A Frugal Reputation Pays

When we lived in New Hampshire, it was pretty standard to be frugal. New England is a region of the country that was settled by English Puritans. A group of Puritans settled the area around Boston back in 1640 in order to escape increasing religious persecution in England.

A Frugal Reputation Pays www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Putting aside the theological, Puritans believed in living Godly lives both as individuals and as a community. They believed that hard work was the epitome of such a life, and eschewed owning servants or slaves for that reason. They stripped their daily lives of “worldly distractions” such as entertainment and ornate adornments or decorations in the house.

Fast forward four hundred years, and the descendants of that group continue to value some of those core beliefs, like dressing simply and practically (trust me when I tell you that makeup and highlights aren’t big in New England), using their resources wisely (ie being frugal!), and simple entertaining (people don’t have big parties and it isn’t very common to be invited over to your neighbors’ house for dinner).

Our family moved to New Hampshire from Atlanta. Atlanta is a… little bit different than that. We were used to showy Atlanta, where there were McMansions on every corner, people drive fancy, pricey cars, and showed off their latest designer purses, nails, and haircuts.

Needless to say, I loved the frugal aspects of life in New England (except the no-entertaining part. That really stunk).

I embraced the way people wore the same jeans from 1990 with absolutely no compunction (I was just checking to make sure you were paying attention. I did NOT wear mom jeans while I lived there! Much). When I’d get together with other moms for playdates with their kids, we’d go to a no-cost park or the library and would bring our lunches.

running --www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Me and my running friends, eschewing makeup and fancy clothes.

Continue reading “A Frugal Reputation Pays”

8 Cheap Purchases that Have Lasted Years

There’s something to be said for well-made items, items you can depend on to last you for years. Many times, we expect these products to cost an arm and a leg. But this post is a homage to ten items that were cheap, and have lasted me years and years.

8 Cheap Purchases that Have Lasted Years

On Friday, I wrote about ten items that I’ve spent a lot of money on that I absolutely love. These days, I’m working to conscientiously buy products that are well-made and will last, so that I won’t have to repeat buy these products again.

But you don’t always need to buy such expensive products to find items that will last. Sometimes, you stumble upon jewels that are inexpensive and will last for years. Here is a list of my favorites:

Rain jacket

In 2008, when Junior Three Year was just one, my grandmother took our entire family on an Alaskan cruise. It was amazing. Mr. ThreeYear and I were newly married, battling layoffs, and adjusting to one income, so we had very little extra money for the trip. We needed to get a rain jacket for the inevitable sprinkles of the Alaskan climate, so I headed to Walmart to see what they had. I found a jacket that cost about $16, and brought it with me. It was made by a brand I’d never heard of, Stearns. Continue reading “8 Cheap Purchases that Have Lasted Years”

10 Expensive Purchases that Were Worth Every Cent

I love a deal as much as the next person, but as I’ve embraced minimalism over the years, I’ve begun to make an effort to buy fewer, better things.

10 Expensive Purchases that Were Worth Every Cent www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Mrs. Frugalwoods writes a great post about why “Buy It for Life” isn’t necessarily a foolproof frugal plan, and I agree with her on many of her points. In fact, I have a “8 Cheap Buys that Have Lasted Years” post highlighting the things I’ve bought for cheap that have lasted.

But this post is not about those purchases. This post is about the things that I have consciously spent more money on, in order to get a quality product that:

a. I love and

b. will last.

I think that the common denominator of these items is that I love them, that they “spark joy” every time I touch them, use them, or look at them. Because I’ve ended up using these items so often and sometimes, for so many years, the cost per use of each item is incredibly low. They have, indeed, been worth every cent.

Here is a caveat: I only bought about half of these products full-price. The frugal side of me always looks for a way to get quality goods for less. I bought in outlet stores, at company sales, and at discount stores. Once you’ve identified the product you want, it pays to shop around and shop strategically.

But in the end, I recommend buying the exact size, style, and color you want. Don’t compromise just because something’s on sale. You won’t be as happy if you do.

I’ve also linked to where you can get your own if you so desire. These aren’t affiliate links; I just want to share great products with people who’ll appreciate them if you’re in the market for any of these items.

