Back to School Savings

On Wednesday, I officially started teaching (although I’ve been in teacher work days for a week and a half). On Monday, the boys return to school. The summer has ended.

In order to get ready for these auspicious beginnings (and because I had no idea how much energy I’d have left after the end of a long day at school–answer, not much), I spent a few days before I started work cleaning out the boys’ closets.

This is an annual tradition at our house, and one that is very much in keeping with my minimalist roots and a good way to sift through hand-me-downs that we’ve stored for the boys’ future use.

This year, Mr. ThreeYear commented that the boys have a lot of clothes, and recommended we reduce the amount of clothes we keep on hand for them.

So as I went through their dresser drawers, I made a big donation pile for anything that no longer fit or was badly stained.

Even though it’s been two years since Junior ThreeYear has received any hand-me-downs, he still had one Tupperware bin of clothes left that didn’t fit him yet. He wears a size 14 in pants, meaning the clothes I once packed away for some giant of the future now fit.

Continue reading “Back to School Savings”

Teaching Kids Perseverance

I’m spending the week at the beach this week with my family for the upcoming Independence Day celebration.

Last evening, the boys and I went kayaking with my dad. Junior ThreeYear and I had our own kayaks and Pata (my dad’s grandpa name) and Little ThreeYear shared a two-man vessel.

We put the boats in at high tide from the slip off the back of our house and paddled through the marsh. We got all the way out to a channel of ocean water, with a strong current, and pulled our kayaks up on a sand bar to enjoy our own private beach.

It was one of those magical experiences that I knew the boys would remember forever, as they made giant sandcastles out of the soft, wet sand and slung sand balls at each other.

Dad and I decided to go back when the sun got lower in the sky and we knew we only had an hour or so of light left.

As magical as the kayaking experience was going out, coming back, it was an exercise in frustration for Junior ThreeYear. Because he was paddling his own kayak, he was responsible for getting back across the windy channel, then paddling himself all the way back through the marsh to our house.

Continue reading “Teaching Kids Perseverance”

How We Survive and Thrive in Summer

So far, summer 2019 has arrived fast and furious, and hasn’t felt like summer at all. But today, for the first time in 2 weeks, we don’t have friends or family visiting, Mr. ThreeYear and I are back from his work conference, and it looks like we can finally *start* our summer. 

I’ve updated this post from a couple of years ago to reflect what we’ve kept the same and what we’ve changed to keep summer running smoothly, without spending a fortune. Hope it helps you to enjoy your summer and family a little more!

Summer looks and feels a little different for most of us, but for those of us with kids, there are some big logistical challenges to overcome. My friend who has works full time starts planning her kids’ camp schedule in February. Another friend who works part time has her husband work remotely on days she goes into the office. I’m home with my kids all summer since I’m a teacher, but I definitely need a plan for fun and sanity.

Read on for how I’ve finally figured out, after many summers, how to include both, without spending a fortune.

Survive and Thrive in Summer--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

In 2015, after seven and a half years as a stay-at-home mom, then two years as a part-time marketing manager, I did an abrupt career change and became a part-time ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher at my kids’ elementary school. It’s been such a wonderful way to make a difference, earn money, and see my kids every day. Since we’ve moved to North Carolina, I’ve become a full-time Spanish teacher.

The best part of being a teacher, full- or part-time, is that when summer finally arrives, the boys and I are off! We are free to enjoy the summer, go to the beach, and have playdates.

Even though we look forward to summer all year, I’ve learned over the years that ten weeks of expansive free time makes mama and boys less-than-happy. Continue reading “How We Survive and Thrive in Summer”

7 Free or Cheap Activities for Kids This Summer

We’re slipping into the golden days of the school year, where activities are starting to come to an end. I received a note from the third grades teachers that after the kids do their end-of-grade testing, an apparently extremely big deal here in North Carolina, they’re throwing learning to the wind and will be having “camp” for the last two weeks of school . I can’t decide if I’m really annoyed or really inspired by this.

However, I have printed out my three-month calendar and have started to fill in the weeks, and I’ve begun to plan some of the activities I’d like to do with my boys to explore our new city.

Last summer, we were so busy with moving and unpacking that we barely got to check out what was available.

