Finding Your Personal Savings Superpower

If you (like me) have trouble saving, may I recommend a psychological trick that may help you save a little more? Sometimes, when you feel like you spend more than the people around you, it can get discouraging, and you can start thinking self-defeating thoughts. While some people are incredible at saving in all areas of their lives, I’ve noticed that many people have gotten really good at saving in one particular area. They’ve found their personal savings superpower.

Finding Your Personal Savings Superpower  www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

For Mr. Tako, it’s eating out. While his family are super low spenders in general (especially taking out their mortgage and day care expenses), they just. don’t. eat. out. Ever.

They’ve saved hundreds of dollars per month and thousands of dollars per year, compounded over time because they’ve mastered the art of eating in (and I do mean “mastered.” Check out this post and this post on the delicious food Mr. Tako prepares at home).

Liz and Nate at Frugalwoods have arguably mastered everything, but they love seltzer, so they’ve optimized the price they pay for making bubbly water. They’ve figured out the hacks and tricks to pay as little as possible for their favorite beverage.

Now, eating all your meals in or making your own seltzer may sound awesome to you, or something out of the third level of hell. But, picking your one spending habit to improve does more than just save you money in this area. It actually psychologically sets you up for more success.

If you can identify one area that you’d like to master, spending-wise, then you can become the savings expert there. Maybe it’s keeping your gas costs low even though you drive a lot. You might keep your grocery spending at $300 or less for three people (like Lily!). It could be your entertainment budget. Continue reading “Finding Your Personal Savings Superpower”

What’s Next for the Three Year Experiment?

In July of 2016, I turned 37. My husband and I lived in New England, far from both sides of our family, because of his job. I longed to be able to live in a place with milder winters, see my family more, and travel for extended periods of time. I longed to be able to visit Chile and see his side of the family, more than once every three years.

What's Next for the Three Year Experiment? www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

So when he asked me what I wished for on that birthday, I voiced my crazy wish, “I want to be able to spend half the year in Chile with your family and half in the Carolinas with mine.” At the time, it was impossible. His job kept him in New Hampshire, our kids were in school there, and we were far from financial independence. Yes, we’d spent the last eight years growing our net worth, first by paying off our $38,000 of consumer debt in 2008 and then slowly growing our net worth from there, but we were no where near the amount needed to quit work. Continue reading “What’s Next for the Three Year Experiment?”

5 Frugal Midsummer Activities for the Family

By my count, we have five weeks of summer left (school starts for us the last week of August). For our family, the first two weeks were consumed with moving to a new state. And even though we’ve spent the last two weeks enjoying more traditional summer activities, I know my kids have spent way more time on devices than I’d like.

5 Frugal Midsummer Activities for the Family www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

So I’ve vowed to spend more time finding fun, frugal activities that will make the next five weeks feel more like summer. Here are five ideas you can use to keep your costs down for summer fun over the last half of summer for your family (sniff sniff it’s going too fast). And hey, since there are five ideas, you could try one per week!

Kids Bowl Free

This summer, for the first time ever, local bowling alleys have partnered up to let your kids bowl for free, all summer long. Sign up here for the program.  They also have discounted plans for adults. How it works is you sign your kids up and the program will send you links each week with coupons for two free games of bowling per day.

I took my kids last week and they had a blast. You will have to pay for their bowling shoes, so be prepared that this isn’t a completely free activity. In my local bowling alley, kids’ rentals were roughly $5 each (tax included). But I still feel like $10 is a pretty good value to keep the kids entertained all afternoon.

Bowling fun www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Kids bowl free this summer at hundreds of participating locations.

Summer Programs at the Library

Continue reading “5 Frugal Midsummer Activities for the Family”

A Year of Good Food: Easy Meals

Hello from sunny (very, very sunny) North Carolina! Our family has moved and is now living in the charming town of Davidson, North Carolina. We’re enjoying our new air conditioning, as the heat here is intense in July.

A Year of Good Food: Easy Meals www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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 focused on staying in budget while moving houses. We kept our expectations low–I knew I wouldn’t be able to consistently meal plan or regularly grocery shop, so the idea was to do as well as we could despite the chaos.

June

I feel like I’ve been writing the same report for months now, but June felt absolutely crazy-pants chaotic. I had to take it one day at a time. We had the end of school, the boys’ birthdays, the start of a new graduate class for my master’s, good-bye parties, a big work conference Mr. ThreeYear and I both needed to attend the week of the move, plus all the regular packing and moving details involved with a move. We spent $691.78 for the month, well under budget, in nineteen separate trips to the store. We tried to eat up all the food in our fridge this month, but did a lot of eating out as well.

Yard sale-www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Our spectacularly unsuccessful yard sale in late June (small towns aren’t great for yard sales, we learned).

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Easy Meals”

What Our Cars Really Cost

On Wednesday I wrote a post about all of the cars Mr. ThreeYear and I have owned in our time together (it was actually about most of the cars we’ve owned. There were a lot!).

What Our Cars Really Cost

Today I thought I’d delve into the financials of those cars, or as much as I can remember and piece together, and see what the total operational costs of our cars have been over time.

