October Net Worth Update

Hi! I’m back with another net worth update.

October Net Worth Update www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

October was a fun, warm, leave-changing, slow fall month for us. I say “slow fall” because in New Hampshire, the leaves started changing colors around August 1st (every year!) and then from mid-September to the first week of October, went into riotous “bloom” until a heavy rain would take them out and all the leaves would be bare. Fall was brief.

In North Carolina, fall has slowly moseyed its way in, the leaves have taken their time changing color, getting darker and darker over weeks, not days, and are also taking their time dropping to the ground, as the temperatures shift between 40s and 50s to 60s and occasionally, 70s (F).

I know I talk about the weather a lot. But when you spent the last eight years as a Southerner in exile in bleak New England, you get at least a year to geek out about the amazing warm weather in the South.

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Since we’ve achieved the latter goal, we’ll be primarily focused on the former in each of these reports going forward. Each month, I record our progress on our net worth and our spending. 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. It’s looking more and more like we’re going to miss that by a wide margin. But since we know we don’t always reach our goals, especially our BHAGs, we’ll just keep working ’til we hit it!  Continue reading “October Net Worth Update”

A Year of Good Food: Cook for the Week

Happy November! I am very proud to report on our October food spending. Due to a week away at Disney and Mr. ThreeYear being away for a week, we spent the lowest amount on groceries that we did all year.

A Year of Good Food: Cook for the Week www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Not that it was easy. There were complaints (from the Big Guy). So many complaints! Apparently if the fridge doesn’t look like the produce aisle then something’s wrong.

But I held fast and we survived, and we clocked in our month way under budget.

The Reason for This Experiment

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, I just kept doing what we’ve been doing that has worked: shopping at Aldi, keeping side trips to a minimum, making a list, making a meal plan, and taking inventory before I go to the store.

October

October dawned warm and ended cool. It’s so nice to experience fall in North Carolina, because it’s very slow to arrive, and then gets blessedly cool at night and in the mornings, but warms up during the day.

The leaves are actually just starting to turn here, at the beginning of November. When we went camping in the mountains, two and a half hours Northwest of here in Pisgah National Park, we experienced much cooler temps, but here in the city it’s not as cold.

camping
Checking out the Davidson River while camping

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Cook for the Week”

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.

8 Cheap Purchases that Have Lasted 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.

10 Expensive Purchases that Were Worth Every Cent www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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”

A Year of Good Food: No Focus

Hello October. Boy, I’m glad September’s over. Let’s see how our family did while I was on my Whole 30 challenge.

A Year of Good Food: No Focus www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

If you’re not familiar with the beast that is Whole30, let me give you the rundown: it’s basically an elimination diet, where you cut out anything that tastes good. Well, alcohol, dairy, grains, added sugars of any kind, and baked goods. You can eat meat, nuts, vegetables including sweet and white potatoes (I ate a lot of those), olives, and fruits. There’s no calorie counting so you can eat as much as you want but you can’t eat even one bite of a forbidden food. Bread? Forget it. A cookie? After 30 days are up, my friend.

Why would anyone subscribe to this torture, you may be asking? A lot of people (including me) are plagued with stomach issues, and an elimination diet can help you suss out which foods cause you problems. Some people even get migraines because of their food sensitivities, which I just found out after a conversation at FinCon, the financial bloggers’ conference.

So September was dedicated to eating this way for 30 days. I did it. But it was hard. And it was hard on the budget. (My attitude was also not the best, as you can probably tell. That’s on me, because there were some real and important benefits to eliminating so many foods, namely, that it allowed me to notice how food makes me feel).

Why a Grocery Challenge?

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 spent most of our grocery budget on whole foods, nuts, and olive oil. That stuff ain’t cheap.

September

In addition to completing Whole30, we were in the first month of school, had Hurricane Florence pass through, hosted visitors, went out of town for a wedding, and I went to FinCon, the financial bloggers’ conference in Orlando, Florida.

We’re just finding our rhythms, especially as we’ve yet to complete a full week of school/work with no interruptions.

I’ve been grocery shopping at Aldi on Fridays when I can (great day to buy your groceries because they restock the store that day and there aren’t a lot of people shopping for food) but because of all the disruptions, interruptions, and trips, it wasn’t as organized as in the past.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: No Focus”

The Power of Waiting

There are few things in life I hate as much as waiting. I remember my grandmother reciting the lines to one of her favorite poems when I was little, as I jumped from one foot to the other, hurrying her along in my mind.

The Power of Waiting www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

“If a string is in a knot,
Patience will untie it.
Patience can do many things—
Did you ever try it?

If it was sold at any shop
I should like to buy it.
But you and I must find our own—
No other can supply it.”

My grandmother is a fairly patient woman. More importantly, she understands the power of patience. She is one half of the frugal dynamo comprising my maternal grandparents.

Leon

A little background, if you will. My mom’s parents were born at the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s and were Depression Babies. My grandfather Leon, especially, grew up in the middle of the tobacco fields and sharecroppers of central North Carolina. When he was a little boy, about Little ThreeYear’s age, his dad left, leaving my grandmother alone with two small children. My grandfather had to work in those same sharecropping fields, picking cotton and beans to make money so his mama and sister could eat. They’d trap rabbits for the occasional meat to add to their meals. They were so poor that food was a constant concern. Continue reading “The Power of Waiting”

Financial Hot Buttons

The other day, Mr. ThreeYear and I were driving the boys to meet my sister and her family at our local bowling alley. It was during the hurricane rains, and we were trying to get everyone out of the house for a bit. Junior ThreeYear innocently mentioned that he was hungry, and Mr. ThreeYear said, “Don’t worry; they have snacks there.” I quickly replied, “I packed snacks for us to eat” and told Mr. ThreeYear, “I’ve budgeted $50 for this outing. I don’t want to go over.” (Bowling at this alley costs like $35 without a coupon and then there were the arcade games!).

