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.

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?”

What We Teach Our Kids About Money: Part 2

Last week, I published a post that talked about the things we do to teach our kids about money. Since it turns out that we actually do quite a lot of things to teach them financial literacy, today is Part 2 of What We Teach Our Kids About Money. If you missed Part 1, read it here!

We Give Them Age-Appropriate Books to Teach Them Financial Literacy

We were given an old kids’ toy book from Chick-Fil-A many moons ago, called The Super Red Racer: Junior Discovers WorkTurns out, it was from a Dave Ramsey series of books for kids that taught about different financial topics like saving, giving, and investing. Junior ThreeYear loved the book so much that we eventually bought him the whole series for Christmas one year.

Those books have gotten a lot of traction. Continue reading “What We Teach Our Kids About Money: Part 2”

What We Teach Our Kids About Money

Parenthood is a big responsibility and I feel like I’m messing it up a dozen times a day. When it comes to teaching our kids about how to manage their money, though, I feel like we really need to get it right.

Mr. ThreeYear and I got out of debt by following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, and we also listened to what he had to say about kids and money. He has a lot of great advice when it comes to teaching your children about financial matters, so we started there. But money is such a complex and important topic that we certainly didn’t end there.

Here’s what we currently do to make sure that our kids have a good relationship with their money.

We Give Them an Opportunity to Earn Money

Ramsey recommends giving your children, at as young ad 3 years old, three jars in which to put their money: Save, Give, Spend. We made jars for the boys early on. They have the opportunity to earn money by doing their chores every week. They can earn up to $6 per week for doing their three chores (these are age appropriate chores–for my 10 year old, it’s making his bed, clearing the table, and doing his laundry each week, and for my 7 year old, it’s setting the table, making his bed, and tidying his room). If they don’t do their chores, they don’t get paid.  Continue reading “What We Teach Our Kids About Money”

I Go Crazy During the Holidays

Let me let you in on a little secret–I love the holidays. For me, the time from Thanksgiving through Christmas all the way to the New Year are a time of family, food, and excess.

I Go Crazy During the Holidays--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

That’s right, excess. For Thanksgiving, we eat a ton of food. My fridge is packed for weeks afterwards. We don’t just have one pie. We have three or four. We often have two turkeys–one baked and the other fried. Have you never had a friend turkey? They’re beyond delicious. Crispy skin on the outside, juicy on the inside…

I go a little crazy for Christmas. I love to give gifts and I like to give people nice things. I spend tons of money at Christmas and throw frugality out the window during gift-giving. We way surpass the average American’s holiday spending of $800.

In New Hampshire, we have snowy, white Christmases almost every year, and Thanksgivings are chilly and fallish–just as Thanksgiving is supposed to feel. On Thanksgiving weekend, we put up our Christmas tree, pull out our favorite ornaments, and decorate the whole house. Then, at Christmas break, we wear cozy sweaters and overeat for several days. We spend lazy days with family members, playing in the snow, playing board games, opening presents, and listening to too much Johnny Mathis Christmas music (just kidding! There is NO SUCH THING as too much Johnny Mathis Christmas music!).

Christmas hug--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
This picture of my two boys gets me every time. We took it a few years ago, but it captures what I love the most about Christmas–the time we have together and the love we get to share.

Yes, it’s true. It’s my dirty little secret. I go crazy with my spending during the holidays. But you know what? I love it. I love to spend money on nice things for other people. And believe it or not, I have changed my gift-giving over the years to better match my values–to use money (a little more) wisely, buy higher-quality items you can use every day, and focus less on material goods. 

For example, in 2008, when we started our get-out-of-debt journey, we realized how much money we were wasting by buying excessive toys for our son–that he didn’t even want. He was overwhelmed on Christmas Day, and afterwards, we ended up donating or throwing out many of the things we bought. So, we adopted our “Santa Gives Three” rule to focus on less higher-quality gifts. Continue reading “I Go Crazy During the Holidays”

Breaking “the Rules”

Last weekend both of my boys celebrated birthdays. This year, those celebrations looked a little different than this time last year. Last year, I decided to do a homemade birthday party extravaganza. Unlike Mrs. BITA’s homemade party, which seemed to be lovely and fairly easy to put together, or Mrs. Frugalwood’s family gathering, the ThreeYears’ homemade Minecraft party was a lesson in what not to do when creating a homemade birthday party.

Breaking the Rules--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Don’t get me wrong. The party was a straight-out hit. I had no less than four small people tell me “this is the best party ever!” with zero trace of sarcasm in their tiny voices. They were having major fun, which may have had something to do with the Brewing Station, with six bottles of sugared soda that they got to “mix” into different potions.

