5 Frugal Lessons I’ve Learned From My In-Laws

5 Frugal Lessons--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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”

The Story of a Book

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.

The Story of a Book--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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”

How to Cut the Cord: Guest Post on 99 to 1 Percent

Our family is on a three-year journey to double our net worth, sell our house, and become location independent–in other words, to cut the cord and travel.

If you haven’t read our complete story, it was just featured on the blog 99to1Percent.

How to Cut the Cord--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

99 to 1 Percent

Here’s a sample:

Have you ever woken up to a truly terrible winter day, with snow and sleet pouring down, gray clouds and cold everywhere, and thought, “Get me out of here! I want to live somewhere warm and tropical!” before you pulled the covers back over your head? Continue reading “How to Cut the Cord: Guest Post on 99 to 1 Percent”

Location Independence, International Jobs: Jim from Route to Retire

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.  

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

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.

We have a seven-year-old daughter and she’s the most amazing kid in the world. She actually recently wrote part of the second most popular post on my blog’s site titled “Like Father, Like Daughter….” I love her more than anything and she’s really the catalyst for why I want to retire early. It sincerely crushed me that I had to go to work every day shortly after she was born instead of spending those first few years with her. Continue reading “Location Independence, International Jobs: Jim from Route to Retire”

5 Proven Hacks to Overcome Anxiety

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.

5 Proven Hacks to Overcome Anxiety--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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.

Exercise

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.

Running trail---www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
If you can get out in nature and run, or take a walk, chances are the crazy calming effects of nature will soon take hold.

Continue reading “5 Proven Hacks to Overcome Anxiety”

When Life Gives You a Kick in the Pants

Last week I got some news. One of my English Language Learner students, a newcomer with whom I’d spent several hours a day, was returning to her home country.

Kick in the Pants--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

How thrilling for her! She is Puerto Rican and came to New Hampshire after Hurricane Maria. As much as she likes our school and learning English, she left most of her family there, including her dad, her dog, and her cat. And she misses the warmth! She misses going to the beach every day. Now she gets to go home. She is so happy.

As excited as I am for her, I’m bummed for myself. Because I worked with her so much each day, I’ll now have a lot less to do each day. And my income will drop significantly. I enjoyed teaching her, and all of the hours I worked with her provided a significant bump in my paycheck. This is a downside of being a contractual ESOL Teacher, though. I can’t choose how many students I work with–it’s entirely dependent upon who moves into the district. Continue reading “When Life Gives You a Kick in the Pants”

The Average Joe’s Ultimate Guide to Getting Out of Debt

What would your life look like with no more payments? No more car payments. No more credit card payments. No more student loan payments. How much extra money would that give you? Imagine the freedom to travel, to build your dream house, to finally retire. It’s a new year. And a chance to finally, once and for all, get out of debt. But what if you’ve tried before, and nothing’s worked? Or you’ve gotten out of debt only to get back into debt?

Average Joe Ultimate Guide Debt--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

If you’re reading this, you may have an overwhelming amount of debt to tackle. Or you may be a personal finance guru, and need this advice like you need an extra helping of pasta with dinner.

Never fear! This guide is designed to help you get out of debt, but much of this advice will also work for other large, looming goals you’ve set for the year.

But why, you may be asking yourself, should I listen to this random voice on the internet? What does she know about how to get out of debt or how to accomplish my goals?

Our Story

I have written every detail of how Mr. ThreeYear and I managed to get out of debt in this post and this follow up post, but in case you’re new, here’s a recap.

When Mr. ThreeYear and I got married, we were both debt free. This is something of a miracle when most college graduates finish college with debt. According to Tica, The Insitute for College Access and Success, 76% of graduates from New Hampshire, where we live, have college debt upon graduating as undergraduates, and the average debt burden is $33,410. That’s for undergraduate education!

I was fortunate to have scholarships to college and parents who paid the rest. Mr. ThreeYear was fortunate to live in a country where undergraduate education is more reasonably priced: Chile. When we met (in said country), neither of us had any debt. We spent a few years living like the DINKS we were, but Mr. ThreeYear’s way: we bought everything in cash. If we couldn’t afford to buy it with cash, we couldn’t afford it. I scoffed at Mr. ThreeYear as he saved up to buy a car, in cash. “Why don’t you just take out a car loan?” He looked at me like I was crazy. “I don’t want to take out a car loan! I’ll just wait and buy it when I have enough money.”

hiking in Chile--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Mr. and Mrs. ThreeYear, very long ago, in Chile.

Two years later, we moved to the States. We moved to the fast and furious city of Atlanta, where Mr. ThreeYear, and then I, found jobs, and slowly, every-so-slowly, we began to adopt the Atlanta way of life. First, we bought a house. We had been renting a very nice, 1100-square-foot apartment that was 15 minutes away from Mr. ThreeYear’s job (it was literally two miles away from us, but you know, Atlanta traffic). It had tennis courts and a pool, and a low rent (we paid around $850 a month for a two-bedroom in the heart of the city), but we decided we should buy a house, instead. Continue reading “The Average Joe’s Ultimate Guide to Getting Out of Debt”

To Sell or Not to Sell?

Our family has been planning to become location independent and move for a while, now. Our dream is to double our net worth by the time I’m 40, and find jobs that will allow us to travel more, split our time between two continents, or live in a foreign country for a few years. Because… we only have one life, right? And the kids will be little for like ten more seconds and then they’ll be grown… but making the decision to sell our house? It’s not easy.

