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.

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”

The Financial Benefits of Going Slower

This weekend we’re at the beach for three days for my cousin’s wedding (taking the boys out of school for the first time as we practice our ability to be location independent–just for a day!).

It’s amazing how nice it is to leave routine and embrace the ability to go hang out at the ocean for awhile. Lucy the Puppy is in heaven. We run her around on the leash-free part of the beach in the morning, and she sleeps for most of the afternoon. And the sun and sand has been good for all of us, giving us some time to unplug from our new school routines and enjoy nature.

This weekend has also given me a chance to reflect on how going slower  impacts our financial lives.

I raced through the first part of my life at break-neck speed, as if to cram everything possible into my day so I couldn’t possibly miss anything. I sucked hard from the orange of life and had the juice running down my chin to prove it.

As the years have passed and I have become an older human being, I’ve slowed down. I don’t, frankly, have as much energy. No one is more shocked and dismayed by this than I, because who knew that stuff ran out? But the truth is, slowing down is inevitable, and because I have more limited energy, I want to spend that energy on the things that matter, not the things that don’t.

Since we’ve moved to North Carolina, I’ve been making a concerted effort to do less:

  • less work
  • less activities for the kids
  • less “to-do” lists

The more I read about crafting the simple life, the more I realize that it requires marginchunks of time that are deliberately left unscheduled to make room for the sweet stuff of life. This slower pace really does make everyone in my family feel better. Continue reading “The Financial Benefits of Going Slower”

Where the Heck Did Our Leisure Time Go?

One of the benefits that appealed most to me as our family started on our journey to financial and location independence was the idea of leisure time, of having time to rest, enjoy our friends, see new things, and linger over meals.

Life is so hectic. It’s “go, go, go” all the time in our society. It’s “what’s your side hustle?” “What day of the week is your child free from activities?” (if there is one).

One of the appeals of technology several decades ago was the idea that it would free us up to have more leisure time. To sit and linger over a meal with family. To plan coffee dates with friends. To sit in a park as a family and do nothing and feel no guilt about that. John Maynard Keynes, an economist writing in the 1930s, imagined a future where the work week would last fifteen hours, and our biggest problem would be what to do with all our free time. I’ll give you a second for a chuckle.

Now, Americans have less leisure time than ever. In an article from 2016, The Atlantic notes that “elite men in the U.S. are the world’s chief workaholics.” The upper class in this country stays at the office longer, takes less vacation, and just works more than the middle and lower class.

But why?  Continue reading “Where the Heck Did Our Leisure Time Go?”

7 Things I Learned This Summer

This week is back-to-school week for the boys. Last year on back-to-school day, I wrote about the ten things I learned last summer. I reread it recently, to remember the important lessons I learned last summer. In honor of that post, and as a memorial for myself for next summer, here are some of the things I learned this summer.

1. Moving is hard.

I had forgotten, or perhaps blocked, how hard it is to move houses. For several months I could barely keep a thought in my head. I ran around from place to place, trying to get everything done in order to move. Then, when our furniture and boxes arrived here, unpacking was the pits. Chaos reigned supreme for weeks. Apparently, a lack of order in your home causes spikes in the stress hormone cortisol for women (not men, for some reason). Let me assure you that is true with me. And pro tip, don’t take an eight-week intensive online master’s class in the same two months you’re moving. Bad idea.

2. It is possible to change your life.

There was a small part of me who thought that we would never be able to make our dreams of location independence come true. I know, I know, we’re not traveling around the world. We moved to one spot. But we moved to the spot we picked, close to the people we love, and we are now both work from home, which is a sugar-sweet set up that Mr. ThreeYear and I are loving. We looked into the future, which is inherently unpredictable, and did everything we could to change our setups, and it worked.

3. The best things in life are (still) family.

When I think that I live so close to my family I get a thrill of joy that shoots up and down my body. I still can’t believe it’s true. Can’t believe my boys will grow up right down the road from their cousins, just a few hours from their grandparents, just a few hours from a huge extended family. Continue reading “7 Things I Learned This Summer”

The $217.27 Bedroom Makeover

Moving to a new home can be tough on kids. We took mine from the only home they ever remembered and asked them to move 900 miles South, to a 1000-square-foot smaller house with a very small backyard. It was hard for them to see the immediate benefits of that decision (benefits like a close pool, relatives right down the road, and no snow in the winter). All they saw was an unfamiliar new space that felt different and didn’t feel like it belonged to them.

So to convince them to move, we used the oldest parenting trick in the book. We bribed them. While you’re may tsk  at the idea of bribing your kid, let me expound for a minute on the benefits of bribery:

1. It works.

2. It gives kids something to look forward to.

3. It gives them some sense of negotiating power when, in all actuality, they have little to none.

Feeling like you have control in an uncontrollable situation makes you feel a little better about things.

For Little ThreeYear, we told him we’d finally get a dog. We realized that with our fenced-in back yard and both of us working from home, a dog would be a much more feasible addition to the family than it had in the past.

Lucy the dog www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Meet Lucy the dog.