Financial Hot Buttons www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Mr. ThreeYear got very angry and told me that if he wanted to buy snacks at the bowling alley, he would. That I couldn’t nit-pick small purchases like that, and I needed to stop talking about how much we were spending immediately.

Uh-oh. I had inadvertently pushed one of Mr. ThreeYear’s financial hot buttons.

What are hot buttons? Well, seems to me that hot buttons are anything that you say or do that causes someone else to immediately get red hot angry. A hot button reaction is usually not commensurate in strength with the statement or action that precedes it. In other words, someone can say or do something relatively benign, but because those things cause emotional triggers, you’re going to have a big reaction.

We all have hot button issues, and we all respond to them in different ways.

First, Mr. ThreeYear’s hot button.

When he was growing up, Mr. ThreeYear’s family was very poor. He grew up in Pinochet-era Chile, when there was a dictator and curfews each night. The economy was stable but not booming. Chile was solidly in the category of third world countries.

His dad had a job at a bank and then left to work with a colleague. That didn’t pan out, and he had no job, so he opened a small convenience store at the front of their house. My mother-in-law worked as a teacher at the time, but they didn’t have enough money to adequately fund even the basic necessities, like a higher-than-normal electric bill. My mother-in-law washed her dishes in cold water out of necessity, because washing in hot water cost too much. Continue reading “Financial Hot Buttons”

August Net Worth Update

Happy Labor Day! In the US, this is the day that normally signals the true end of summer. School started for our family last week, and my parents are here celebrating the long weekend.

August Net Worth Update www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

The month of August has been awesome. Weather-wise, it’s the worst month of the year in North Carolina, but I keep telling myself that if I can run in this heat and humidity, I’m set because it’ll just get cooler from here on out. We’ve enjoyed the pool, had Junior ThreeYear go to his first-ever overnight camp in New Hampshire, had two sets of visitors (our friends from NH who now live in TX and my parents), and started school. Mr. ThreeYear and I have been walking the boys to the bus stop each morning, along with Lucy, and it’s been so fun to make friends with our neighbors and see our kids off to school each day.

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Since we’ve achieved the latter goal, we’ll be primarily focused on the former in each of these reports going forward. Each month, I record our progress on our net worth and our spending. 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 our move and the market, I’m not sure it’s doable. But we’re going to try. Continue reading “August Net Worth Update”

We Got a 15-Year Mortgage. Here’s Why You Should, Too.

I am a big fan of fifteen-year mortgages. When we bought our first property in Chile, we actually took out a fifteen-year mortgage, and then paid it off a year-and-a-half early last December. But for some reason (money), we did not take out a fifteen-year mortgage with our first house in Atlanta. We did the slick 5% down, 30-year on that house, and lost our shirts with that deal when it was time to sell (well, technically, just our down payment, 4 years’ equity, and $20,000).

We Got a 15-Year Mortgage. Here's Why You Should, Too. www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Why is a fifteen-year mortgage so great? We can argue all day about paying down debt versus investing (which I’ve done here) and the math behind it. But the truth is, a fifteen-year mortgage only increases your monthly mortgage payment by a little bit and helps you build up equity so much faster than a thirty-year mortgage. Yes, you can take out a thirty-year mortgage and pay it off early. But the beauty of a fifteen-year mortgage is that in fifteen years, it’s paid off, guaranteed. My girl Chief Mom Officer wrote a great post about the same topic with her actual mortgage numbers that I encourage you to read.  Continue reading “We Got a 15-Year Mortgage. Here’s Why You Should, Too.”

Budgeting a Month Ahead

I know there are many people who don’t budget, but for me, it’s been a lifesaver. I am a natural spender, not a saver, so putting artificial boundaries around my money is important. Over the years, I’ve trained myself not to touch some of it, to keep it off limits, and giving myself artificial boundaries around eating out and entertainment has helped us spend less over time.

Budgeting a Month Ahead www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

One thing I’ve never been able to do (and I say “I” because Mr. ThreeYear has pretty bad money anxiety and doesn’t look at the budget) is get a month ahead in our budgeting.

We’ve been budgeting for ten years this month, and it’s the first month I’ve gotten a month ahead in the budget. Previously, I’d budget one paycheck at a time, so I wouldn’t fully find my budget categories at the beginning of the month (I have a habit of throwing any extra money we get into investment accounts). It worked, but I was never budgeting all at once. With budgeting one month ahead, you use this month’s income to fund next month. So you need to have a full month’s income saved, in addition to what you need to pay your bills for the current month.

Part of the reason I never got one month ahead was that I didn’t see the benefit. As long as our budget was working, why fix it? Sure, it was a little awkward to fund our essential expenses and then later fund our nonessential expenses (using our 50/50 budget) but it had worked for years, and we always had investing, saving, or debt payoff goals that seemed more important than getting a month ahead with our budget. Continue reading “Budgeting a Month Ahead”