It’s All Relative

Yesterday I went running with a group of women from my neighborhood. We recently moved to a large neighborhood in Davidson, North Carolina, and the neighborhood we moved into, to use terminology from The Millionaire Next Door, is “income affluent.” That means that people in this neighborhood tend to have high incomes, but also spend large amounts of money so that they have a low level of net worth.

In other words, they’re broke.

I was proud of myself–I had gotten on Facebook and posted a message to the neighborhood women’s group we have there. I found several women who were interested in starting a runner’s group, something I sorely needed since I have about motivation to run as I do to clean the toilets (read: none). But running, unlike toilet cleaning, is good for me in myriad ways, predominantly mental health-wise, so it’s helpful to have accountability partners in the journey. Continue reading “It’s All Relative”

A Frugal Reputation Pays

When we lived in New Hampshire, it was pretty standard to be frugal. New England is a region of the country that was settled by English Puritans. A group of Puritans settled the area around Boston back in 1640 in order to escape increasing religious persecution in England.

Putting aside the theological, Puritans believed in living Godly lives both as individuals and as a community. They believed that hard work was the epitome of such a life, and eschewed owning servants or slaves for that reason. They stripped their daily lives of “worldly distractions” such as entertainment and ornate adornments or decorations in the house.

Fast forward four hundred years, and the descendants of that group continue to value some of those core beliefs, like dressing simply and practically (trust me when I tell you that makeup and highlights aren’t big in New England), using their resources wisely (ie being frugal!), and simple entertaining (people don’t have big parties and it isn’t very common to be invited over to your neighbors’ house for dinner).

Continue reading “A Frugal Reputation Pays”

8 Cheap Purchases that Have Lasted Years

There’s something to be said for well-made items, items you can depend on to last you for years. Many times, we expect these products to cost an arm and a leg. But this post is a homage to ten items that were cheap, and have lasted me years and years.

On Friday, I wrote about ten items that I’ve spent a lot of money on that I absolutely love. These days, I’m working to conscientiously buy products that are well-made and will last, so that I won’t have to repeat buy these products again.

But you don’t always need to buy such expensive products to find items that will last. Sometimes, you stumble upon jewels that are inexpensive and will last for years. Here is a list of my favorites:

Rain jacket

In 2008, when Junior Three Year was just one, my grandmother took our entire family on an Alaskan cruise. It was amazing. Mr. ThreeYear and I were newly married, battling layoffs, and adjusting to one income, so we had very little extra money for the trip. We needed to get a rain jacket for the inevitable sprinkles of the Alaskan climate, so I headed to Walmart to see what they had. I found a jacket that cost about $16, and brought it with me. It was made by a brand I’d never heard of, Stearns. Continue reading “8 Cheap Purchases that Have Lasted Years”

10 Expensive Purchases that Were Worth Every Cent

I love a deal as much as the next person, but as I’ve embraced minimalism over the years, I’ve begun to make an effort to buy fewer, better things.

Mrs. Frugalwoods writes a great post about why “Buy It for Life” isn’t necessarily a foolproof frugal plan, and I agree with her on many of her points. In fact, I have a “8 Cheap Buys that Have Lasted Years” post highlighting the things I’ve bought for cheap that have lasted.

But this post is not about those purchases. This post is about the things that I have consciously spent more money on, in order to get a quality product that:

a. I love and

b. will last.

I think that the common denominator of these items is that I love them, that they “spark joy” every time I touch them, use them, or look at them. Because I’ve ended up using these items so often and sometimes, for so many years, the cost per use of each item is incredibly low. They have, indeed, been worth every cent.

Here is a caveat: I only bought about half of these products full-price. The frugal side of me always looks for a way to get quality goods for less. I bought in outlet stores, at company sales, and at discount stores. Once you’ve identified the product you want, it pays to shop around and shop strategically.

But in the end, I recommend buying the exact size, style, and color you want. Don’t compromise just because something’s on sale. You won’t be as happy if you do.

I’ve also linked to where you can get your own if you so desire. These aren’t affiliate links; I just want to share great products with people who’ll appreciate them if you’re in the market for any of these items.

If you are interested in finding quality items that last, or that come with a lifetime warranty, I recommend the excellent site Buy Me Once. They have a selection of well-curated, well-made products that will last you a long time. Continue reading “10 Expensive Purchases that Were Worth Every Cent”

Making Money Simple

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

One of the ways that Mr. ThreeYear and I have been able to succeed over the years is to radically simplify life.

As we get older, life has gotten more complicated. There are more apps you should be using, more activities to choose from, more long-form articles to read, more appointments and check-ups.

And, if you haven’t noticed, there’s a reason that things are legitimately harder for adults nowadays. With the advent of technology, the burden of completing many of the services that used to be done by others is now on us. We used to have attendants to pump our gas, travel agents to book our flights, telephone operators to connect our calls. But these, and thousands of other tasks, have been shifted to the consumer during the last several generations, leaving us with more to do than ever. Sure, we’ve saved money in the process, but the result is that we’re so busy straining to keep up with the overwhelming amount of small tasks to complete, that it’s hard to keep up.

About four years ago, I began to embrace the idea of less. I embraced the KonMari method, getting rid of about 35% of our stuff, including about 30 boxes of books that I’d kept since school, 70% of the kids’ toys that were broken or they no longer played with, half of my clothes that I didn’t wear, and pictures, mementos, and tchotchkes that didn’t serve any particular purpose. Continue reading “Making Money Simple”

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”