If you are interested in finding quality items that last, or that come with a lifetime warranty, I recommend the excellent site Buy Me Once. They have a selection of well-curated, well-made products that will last you a long time. Continue reading “10 Expensive Purchases that Were Worth Every Cent”

Why a Prepaid Disney Vacation is the Best Vacation

Have you ever taken a prepaid vacation? Maybe you went to an all-inclusive resort, a cruise, or a tour vacation. By prepaying before you go on the trip, you cover the cost of lodging, food, transportation, and oftentimes gratuities and incidentals like phone calls. We just got back from a prepaid Disney vacation, and I am convinced it’s the best way to enjoy Disney World.

Why a Prepaid Disney Vacation is the Best Vacation www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Our family got back from our epic week-long Disney trip two weeks ago. It was the very first trip Mr. ThreeYear, Junior Three Year, and Little Three Year had ever taken to Disney World. I’ve been several times throughout my life, but we were never interested in making a trip with the boys until now.

First of all, my brother-in-law is a big Disney fan. He and my sister have gone multiple times since they’ve been married six years ago, and they invited us to go with them about a year ago when they started planning the trip. Second, they agreed to plan 100% of the trip for us. If you’ve ever been to Disney, you know that to get the best experience requires some major planning. And my brother-in-law was more than up to the task.

He read Disney blogs, researched the ways to get the best deals on places to stay, reserved our fast passes exactly sixty days before we left so we could get the best ones, and even filled out our online Disney Destinations profiles for us. All we had to do was pay for the trip and show up.

Disney World is very expensive, unfortunately, especially when it comes to food, so we made the decision to go all-out on this trip, which will be our one and only Disney trip while the boys are young.

Here’s how we did it. Continue reading “Why a Prepaid Disney Vacation is the Best Vacation”

Our Money Catastrophe: Guest Post on Money with a Purpose

Hi there! Today I’ve written a guest post over at the excellent site, Money with a Purpose. Money with a Purpose is a personal finance blog run by Fred Leamnson, a financial advisor who writes about money, but also shares the hard stuff, like the emotional and financial implications of addiction in your adult children. He talks honestly and compassionately about such a difficult topic, and it’s one that he’s lived (and is living) through.

Our Money Catastrophe: Guest Post on Money with a Purpose www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Fred has a new series called Overcoming Adversity about people who live through money catastrophes, so I volunteered to share ours. I’ve never shared it on the blog before, so you should check it out!

Here’s the first part:

Tell Us About Yourself.

I’m Laurie, a 39-year-old teacher, mom, and personal finance blogger. I write about location independence for families on my blog, The Three Year Experiment. I have one husband (I don’t think I could handle more) and two boys aged 11 and 8, who go by Junior and Little ThreeYear on the blog.

My family currently lives in North Carolina, which is a story in and of itself. We just moved to a delightful little town called Davidson in July, and we are location independent, as Mr. ThreeYear and I both work from home.

new neighborhood Davidson nc www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Our new neighborhood in North Carolina.

Currently, I’m a freelance writer and blogger, although I will probably return to my day job, teaching English as a Second Language, next year. I took a year off to help the boys get settled in their new schools. We also just got a puppy named Lucy, which is a bit like having another kid, so I’m busy with her as well.

We love to travel, especially to South America, where my husband is from, and to Charleston, SC, where we enjoy time at our family beach house.
I wish I had fascinating things to tell you about how I spend my time. But the truth is that I do very mundane things. Some things I’ve done this week: walk the dog, buy groceries, read The Rational Optimist, visit my son’s school counselor, make an appointment with the pediatrician, make bread, write a couple of freelance articles, drink gallons of coffee, pick up some scones at the coffee shop and eat them with my sister, talk to Mr. ThreeYear on the phone (he’s on a work trip), rescue a kid out of a tree, clean up dog throw-up (she ate a sock), and fold four loads of laundry. Fun times.

Lucy dog in bathroom www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
She’s cute, but a lot of work.

Tell us a little bit about your career path.

My career path, like the career path of many married women who decide to become stay-at-home moms, is irrevocably intertwined with that of my husband.