To Sell or Not to Sell?--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

One of the reasons we travel so much is to remind ourselves that there is another way to live than the way we currently do. We are a family of habit, and it’s easy to become so immersed in the routine of our daily lives that we never question our decisions or habits.

But one question that Mr. ThreeYear and I have had nagging at the back of our minds for a while now is… should we sell our house and find a smaller place to rent?As I wrote about in The Best Way to Avoid Lifestyle Creep, keeping your housing costs low is key to financial independence. And we’ve had the unsettling suspicion that our house is a little too big for us for awhile.

After we got back from Chile last week, that suspicion was confirmed. We spent most of our time in Santiago staying in a less-than-600-square-foot (52 sq. meter) apartment. It was small, and with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, was extremely space efficient. Yes, it was a little tight sometimes, and cooking was a bit difficult. But there were definite benefits, as well. One benefit was the shared space. We were able to go downstairs and use the common areas for the Junior ThreeYears to ride their scooter, or swim in the pool. There were tons of other kids playing, too, and while there wasn’t a lot of interaction, because of the language barrier, that would definitely change if the kids had spoken the same language.

Chilean apartment--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
We made living in a tiny space work for us while we were in Chile.

While we were in the apartment itself, we didn’t get in each other’s way, surprisingly. The boys each had their own bedrooms, and they’d take their few toys we had packed and go play or read in their rooms. We did homework each morning on the small round breakfast table, then would move the school books to another part of the apartment when it was time for lunch. I even lost Junior ThreeYear in that tiny space at one point! (He was on the balcony, reading, and I didn’t see him because of the curtains).

The thing that was so nice about the small space was that we were together, we were cozy, and we were able to enjoy each other’s presence. Our current house is so big that we can’t see or hear each other when we’re in our rooms, and it can feel lonely. Most of our time is spent in the common area, our dining and living rooms, which are basically one big space (and are larger than the entire apartment in Chile, by the way).

Little ThreeYear has grabbed my hand at several points since we’ve been back and asked me to come with him to some remote part of the house, “because I’m scared to go to the basement alone, Mama.” Our basement, by the way, is not a dark, bare-boned forgotten space in the bottom of the house. It is finished, carpeted, and filled with Little ThreeYear’s toys, as well as a comfy couch and chairs. But after all that togetherness in Chile, Little ThreeYear feels lonely in the vast swath of basement without another person.

Basement--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Our basement at home is bigger than the entire apartment in Chile.

But does it make sense to sell our beautiful home, which we bought in a short sale at a very good price, with its spacious backyard, forest hiding-spots, and ample space for visitors, to move to a condo with no garage (a huge negative during New Hampshire winters), much less space, and community fees? Get more info on garage and its maintenance. Continue reading “To Sell or Not to Sell?”

2018 Goals Revealed!

Ahh, a brand-new year. There’s something so beautiful in the promise of the next 12 months, yet unfettered by mistakes or regrets. I am, without a doubt, a goal-oriented individual. Mr. ThreeYear eye-rolls, my family cringes, but I absolutely love setting and achieving goals. Last month, when we’d paid off our two outstanding debts, it felt so good to feel the finality of all that hard work and singular focus. And it feels really good not to have those payments coming up this month.

2018 Goals Revealed--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

My 2018 Goal Sheet

As I did last year, I have a Goal Sheet for 2018. And like last year, I’ve followed a similar format to setting up my goals, with one notable exception (or addition, I should say). Continue reading “2018 Goals Revealed!”

A Year of Good Food: Spending Less and Eating Well

It’s incredible to believe that we’ve completed one year of our Three Year Experiment! Our goal as a family is to double our net worth and become location independent within three years, or right as I turn 40. Our family currently lives in New Hampshire, which is a beautiful state, but far from both my and my husband’s families. And so cold! For someone who’s suffered from seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) for years, winters are really tough for me.

Year of Good Food--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

So, we sat down just over a year ago, and created the big, hairy, audacious goal of doubling our net worth in just three years, so we wouldn’t be as dependent on traditional jobs and therefore not as tied to one place. Our dream is to be able to split time between two continents, or perhaps move to an international country for several years, and travel extensively, as we love to do.

Further Reading:

Last year I dubbed “A Year of Good Habits.” Each month of the year, I focused on adopting one new habit to help us achieve our goal (I wrote about the results of that experiment here). I found that yes, making your bed each day does help you get better at financial stuff. Strange, but true. When you start the day with small accomplishments, you start to believe you’re someone who gets things done. You begin to trust yourself more. And that trust carries over into how you manage your money, how you spend, and how much you save. We were able to save up cash for several costly home repairs, completely pay off our apartment in Chile, and kill our last car loan. We increased our net worth by more than 32%, getting us really close to hitting 1/3 of our goal of doubling our net worth in Year One.

Since last year’s experiment was such a success, I thought this year needed its own theme, a new challenge. Mr. ThreeYear and I sat down and talked about the one thing that we could do to help us reach our goal more easily. Both of us decided that we could do better in food spending. In 2017, our average monthly spending was $966. We spent almost $12,000 in just groceries last year. While we live in an expensive part of the country for food, we feel that we waste a lot of food, and could do much better at our food spending. Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Spending Less and Eating Well”