I predict that I will be shocked and disgusted by how much we’ve spent on transportation. A keystone to Mr. Money Mustache’s low spending is his reliance on bikes. Operating cars is one of the big three expenses that we’ve worked on reducing. But I suspect we’ve still spent a lot.

Let’s dive in: Continue reading “What Our Cars Really Cost”

How to Choose Cars that Match Your Financial Goals

Mr. ThreeYear is a car person. I am not. But we have both owned a lot of cars in our fifteen+ years of dating and married life.

How to Choose Cars that Match Your Financial Goals www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We have made good car decisions. We have made bad car decisions. We have had car payments. We have owned cars outright.

Currently, we have two of the best, if not sexiest, cars we’ve ever have, and they match our financial goals pretty well. But how did we get there?

Today’s post contains all the details of our wonderful cars over the years, and how they’ve worked with or against us.

The Laser

I realized that I was marrying a car person when, soon after we started dating, Mr. ThreeYear decided to buy a new car. For our first date, he was picking me up outside my apartment in Santiago, and he told me he had a pretty old car. I had gotten locked out of my apartment, so I was waiting for him on the sidewalk, watching cars drive by. I have to admit that I was looking at some clunkers, and thinking to myself, “Please don’t be that car. Please don’t be that car.” He pulled up in a dark blue Ford Laser that was as old as I was (at the time, 22). But I thought, “I can live with this.” True, he had to adjust the radio with a screwdriver, and the interior was a bit worn, but the car took us where we needed to go. Continue reading “How to Choose Cars that Match Your Financial Goals”

A Year of Good Food: Shop the Perimeter

Another month is done. Here’s what happened last month in your next chapter of… A Year of Good Food.

A Year of Good Food: Shop the Perimeter www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This year, our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food so we can reach our goal of location independence by the end of 2019. Last year, I adopted one habit a month that would translate into better money moves for our family. You can read all about what I called 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. We’ve tried shopping with cash, making only one trip to the store per week, and shopping with a list. So far, shopping with cash has worked best. That’s in line with the idea that parting with your money is painful, and so you’re more likely to part with less of it if you’re paying in cash. When we use credit cards, we separate ourselves from our spending just a bit, since when we pay with a card, we feel like we’ll pay for the groceries later (and we will, when we pay our monthly bill). Strangely enough, when we pay our monthly credit card bill, it feels like we’ve already paid for stuff in the moment of purchase. So there’s a lot less purchase pain, which is the reason we tend to spend more with credit cards.

As of now, we haven’t adopted an all-cash system because it’s convenient to pay with credit cards. But I might start this summer.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Shop the Perimeter”

On Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is an idea that comes from the business world. After World War II, Japanese manufacturers invited W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, professor, and management consultant, to their country to help them improve their manufacturing and production processes.

On Continuous Improvement www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Before the war, Japan was synonymous with cheap goods and shoddy craftsmanship. Deming taught leaders that improving the quality of their products would reduce expenses while increasing productivity and market share.

“It’s simple. You just take something, and then you do something to it. Then you do something else to it. And then something else. Keep this up and pretty soon you’ve got something.”

-Jasper Johns, Twentieth century American artist (who, incidentally, grew up near my hometown)

In 1982, Deming published a book, Out of the Crisis, outlining his philosophy. “Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment.” Continue reading “On Continuous Improvement”

How Do You Plan to Pay for College?

If you have kids, no matter their ages, chances are you’ve thought about college expenses.

Unless you live outside of the US.

How Do You Plan to Pay for College? www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Why is college (or university) so expensive in this country? We’re all pretty familiar with the statistics at this point. College tuition costs in the US have increased by 498 percent between 1985 and 2011, which is at four times the rate of inflation.

And there’s little chance that costs will decrease any time soon, since there are so many government subsidies and low-interest loans thrown in to cushion the shock of those high costs.

In spite of such subsidies, 68% of undergraduates are leaving school with debt, and that average debt burden is $30,100 per student. That’s to say nothing of debt from masters’ and doctoral programs. Continue reading “How Do You Plan to Pay for College?”

February Net Worth Update

It looks like the stock market is giving us some buying opportunities this month. While our net worth took a dip, we hit our savings and spending goals, so I feel proud of our progress this month.

February Net Worth Update--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Each month, I record our progress on our net worth and our spending (gulp!). Last year, we increased our net worth by 32% over the year before! This year, we’re trying to increase it by more than 65%! from where we started in December 2016. Given the wild ride the market’s likely to take us on this year, I’m not sure it’s doable. But we’re going to try!

February was a month of full-on winter antics in New Hampshire. Our time in Santiago, just a month before, seemed like a dream, an impossibility! Our lives were cold and snowy this month. We enjoyed a bit of skiing, one week of winter break where we all got sick several times, and of course the Winter Olympics!

Skiing--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
The boys and I enjoyed a few outings at our local ski slope in February, but not as many as I’d hoped, because of weather and sickness.

This is the second month in our net worth and spending reports for 2018, and although the market had a small “correction” that did negatively affect our net worth, we are still making progress towards our goals.

Continue reading “February Net Worth Update”