would do after college. The year before, we’d spent our fall semester in Madrid in an exchange program. We’d had the time of our lives, and were still having trouble adjusting to college life.

“Maybe we should move back to Spain,” I said.

Continue reading “That Time I Moved to a Different Continent”

Closet-to-Bathroom Conversion

Part of our family’s plan for becoming location independent in the next three years is to sell our house and convert the equity into equities (excuse my bad finance joke there). We bought a short sale in 2012 and have lived in the house for five years. By the time we’re ready to move, we will have lived here for seven and a half years. Which is exactly half the length of our 15-year mortgage. (If only that meant half of the house would be paid off…. But I digress…).

Since we were fortunate enough to buy an undervalued property, we’re hoping to sell the house for quite a bit more than we paid for it, but to do so will mean some strategic investments. When we moved in, for example, there were no appliances in the house. The previous owners, hoping to get as much equity out of the house as they could before they left, even took a downstairs stove (critical for heating the house), so we had to replace that.

One of the biggest investments we’ve made is adding a downstairs guest bathroom to the house. When we moved in, there was only one bathroom on the first floor—the master. If you’ve seen our Semi-Minimalist home pictures, you’ll see that while our bathroom is a spa-like oasis (not my decision, but a very nice feature), our guests felt a little bit uncomfortable using our bathroom when they came for dinner. And we had to make sure our bathroom was always guest-ready before they came. That could be a big hassle.

Continue reading “Closet-to-Bathroom Conversion”

Combatting the Mid-Winter Blues

Midwinter is always the time of year that gets to me in New England. It’s March and, despite being teased with some 50-degree days in February, we’ve been staring down -4 for the past week. A blizzard with 18 inches of snow is coming tomorrow.

This time of year causes certain problems.

One, I find it almost impossible to drag myself out of bed for a run if the temps are below 15 degrees F (if that sounds horrible to you, believe me, it does to me too). I do not take running lightly. It is critical to my being tolerable to the rest of the human race, so imagine how fun I am to be around in the winter. Two, Spring feels forever away. And I need the hope of Spring.

Continue reading “Combatting the Mid-Winter Blues”

Why Location Independence is Important for Us

Our family is on a journey to become location independent in the next three years. Currently, our plan is for either Mr. ThreeYear or me to take a job, since we won’t quite be ready to retire. If I take a job with an international American school, I will see if I can negotiate my boys attending as part of my compensation package.

What Does Location Independence Mean, Anyway?

Location independent means different things to different people. Some families, like Tsh from Art of Simple, take a year to travel around the world, spending days or weeks at each location. They’re free to travel because they can work remotely from anywhere.

Travel bloggers like Goats on the Road are permanent travelers, and spend months traveling around different continents, or house sit for a few months at a time between trips. They finance their trips through the income from blogging.

I know Our Next Life was strongly influenced by Robert and Robin Charlton, authors of How to Retire Early. In their book and blog, they spell out how they take frequent long trips throughout the year and return to their home base, a condo in Boulder, Colorado. They saved up a nest egg and retired early and now live off the proceeds.

Continue reading “Why Location Independence is Important for Us”

How to Run Your Own Race

“To be beautiful means to be yourself.” 

― Thich Nhat Hanh

About three years ago, I was talking to a friend about training for a half marathon. “I would really love to finally run a sub-two (13.1 miles in under 2 hours),” I told him, “like [our other running friends.] But I’m just so slow!” “You have to run your own race,” he told me.

Those words have stuck with me, probably because I struggle mightily with comparisons. I know, intellectually, that comparing yourself to others is the root of poor self-esteem. We all start at different places in life, and that if we compare one part of our life with someone else’s, we should compare every part of our life.
I know this. And yet… Continue reading “How to Run Your Own Race”

February 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 abroad. Each month, 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. (Wow, that is scary to type all those goals out in one place). In January, we made some solid progress toward those goals, and got 7% of the way to doubling our net worth.

Ah, February. Month of heavy snowfall and rampant sickness in the ThreeYear household. During the four weeks of February I took on a new side gig, we went skiing a few times, I took some more toys out of my kids’ rooms, and we reminisced about all the financial mistakes and gaffs we’ve made along our financial independence journey. Continue reading “February Net Worth Update”

A Year of Good Habits: Tomorrow’s Top Three

I’m going to spend each month of this year focused on building one new good habit to help our family achieve our goal of location independence, doubling our net worth, and moving abroad in three short years. This month, I’ll be focused on setting tomorrow’s top three goals.

Habits are the building blocks of our daily life, and I believe that focusing on replacing any bad or even “meh” financial and daily habits with good ones will put our goals into hyper-drive. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Tomorrow’s Top Three”