But the party planner almost did herself in. In my efforts to do it myself, and reproduce Pinterest, I drove myself nuts. I made a homemade Minecraft piñata, for the love of all things holy. I created the aforementioned Brewing Station, and affixed handmade labels to each of the two-liter bottles of soda in six phosphorescent artificial colors. I made recipes for the potions they could create, and had my boys weigh in on how realistic the colors were for each potion (“No, Mom, that’s a Potion of Healing, which is red, not green”). Continue reading “Breaking “the Rules””

Our Summer Road Trip

Summer’s here! At least it is for the Junior ThreeYears and me. All three of us are out of school for the next nine weeks. So, what better time to whet our appetites for location independence than a summer road trip?

Last year, the three of us hopped in the trusty Prius and drove all the way from Northern New England more than 14 hours to North Carolina, to stay with my sister and her family, and then South Carolina, to stay with my parents. We spent four glorious weeks with no agenda and no plans except to spend time with our family and enjoy the summer.

Summer Road Trip--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This year, we’re going to repeat the experience. We’re currently busy preparing for our departure. How did we decide to spend a month “down South” and how did we make it happen? Continue reading “Our Summer Road Trip”

Outfitting Your Kids

Mr. ThreeYear and I practice selective frugality. That is, we spend our money on the things that matter to us, but minimize spending in areas that don’t matter. One of those areas is clothes. While I haven’t been on a three-year clothing ban like Mrs. Frugalwoods, I minimize costs in this area whenever possible. We also have two kids and live in Winterfell–I mean, New England–so we have growing bodies to clothe through our long, snowy winters.

So how do we outfit our Little ThreeYears each year so that they wear clothes that fit, don’t get made fun of by their peers (yes, this still happens, folks–little kiddos live for the moment they can decimate their classmates and be King of the School for a second), and aren’t wearing capris in the middle of the winter?
Continue reading “Outfitting Your Kids”

How We Spent $0 on Clothing Our Kids This Year

If you have kids, you know that outfitting them can be a challenge. Kids grow so quickly that they can sometimes shoot up a size overnight. This growth magic apparently happened to my youngest son night before last, because yesterday he told me, “Mom, I can’t button these jeans. They’re too tight!” Because I heart hand-me-downs, I pulled out my Voodoo-Overnight-Growth-Thing-Happened-Larger-Sizes-Clothing Container.

I’ve heard people say (ok, it was actually just one), “I would never let my child wear someone else’s jeans. That’s just gross.” No, that’s just ridiculous.

If you have two kids, the younger one is going to wear the older one’s clothes, probably even if they’re different genders (jeans are jeans, if you get the plain kind without pink stars appliquéd on). What’s wrong with taking clothes that still have useful life in them, washing them, and then letting your child wear them? Not a thing! No one’s going to know where you got the clothes from, first of all. Second of all, it’s environmentally sound to use clothing up that still has life left in it. Lots of Zero-Wasters only shop at second-hand clothing stores to reduce the amount of waste their clothing choices make.

To me, if you have problems wearing “someone else’s clothes” there are other issues going on. I’m no psychologist, but I’ve been around plenty of people who were poor when they were kids and still bear the scars. That’s shame talking, friends, and it has nothing to do with the clothes you pick. It has to do with not feeling good enough. Let those feelings go, and embrace the practicality and environmental responsibility of used clothing!

Continue reading “How We Spent $0 on Clothing Our Kids This Year”

How to Ski on the Cheap

Our family lives in Northern New England, so we have lots of ski slopes very close by our house. Unfortunately, skiing is very expensive and can work against our ability to save, so if we want to ski, we have to be smart about it.

Admittedly, skiing on the cheap is very difficult. Skiing is an expensive hobby, with expensive equipment, clothing, and lift tickets. And since our family is on a three-year journey to save as much money as possible so we can become location independent, we have to be careful about what we spend on entertainment costs. But our family gets around a lot of those expenses by utilizing some of the following “tricks”: Continue reading “How to Ski on the Cheap”

Semi-Minimalist Kids

Somehow, having kids seems to bring, at least in Western households, so many toys, books, clothes, and activities. Our family is working towards location independence at the end of three years and so, in preparation, have begun helping our kids adopt minimalist principles in our home to lessen their dependence on stuff.

Our society has definitely bought into the philosophy that more is better. Ironically, though, especially for our kids, more stuff turns out to be worse.

The Best Parenting Book

Simplicity Parenting, written by Kim John Payne, and what I consider the best book on parenting that I’ve read, has a unique insight into what our modern culture is doing to our kids. Payne writes, “If, as a society, we are embracing speed, it is partially because we are swimming in anxiety. Fed this concern and that worry, we’re running as fast as we can to avoid problems and sidestep danger.” Continue reading “Semi-Minimalist Kids”