The Financial Domino Effect

Have you ever made a change in your life–maybe a huge one, like getting out of debt, or maybe a small one, like deciding not to buy takeout coffee–that in turn, caused benefits that you never imagined?

The Financial Domino Effect--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Maybe getting out of debt made you realize that your house was too big, so you decided to move into something smaller. Maybe not buying takeout coffee helped you realize you could save in other small areas, and after a few months, you ended up with enough to go on a trip to Florida.

This is the financial domino effect, and it happened to me.

Like a chain of dominoes, where one tile makes the whole line fall down, one seemingly small change in your life creates scenarios that make it more likely you’ll create other small changes.

via GIPHY

One action that is, on the surface, completely unrelated to another action, causes the start of a wave of behaviors that can ultimately change your financial life. Continue reading “The Financial Domino Effect”

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. I have used this mega guide of his and adapted some of the methods or ticks to my family with varying success. 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”

A Year of Good Habits: End of Year Reflections

Happy New Year! As this post is being published, it is now 2018. I hope you’re having a great year so far!

Just under a year ago, I started writing this blog in earnest. I published a few posts in the fall of 2016, but had done absolutely nothing to promote them. In January of 2017, though, I began commenting under others’ posts and listing my website. Mrs. Frugalwoods, who lives close to me, graciously met with me, and she filled me with inspiration and practical ideas, as she is wont to do. I went home from that meeting with a lot of ideas percolating, one of which was to start blogging about the habits that could help me in achieving our family’s goal of doubling our net worth and becoming location independent in three years, which I dubbed “A Year of Good Habits.”

A Year of Good Habits End of Year Reflections: www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

The idea came in part from Charless Duhigg’s infinitely practical book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessDuhigg is great at telling stories, and one of the stories he told really stuck with me: there was a young woman named Lisa who was overweight and a smoker. She was in debt and had never held a job for longer than a year. Her husband had just announced he was going to divorce her, so she took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Cairo, because she hadn’t yet maxed out her credit cards and had always wanted to see Egypt. One morning on her trip, after feeling helpless about the life she faced back home, she got in a cab and rode by the Pyramids. She decided, as she saw The Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, that the only way to change her life was to set a goal to work toward. So she decided to come back to Egypt in a year and trek the desert.

In order to do that, she knew she would have to quit smoking. So she went back to the US, gave up cigarettes, and started jogging. Replacing that one bad habit with a good one led to a series of new habits that changed how she ate, slept, exercised, worked, and organized her day. She eventually started running half marathons, then marathons, then went back to school to get her masters, bought a house, and got engaged. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: End of Year Reflections”

A Year of Good Habits: Laugh

After getting up today, for the second day in a row, at 5am (okay, it was 5:09; I pushed the Snooze button once), I’m reminded of why habits are so important in my life. When life gets busy, I can fall back on my habits to help me cope. And life has gotten really busy. We are racing toward the finish line with our to-do list to get ready for our trip to Chile. It feels like every second of my day is booked with something to do.

A Year of Good Habits: Laugh--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

So getting up at 5am, which I’ve been moderately successful at over the last month, has given me time and space that is unscheduled. I can write, think, make goals for next year, and all that nerdy financial stuff my family rolls their eyes at.

It’s amazing that this is the last month of my A Year of Good Habits year-long experiment within our larger three-year experiment. Focusing on a different habit each month has brought me awareness of how important these rituals are to my short- and long-term happiness. I’ve undertaken eleven habits so far, some for the whole year and some for just a time, but they have all helped me realize how my life has improved by changing my behavior.

I’ve also undertaken a few habits I haven’t written about in my Year of Good Habits, for one reason or another, mainly because I thought they wouldn’t apply to a wider population of readers. I stopped drinking alcohol at the end of June and started intermittent fasting at the beginning of August. I had been having some health problems, and changing what (and how much) I eat and drink has radically changed my health for the better–plus I’ve lost fourteen pounds! The health problems, including my stomach and lower back pain, have virtually disappeared. I’ll write about both topics in future posts, because they’ve contributed to our Three Year Experiment in major ways.

December’s Habit

Inspired by Amy at Life Zimplified, I’m going to make it a habit to Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Laugh”

A Year of Good Habits: Get Up at 5am

My family has launched a three-year endeavor to double our net worth and become location independent. This is the first year of our plan. This year, in an effort to help myself develop good habits to keep us saving and investing, and generally developing efficient uses of our money, time, and energy, I’ve taken on one habit for each month of the year (if you want to read them all, starting from January, click here).

A Year of Good Habits: Get Up at 5am---www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I’m down to the final two months, and two habits, of the year. Some have been successful, some have been abysmal failures; all have taught me something about myself. I learned that making your bed everyday really is a key ingredient to starting the day successfully. I also learned that writing down the top three things I’m going to tackle in a day doesn’t work for me–I tend to plan and think along weekly, rather than daily, lines.

So what habits should I undertake for November and December? Sometimes, getting back to the basics is key, and for November, I decided to resurrect a key habit that brings contentment and completion to my days.

The ThreeYears are reacquainting ourselves with electricity after not having any for several days. A wind storm took out the power for most of the residents in our town, and crews from Maine and Massachusetts usually deployed to help us out during power outages were busy getting lines up in their states. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Get Up at 5am”

Effort, Achievement, and FI

As educators, wrote an article I recently read, we must teach our students the relationship between effort and achievement. That is to say, there is a direct correlation between the effort we expend on a particular endeavor and the likelihood that we’ll have success in said endeavor.

Effort, Achievement, and FI--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This may sound like a basic concept, but, like so many basic concepts, once you take a minute to unpack it, it has profound implications.

The more effort I put into something, the more likely I am to have good results. 