When I started out in the workplace, I was living in Santiago, Chile. My first real job was working with exchange students at the Catholic University of Chile’s Business School. I negotiated exchange contracts with international universities, oversaw the application process, built a website, and counseled both international and Chilean students on the exchange process. It was a job I completed mostly in Spanish, my second language, so to say it was challenging would be an understatement.

When Mr. ThreeYear and I moved back to the US two years later, to start our “real” careers (that was how I thought of things at the time), he quickly got a job with a Fortune 500 corporation, but I couldn’t find a job anywhere. I eventually took a job as an intern at an advertising agency, at 25 years old (unpaid!), working my way up to Account Executive in two years. Then, I got pregnant with Junior ThreeYear. Suddenly, all my career aspirations took a back seat to motherhood. As soon as I held my son, I knew I couldn’t let him grow up in daycare. There was no job that I wanted to do badly enough to let someone else raise him.

I am ALL FOR working moms. My sister has always worked, my mom worked while we were growing up, and I love and admire moms who do it. In fact, most of my friends and family were absolutely shocked that I chose to be a stay-at-home mom to my boys. But it turns out that the thing I’ve come back to, again and again, is raising my kids, wanting to give them as much of my time and presence as I can.

This meant, starting in 2008, that Mr. ThreeYear was the sole income provider. It was pretty stressful, considering we lost 45% of our salary and his company had had six cycles of layoffs in the previous five years. In addition to being a stay-at-home-mom, I also became emotional support and cheerleader for my husband, giving him pep talks, helping him write and rewrite important emails, encouraging him when he felt overwhelmed or stressed. His success was my success, and I did what I could to keep things running smoothly at home so he could focus at work.

For the rest of the conversation (and the money catastrophe), head over to Fred’s site, Money with a Purpose

Two Years of Blogging

“Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto

Me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto

Así yo distingo dicha de quebranto,

Los dos materiales que forman mi canto,

Y el canto de ustedes que es mi mismo canto,

Y el canto de todos que es mi propio canto.”

Violeta Parra

Yesterday was my blog’s two-year anniversary. Last year my anniversary slipped by, unnoticed, but this year, as I’m just back from FinCon, the financial bloggers’ conference, I’ve been more introspective.

When I started my blog, at first, I posted about once a month. I was scared, frankly. I didn’t know what I was doing and sent the poor guys at Squidix, my web host, emails about every other day because the back end stuff was over my head.

And honestly, I wasn’t sure that my plan, the one I’d announced so grandiosely but still felt so tentative about, would really work.

I mean, location independence? What did that even mean?

I puttered on with my monthly posts for a while, and then, in January 2017, I had the profound good fortune to meet up with Liz of the Frugalwoods blog. She is, in person, just like she is on the blog. Frugal, of course (we met up in a local library after Littlewoods had a playgroup and ate our brown bag lunches together), but also down-to-earth, approachable, and nice. She’s also really good at blogging. Not in the “make a bunch of affiliate income” way, but in the “setting goals and creating an engaged audience” kind of way. Continue reading “Two Years of Blogging”

Making Money Simple

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

One of the ways that Mr. ThreeYear and I have been able to succeed over the years is to radically simplify life.

Making Money Simple www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

As we get older, life has gotten more complicated. There are more apps you should be using, more activities to choose from, more long-form articles to read, more appointments and check-ups.

And, if you haven’t noticed, there’s a reason that things are legitimately harder for adults nowadays. With the advent of technology, the burden of completing many of the services that used to be done by others is now on us. We used to have attendants to pump our gas, travel agents to book our flights, telephone operators to connect our calls. But these, and thousands of other tasks, have been shifted to the consumer during the last several generations, leaving us with more to do than ever. Sure, we’ve saved money in the process, but the result is that we’re so busy straining to keep up with the overwhelming amount of small tasks to complete, that it’s hard to keep up.

About four years ago, I began to embrace the idea of less. I embraced the KonMari method, getting rid of about 35% of our stuff, including about 30 boxes of books that I’d kept since school, 70% of the kids’ toys that were broken or they no longer played with, half of my clothes that I didn’t wear, and pictures, mementos, and tchotchkes that didn’t serve any particular purpose. Continue reading “Making Money Simple”

3 Specific Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Life

Happy Monday! A new week for me feels like a fresh start, especially after two unexpected hurricane days for the boys that decimated my productivity at the end of last week.

to Improve Your Life www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

After (another) four-day weekend courtesy of Hurricane Michael (which brought a lot more rain and wind-related damage than its cousin Florence, with only a modicum of hype), this new week filled with five beautiful days of school for my kids feels like a gift.