This year, though, we’re going to enjoy the free or low-cost activities available to us. While the activities in your area will inevitably be a little different, I hope this research from the Charlotte area will give you ideas for your neck of the woods.

You’ll Need to Plan (at least a little bit)

Before I list some ideas we’re planning to take advantage of this summer, may I make a recommendation? I am not always stellar about planning ahead, but for many of these suggestions, you’ll need to do some advanced planning, because they’re only free and low cost on select days and times.

Continue reading “7 Free or Cheap Activities for Kids This Summer”

Finally, A Plan to Save for Your Kids’ College. But Is It a Good One?

One of the bedrocks of savings, if you have kids, is that pesky college tuition that looms large over the entire breadth of their first eighteen years.

It’s hard to get a handle on how much, exactly, you need to save, since college tuition costs seem to rise like Zimbabwe currency back in 2008.

When I went to college, my first year cost an exorbitant $19,000. I could only attend because I received a 75% academic scholarship (yep that was a humble brag thrown in there). That was in 1997. That same college now costs $46,012 just over twenty years later.

When the sixth graders at my former school did a class project detailing the costs of college, I was floored. $67,000 a year for Duke? $35,000 for State U in Timbuktu?

Needless to say, I have not been feeling super great about the amount we’re saving for the boys’ college, especially since I’ve been hearing from a lot of people how hard it is to get into UNC Chapel Hill, which is currently my choice for my kids, as it’s the cheapest state school in the entire US of A, at $24,266 for tuition and room and board for in-state students.

But how much should we be saving? Won’t they, too, get scholarships for some of the cost? (Jury’s still out on that one). We’ve been aiming to save a certain amount each month in their college funds and each year in our taxable accounts, but our move definitely disrupted that a bit.

Continue reading “Finally, A Plan to Save for Your Kids’ College. But Is It a Good One?”

8 Ways to Save Money on Summer Camps

While it’s not yet time for summer, we are starting to think about summer plans, and which summer camps our boys will attend. One of the things we’ve tried to do is give our kids fun camp experiences without breaking the bank, especially since I’m a teacher and don’t have an income during the summer. Here are my favorite ways to save on summer camps. 

For our family, summer is a time to be together and visit family, since I’m a teacher and am off during the summers. However, when I worked during the summer, camp planning was a big preoccupation this time of year. The massive expense of camp was a big concern, because I needed a safe, fun place for my kids to spend their days during the summer weekdays. But camps are pricey. Here are some ideas for ways to decrease the cost of camps for your kids this summer.

Research “hidden gems”

Three years ago, a friend told me about a camp in a neighboring town. It was a one-week day camp held at the local airport, and it was completely free! The kids who attended were able to fly with local pilots and learn the basics of aviation, at no cost. The camp was started as an initiative for this lower-income community, but anyone could participate. In subsequent years, they increased the cost to $40 for the week, still an incredible deal for a camp that takes kids flying.

The camp wasn’t well publicized and I only heard about it through several friends who lived in the community. We put it on our list for this summer as this is the first year both boys would be able to participate.

There are lots of day camp opportunities available for little or no cost, but they’re not always easy to find. Sometimes, they’re advertised in local newspapers, on town websites, or other out-of-the-way places. I let friends know that I’m looking for interesting, low-cost opportunities for my kids so they’ll pass on any info. Continue reading “8 Ways to Save Money on Summer Camps”

Changing Your Kids’ Money Emotions

This week, I was inspired by a Smart Money Mamas Instagram post to talk about a subject that’s been on my mind lately–our kids’ money emotions.

Mr. ThreeYear is traveling in Brazil this week, and last night he called me to tell me that he saw a little boy on a street in São Paulo, selling candy. The little boy apparently looked just like Little ThreeYear, down to the skinny legs.

We talked about how grateful we are for not only the fact that our kids don’t need to work to help us earn money, but also that they don’t have any money worries.

While I grew up in an affluent home and can relate to that feeling, Mr. ThreeYear did not. Money was a constant source of anxiety, tension, and strain for him. There was never enough.

Through saving, investing, and earning more in his job, Mr. ThreeYear has completely changed his own children’s money emotions.

Our boys feel fairly empowered when it comes to money, and if they need extra money, they think of ways to get it (unfortunately, lately that has become thinking up ways to convince Grandma and Grandpa to give it to them). We feel pretty positive that they now equate “getting money” with “work” of some kind or another (even if it’s the “work” of manipulating their grandparents).