Many times, I water that advice down in my head. I pretend there’s not a direct correlation between my level of effort and my achievements: “I’ll just run three times this week instead of four. I’ll skip the mid-range run.” Every time I skip a mid-range 6-mile run, my longer 10-12 mile run is super painful and I’m slower. Over an entire training period, that means I’ll run (even) slower on race day.

“I’m tired, so I’ll wake up at 6am instead of 5am. I can still write a blog post.” That’s when I publish 2 posts per week, not three. Over time, I notice my page views slipping and readership going down.

“I’ll just wing it in class, instead of preparing a lesson plan for the week. I can prep before class each day.” My classes are not as good, I’m scrambling for activities to fill the time, and over time, my students don’t make as much progress learning English.

The truth is, consistent, daily effort pays off. It pays off in life, and it pays off (literally) when you’re working towards financial independence.

Making More Money

In the past two and a half years, I have expended a great deal of effort towards my new career–ESOL Teacher. When I started teaching in September of 2015, I knew very little about teaching English. I worked very hard to network with other teachers, observe their lessons, ask questions, and take copious notes. I started a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and many nights and weekends were spent reading, on our online classroom, or in class, an hour and a half away. Continue reading “Effort, Achievement, and FI”

A Year of Good Habits: Quarter Three Update

We have officially completed the first quarter of the year! We’re calling this year, which is Year One of our family’s plan to reach location independence, the Year of Good Habits. Each month, I focus on improving or developing one new habit. Sometimes the habits are directly related to personal finance and sometimes they’re related to general self-improvement.  At the end of each month, I have been continuing the last month’s habit (or trying to) and adding a new habit in. (But, just for totally transparency, I would not recommend starting so many new habits in one year for the average person. This is more an experiment for the blog. In real life, I try to add in one or two new habits a year).

A Year of Good Habits Quarter Three Update: www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

In his book Happier, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar talks about creating rituals. He takes an idea from The Power of Full Engagement and recommends that “instead of focusing on self-discipline as a key to change,” we should instead develop rituals. Developing rituals involves  “defining very precise behaviors and performing them at very specific times, motivated by deeply held values.” For example, brushing your teeth is a ritual and doesn’t take any special self-discipline to complete. Hygiene is a deeply held value for many of us, so brushing our teeth is something we do each day. Making an activity part of your daily life and making it value based, rather than discipline based, is an excellent way to create a lifelong habit.  Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Quarter Three Update”

A Year of Good Habits: Practicing Gratitude

It’s a busy time in the ThreeYear household. School (which is work, for me) has started. We’re on tight schedules, up early, and racing to get ready for our days in the mornings.

In the afternoons, we have swimming, soccer, and homework. My older son has lots of homework this year and a large part of my afternoons are spent managing that (i.e., making sure he’s actually doing it).

Practicing Gratitude--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Weekends feel impossibly brief, especially since I’m taking a class on Saturday mornings and am gone from 8am-1pm.

It is a transition time, a time when our lives have changed radically from one season to the next. We have to give ourselves time to figure out these new rhythms in our days. I have to remind myself to prioritize sleep over almost everything (I’m so tired that I’m usually ready for sleep by about 8:30, but then again I do get up at 5am).

So what is a habit that can possibly support me this month? Picking going to bed early wouldn’t be super helpful, because I go to bed as soon as I can every night. Luckily, I’ve already developed the habit of keeping my phone and Ipad in another room, so I’m not tempted to scroll through them right before bed. That’s helped me tremendously, because I’m almost never tempted to stay up late (unless I’m reading a really good library book).  Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Practicing Gratitude”

A Year of Good Habits: No Eating Out

For the past three days, we’ve had Mr. ThreeYear’s cousin and her family staying with us. We’ve been living the best of August. Mr. ThreeYear took a couple of days off work, and we’ve been showing our family our town’s local lake, a craft fair, a dairy farm, and more. The five cousins have been playing, building forts, swimming, and eating ice cream (okay, the adults have enjoyed that one, too).

No Eating Out--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

The weather has been warm in the day and cool in the mornings and evenings. In short, they’ve gotten to see the best of our area while they’re here. One of the nice things about their trip is that we’ve eaten all our meals, save one, at home. Since they’re Chilean, we’ve eaten the most delicious Chilean meals–empanadas, ceviche, and we had a killer asado. Asados are barbecues (not the Southern kind) where you cook chicken, sausages, and steak on the grill, then you make simple salads to accompany all the meat. Did I take pictures of any of this? Of course not. I was too busy eating! But it’s been delicious. All the delicious home-cooked food inspired this month’s habit. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: No Eating Out”

Tools of the Frugal Trade

There are certain tools that I believe are essential for saving money and getting longer life out of your possessions, especially in your home.  The following is a list of my tools of the frugal trade, simple tools or ingredients that I use time and again for saving money.

Frugal Tools--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

The truth is, in our modern world, we’ve lost sight of part of the old adage,

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

It’s the “make it do” part that is an anathema to us. In our age of planned obsolescence and products engineered to fail, we’ve lost the repair skills that seemed like second nature to our parents and grandparents. It’s only natural that we buy new instead of repair, because:

  • We often have no idea how to repair things, and
  • It’s cheaper to buy a new version of something rather than replace it.

That’s true of a lot of things. For example, when I broke our blender a couple of months ago (long story), I didn’t destroy the motor, just the jar (the top part where you put your liquids). But to replace that part cost about $50! Mr. ThreeYear opted to get a brand new, on sale Ninja blender with two single serve cups for just $70. While it was $20 more expensive, it’s a way more powerful blender. We plan to sell the motor on eBay and recoup some of that cost, as well. Continue reading “Tools of the Frugal Trade”