We told Junior ThreeYear that we’d decorate his new room however he wanted.

He wanted to paint it black.

I worked my creative wiles and convinced him that black accents would look much better than a completely black room. We looked at the myriad options online and found a couple of pictures that he liked as inspiration.

On the night before we moved into our new house, when we were doing the final walk-through, we discovered, under a rug and desk that the previous owner had left, a giant hole in the carpet. A tense negotiation commenced between our real estate agent and hers. Finally, she could no longer deny that she’d been trying to hide a huge hole in the carpet and agreed to pay to have it replaced. Continue reading “The $217.27 Bedroom Makeover”

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.

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.

Continue reading “5 Frugal Midsummer Activities for the Family”

A Decade of Progress

Yesterday was my birthday. My family and I were sitting around the table, eating takeout subs (which is what I requested), when I asked Mr. ThreeYear what we’d been doing ten years ago. We dialed back the years and realized that was the year of the layoffs, when he’d been working in a job that was not right for him just to pay the bills, battling terrible anxiety and, in hindsight, depression, and I was staying home with our one-year-old.

I also realized that it was ten years ago (on July 4th) that I’d found The Total Money Makeover in the bookstore and we’d started our journey to financial independence.

Twenty Nine

I wonder what I was thinking on my birthday ten years ago. I was 29, facing the last year in my twenties, and was going through one of the most difficult periods of my adult life. But I had hope after reading that book. Continue reading “A Decade of Progress”

Curveballs

Life loves to mess up your best-laid plans, doesn’t it? At the ThreeYear house, we’ve been dealing with some curveballs that have been thrown our way lately. I can’t really go into details, because I don’t yet know how they’ll all shake out, but I can say that Mr. ThreeYear and I are currently feeling all the feelings.

How do you keep moving on, working towards your goals, putting one foot in front of the other, when things feel unsettled and unsure?

People have lots of good, well-intentioned advice like, “Just don’t think about it.” “Count your blessings.” “A year from now this will all be a distant memory.”

This is all terrible advice because it doesn’t work: don’t think about a tropical beach with sandy white beaches. How well did that work for you?

When you’re unsettled, when you’re reminded that life is all about continual changes and things happening that you’d never expect, it’s hard to focus. You start imagining fifty different scenarios for how a particular situation could resolve itself. You have no clarity. You’re in limbo.

Limbo is a hell of a place to be. It pretty much sucks.

Several years ago, I went out and shopped to deal with my feelings. Or drank a bunch of wine. Or ate a bunch of cookies.

Now, I just eat a bunch of cookies. 🙂 I repeat to myself, “This, too, shall pass” and eat lots and lots of sweets. Or potato chips. I also know that going on a run or two, preferably with friends, is a really good idea. Continue reading “Curveballs”

Your Money Or Your Life: Chapter 6 (Traveling Book Review)

Today I’m taking part in a “traveling book review” written by Rockstar Finance bloggers. Each day, a different blogger will review one chapter of one of the best money books I’ve ever read, Your Money or Your Life. Written by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, Vicki’s original coauthor who’s since died, the updated version  contains timeless wisdom and current, practical tips for anyone working to make sense of their finances, their work/life balance, and life in general.

If you’d like to read reviews for each chapter, I recommend reading Rockstar Finance’s introduction post with links to reviews of each chapter.

The American Dream–on a Shoestring

Chapter 6 is perhaps the most relevant chapter to my life of the entire book. “Laurie,” it seemed to be saying to me the whole time, “read these words and internalize this message: if you want to achieve true freedom, you must learn to control your spending.”

A few years ago, I would have scoffed at this notion. “As if,” I can hear old me saying,”I’m going to earn more and buy whatever I want.”

This would be a terrific strategy if it worked–if it allowed me to increase my net worth, say, or even my happiness. Then we could get all the stuff we wanted just by working harder, and that would make us happier, and we’d all live happily ever after. All the millionaires and multi-millionaires would never declare bankruptcy or feel sad. Hollywood stars, paid millions per film, would never divorce or go through public scandals.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. As Robin wisely and gently explains, more stuff doesn’t necessarily bring more happiness. Especially once you’ve got your basic needs met. Continue reading “Your Money Or Your Life: Chapter 6 (Traveling Book Review)”

The Most Romantic Lenten Sacrifice

Happy Valentine’s Day. And Happy Ash Wednesday (aka the first day of Lent). It’s the first time since 1945 that Valentine’s and the start of Lent have fallen on the same day.

The Most Romantic Lenten Sacrifice--www.thethethreeyearexperiment.com

So in honor of such an auspicious occasion, I’m taking on a new challenge. While Valentine’s is usually about eating as many chocolates as you can get your hands on, Lent, at least for those in the Christian tradition, is a 40-day time of inner focus, of taking a look at yourself and seeing if there’s anything that you could improve upon. It’s traditionally a time when practitioners make a sacrifice, give up a vice, or adopt a new, perhaps self-sacrificial habit for 40 days.

Continue reading “The Most Romantic Lenten Sacrifice”