Winter, Hygge, and Embracing Home

I moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina to get away from massive snowfall. And I did, honestly. My old town in New Hampshire suffered through a record three snow days in November, way before the snow normally starts. While things were chilly in Charlotte, the ground was brown, not white.

Winter may be cold and dark, but there are ways to make your home cozy and family-focused, and save money to boot! @lauriethreeyear #cozyhome #hygge #frugalwinter #stayathome

But, irony of ironies, Winter Storm Diego hit us a couple of weeks ago and not only did we have two snow days of our own, we got a solid week before the white stuff melted.

Honestly, I was kinda digging it. While I can’t make it through seven long months of white ground, seven days is manageable. 

There’s something so cozy about winter. I find that in wintertime, December excluded, we tend to bunk down at home and spend more time together but less money. Probably because for the last few years, we’ve embraced the concept of hygge and home.

Hygge is, of course, the famous Danish concept of coziness. It’s the idea of making your home a warm and welcoming cave by lighting tea candles, building a great big fire (or turning up those gas logs), playing soothing music, and basically leaning in to the short, cold days of winter. Winter isn’t to be endured, according to the Danish, it’s to be embraced! 

Since we only have to embrace a few months of cold weather (and it’s currently 55), I’m more than happy to enjoy what little truly cold weather we have, and transform our new house into a cozy nook.

Continue reading “Winter, Hygge, and Embracing Home”

Will We Spend Less in Retirement?

About nine years ago, when Mr. ThreeYear and I began to wise up about our finances, we visited a financial planner and filled out a detailed survey. We didn’t have many assets to speak of, at the time, since we’d just gotten out of debt, but if the dude had been wise, he would have nurtured the relationship with us because he could have had very good future clients. He was not and we now manage our own investments, a scenario I am more than happy with. 

Traditional retirement planning says plan to spend 80-100% of what you spend now, adjusted upward for inflation, each and every year you're retired. But is that accurate? @lauriethreeyear #retireearly #retirementplanning #spendinginretirement #financialplanning

Even so, it was interesting to hear his predictions that we’d need about 80% of our income at retirement. Where did that number come from? In the years that followed, as I filled out online retirement calculators, I heard the figure repeated. 

Then, I began to learn more about the 4% rule, the oft-cited retirement rule-of-thumb (based on the Trinity Study) that cites evidence that if you withdraw 4% of your portfolio per year in retirement, adjusted annually for inflation, then your portfolio should easily last you 30 years (or more). Another way to look at the rule, popularized by the incontrovertible Mr. Money Mustache, is that you’ll need 25 times your annual spending invested in order to retire. This rule assumes that you’ll keep your spending relatively level in retirement, that is, you’ll spend a similar amount in retirement as you do now.  

Continue reading “Will We Spend Less in Retirement?”

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”

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”

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”

The Power of Waiting

There are few things in life I hate as much as waiting. I remember my grandmother reciting the lines to one of her favorite poems when I was little, as I jumped from one foot to the other, hurrying her along in my mind.

The Power of Waiting www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

“If a string is in a knot,
Patience will untie it.
Patience can do many things—
Did you ever try it?

If it was sold at any shop
I should like to buy it.
But you and I must find our own—
No other can supply it.”

My grandmother is a fairly patient woman. More importantly, she understands the power of patience. She is one half of the frugal dynamo comprising my maternal grandparents.

Leon

A little background, if you will. My mom’s parents were born at the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s and were Depression Babies. My grandfather Leon, especially, grew up in the middle of the tobacco fields and sharecroppers of central North Carolina. When he was a little boy, about Little ThreeYear’s age, his dad left, leaving my grandmother alone with two small children. My grandfather had to work in those same sharecropping fields, picking cotton and beans to make money so his mama and sister could eat. They’d trap rabbits for the occasional meat to add to their meals. They were so poor that food was a constant concern. Continue reading “The Power of Waiting”

The Art of Frugal Entertaining

One of the components of well-being, based on research by Martin Seligman and many others, is meaningful relationships. In a study done in the 1960s on the residents of the small community of Roseto, Pennsylvania, and reported on by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, researchers found that all of the residents in the community, who had immigrated from Roseto, Italy, had low incidences of heart disease and other illnesses and enjoyed long lives, despite the fact that they ate poorly, exercised little, and smoked heavily.

The Art of Frugal Entertaining www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Researchers were intrigued and spent several years figuring out the key to the unusual longevity and health the Roseto community enjoyed. Finally, it was determined that the key to the community’s good health was the tight-knit community, the feeling that there was always someone to whom residents could turn if they had a problem. Families and extended families were large and well-connected, and there was a deep sense of community in the town.

We are social creatures. Many of the things we do are for social reasons, whether or not we realize it. I am convinced that the terrible swath of gun violence in the US has come from increasing levels of isolation and loneliness in our society.

One of the reasons our family moved to North Carolina was to live closer to extended family and to cultivate a community of friends and neighbors with whom we had close relationships.

In order to cultivate those relationships, we’ve had to work at starting and nurturing those friendships.

Mr. ThreeYear and I picked the neighborhood we did precisely because it was bike able, kid-friendly, and “warm.” It’s lived up to our expectations. Just last week, Little ThreeYear was invited to ride his bike in the cup-de-sac with some classmates. Mr. ThreeYear and I have met all of our neighbors, and have started several friendships with neighbors with similar interests.

Despite our efforts, families with kids are busy with work, after-school activities, homework, and sports on the weekend. So finding time to hang out with our newfound friends will require some concerted effort on our parts.  Continue reading “The Art of Frugal Entertaining”

Is Focus is More Important than Intelligence?

Hi guys! We’re waiting for heavy rains and possible power outages with Hurricane Florence. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this post I wrote last year. Every word is as true (or truer!) today and I definitely need these reminders again, so I’m republishing. Have a good (and safe!) weekend!

I recently stumbled across this quote in an old journal, “Focus is more important than intelligence.” Is focus more important than intelligence? I certainly believe so, and I think the more I live and navigate smart phones and the beginning of the internet revolution, the more I realize that focus is essential to having a good life and making progress towards your goals. I’m sure I wrote it down because it resonated with me, and I felt it in my bones to be true. Also, focus is a struggle, each and every day, for me. I have two jobs, a husband who travels, kids to take to activities and appointments and help with homework, a Masters course, lesson plans, and this blog. It’s a lot of code switching.

Is Focus More Important Than Intelligence?

Why is focus so necessary nowadays and what can we do to get more?

Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, argues that focus is intelligence. He states that “focus is the new I.Q. in the knowledge economy, and that individuals who cultivate their ability to concentrate without distraction will thrive,” in his bio. His theory is that workers who will be most sought after in our new economy will be those who can quickly master hard things and those who produce at an elite level. Both of these qualities require focus, he argues.

Newport is an author and professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, and he’s fairly young, young enough to have had social media around in college. But he’s always been very careful where he puts his attention, shunning social media from the start.

“Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction,” he says. For Newport, standing in line at a supermarket is a chance to practice letting our minds wander, rather than checking our social media accounts. The more we wean ourselves from technology and constant distraction, he argues, the better we’ll eventually get at working at a deeper level. Like anything, he argues, it takes practice, and in today’s highly distractible world, it is not a common commodity to have.

No More Social Media?

If you don’t wean yourself from a dependence on your smart phone, or something else that distracts you constantly, then you won’t be able to perform at such elite levels of focus. But how? Continue reading “Is Focus is More Important than Intelligence?”