Speaking of gifts, I’ve been relishing some quick wins lately. There are pockets of my house that are still, shall we say, disastrous, even four months into our move, and the small things I’ve been able to do to stay sane have been lifelines.

The Closet of Horrors www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
The closet of horrors, aka the guest room closet.

So, in the spirit of small wins, here are three things you can do right now to feel more in control, focused, and orderly, today.  Continue reading “3 Specific Steps You Can Take Right Now to Improve Your Life”

A Year of Good Food: No Focus

Hello October. Boy, I’m glad September’s over. Let’s see how our family did while I was on my Whole 30 challenge.

A Year of Good Food: No Focus www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

If you’re not familiar with the beast that is Whole30, let me give you the rundown: it’s basically an elimination diet, where you cut out anything that tastes good. Well, alcohol, dairy, grains, added sugars of any kind, and baked goods. You can eat meat, nuts, vegetables including sweet and white potatoes (I ate a lot of those), olives, and fruits. There’s no calorie counting so you can eat as much as you want but you can’t eat even one bite of a forbidden food. Bread? Forget it. A cookie? After 30 days are up, my friend.

Why would anyone subscribe to this torture, you may be asking? A lot of people (including me) are plagued with stomach issues, and an elimination diet can help you suss out which foods cause you problems. Some people even get migraines because of their food sensitivities, which I just found out after a conversation at FinCon, the financial bloggers’ conference.

So September was dedicated to eating this way for 30 days. I did it. But it was hard. And it was hard on the budget. (My attitude was also not the best, as you can probably tell. That’s on me, because there were some real and important benefits to eliminating so many foods, namely, that it allowed me to notice how food makes me feel).

Why a Grocery Challenge?

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, we spent most of our grocery budget on whole foods, nuts, and olive oil. That stuff ain’t cheap.

September

In addition to completing Whole30, we were in the first month of school, had Hurricane Florence pass through, hosted visitors, went out of town for a wedding, and I went to FinCon, the financial bloggers’ conference in Orlando, Florida.

We’re just finding our rhythms, especially as we’ve yet to complete a full week of school/work with no interruptions.

I’ve been grocery shopping at Aldi on Fridays when I can (great day to buy your groceries because they restock the store that day and there aren’t a lot of people shopping for food) but because of all the disruptions, interruptions, and trips, it wasn’t as organized as in the past.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: No Focus”

Your Three Year Experiment: Claudia from Two Cup House

Hi there! It’s Wednesday and time for another installment of Your Three Year Experiment, featuring people who are sharing their own three year experiments–their plans, goals, and dreams for the next three years. 

Your Three Year Experiment: Claudia from Two Cup House www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Today’s post is from Claudia from Two Cup House. Claudia is a personal finance blogger, SEO consultant, and trainer who moved into a tiny house with her husband Garrett in order to get closer to financial independence. 

Claudia and her husband paid off six figures in debt in just a few years by downsizing to a tiny house and starting their own business. Now, they’re pursuing FI, but not RE (that’s financial independence, but not retiring early). Read on to find out:

  • how they were able to pay off $200,000 in a short time
  • how they’ll balance building their business with travel
  • the one place in their budget they’re not frugal

If you’d like to be featured in the series, send me a note! My contact info is on the Start Here page.

What’s your background? Early years, education, married, kids, jobs?

We grew up in different parts of Pennsylvania and have spent most of our lives here.  Unsurprisingly, we’re Penn State grads.

My husband, Garrett, and I live in a 500 sq ft house in Lancaster County, PA.  We don’t have kids (and don’t plan to have kids).

Today, we’re self-employed.  We run our own marketing consulting and training business.  

Two Cup House at the beach www.thethreeeyearexperiment.com
Claudia and Garrett at the beach, enjoying the fruits of being location independent.

 

Continue reading “Your Three Year Experiment: Claudia from Two Cup House”