Continue reading “Changing Your Kids’ Money Emotions”

Combatting the Mid-Winter Blues

Hello everyone in the midst of winter! It’s February here in North Carolina, and though the ground isn’t covered in four feet of snow, I’m still battling the same seasonal affective disorder as years past, thanks to the endless rain and lack of sun. So, in honor of this auspicious time of year, I thought I’d republish a reminder of things I’ve done in the past to get through the very hardest parts of the winter. 

If you’re in the thick of bleak midwinter (and possibly staring down several more weeks or months of frigid temps, snow, and ice), hang in there! I know how you feel!

Midwinter is always the time of year that gets to me in New England. We’re in the thick of the cold and snow and, despite being teased with some 50-degree days recently, we’ve been staring down -4 for the past week. A blizzard with 18 inches of snow is coming tomorrow.

This time of year causes certain problems.

One, I find it almost impossible to drag myself out of bed for a run if the temps are below 15 degrees F (if that sounds horrible to you, believe me, it does to me too). I do not take running lightly. It is critical to my being tolerable to the rest of the human race, so imagine how fun I am to be around in the winter. Two, Spring feels forever away. And I need the hope of Spring.

Continue reading “Combatting the Mid-Winter Blues”

But All the Kids Are Doing It?!

I have a problem. Yes, I’ll admit it. If you know me IRL, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about it as it plagues me frequently. The problem is this: I occasionally panic because I think my kids aren’t doing enough activities.

I’ve suffered through the same conversation with myself for years (What? You don’t have conversations with yourself in your head?). It goes something like this:

Me: The boys aren’t signed up for any activities right now.

Myself: That’s ok, they’re doing deeply creative things at home.

Me: But X’s kids are on swim team. My kids should be on the swim team! They’ll learn discipline there, and focus, by being a part of something difficult that will stretch them. And both of them love swimming!

Myself: You’re doing it again.

Me: I KNOW! But Y’s kids play in tennis championships. The boys should join our tennis academy. It’s a family sport that they can play forever! I want them to be good at something, to have a skill. What kind of parent am I if I haven’t helped them develop a sport they love to play?

Myself: There’s still time.

Me: They’re getting older. I didn’t really play a sport when I was young. But I started running with my dad when I was 9! I haven’t run with the boys at all. They’re inside too much. They play too many electronics!

Myself: Junior ThreeYear has climbing.

Me: I know! But that’s only once per week. And is he really learning anything there? It’s a very basic group. Can I help him get better? Should he be going more? Now what do I do? More climbing, swimming, tennis? Which one to pick? They’re all so expensive. And they take up a lot of time. Maybe I’ll start with tennis lessons? Maybe karate would be a better choice…

Myself: You’re neurotic.

Me: I know.

Continue reading “But All the Kids Are Doing It?!”

Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

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

I am so excited! I’ve been wanting to create a holiday gift-giving guide for a while and I’ve finally done it. I hope you enjoy. I really love everything I’ve picked.

Holiday Gift Giving Guide www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Christmas is upon us! Hanukkah starts in two short weeks. Get your kinara out; Kwanzaa is coming. Festivus is right around the corner.

Whatever you celebrate (or don’t) in December, this is one of my favorite times of year. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that I absolutely love Christmas and tend to go a little crazy at Christmastime.

My love language, if you know about that, is giving. Over the years, I’ve dramatically toned down the level of gift and amount of giving I do, but it still brings me great joy when I can find that perfect gift for my loved ones.

Last year, we gave the gift of experience to our family: a paddle board lesson for my dad, a cooking class for my sister and brother-in-law, and rock climbing for Junior ThreeYear.

Giving experiential gifts is fun, but it can get expensive. So, this year, my sister recommended we adults give each other stocking stuffers only, under $20. I love this idea because you’re not spending a ton, the gift can be practical (and/or a consumable that the recipient would buy anyway), and adding parameters somehow makes it easier to choose for each person.

In the spirit of stocking stuffers, I decided to create a gift-giving guide to highlight some wonderful gifts I’ve come across this year. And because I love books so much, I’m throwing in some book ideas, too.

All gifts come in under $20, to boot!  Continue reading “Holiday Gift-Giving Guide”