A Year of Good Food: Easy Meals

Hello from sunny (very, very sunny) North Carolina! Our family has moved and is now living in the charming town of Davidson, North Carolina. We’re enjoying our new air conditioning, as the heat here is intense in July.

A Year of Good Food: Easy Meals www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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 focused on staying in budget while moving houses. We kept our expectations low–I knew I wouldn’t be able to consistently meal plan or regularly grocery shop, so the idea was to do as well as we could despite the chaos.

June

I feel like I’ve been writing the same report for months now, but June felt absolutely crazy-pants chaotic. I had to take it one day at a time. We had the end of school, the boys’ birthdays, the start of a new graduate class for my master’s, good-bye parties, a big work conference Mr. ThreeYear and I both needed to attend the week of the move, plus all the regular packing and moving details involved with a move. We spent $691.78 for the month, well under budget, in nineteen separate trips to the store. We tried to eat up all the food in our fridge this month, but did a lot of eating out as well.

Yard sale-www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Our spectacularly unsuccessful yard sale in late June (small towns aren’t great for yard sales, we learned).

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Easy Meals”

June Net Worth Update

Hi! I missed you last week. First, we had a joint work conference for Mr. ThreeYear, then we spent one day loading the moving truck, then one day cleaning the house, two days traveling from New Hampshire to North Carolina, and one day prepping for our close. By the time you’re reading this, we’ll be homeowners once again, this time in North Carolina.

June Net Worth Update www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I wanted to blog so much but it wasn’t happening.

I’ve never been so tired. Maybe after having the kids. Definitely after having the kids. But man, this is a close second. Moving is hard. Of course, we know it will be amazing once we get moved in and settled down, but for now, not knowing where my pjs are, or Mr. ThreeYear’s iPad, or pretty much anything, is disconcerting. Throw a mandatory joint work conference, an 8-year-old birthday party, and a graduate class with tons of work into the mix, and I was fried.

Charlotte sign www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Seeing that sign after two full days in a car felt very good.

Also, yesterday, my sister thought she’d speed up my transition into North Carolina living, by taking me to a yoga class on someone’s back porch in 88 degree weather. Ten minutes into class, there was a puddle of sweat on my mat. And I think (ok, I know!) I belong in the beginner yoga class. These ladies were popping up into headstands on a dime. It’s a really good thing there’s no picture of that.

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 the wild ride the market’s likely to take us on this year, I’m not sure it’s doable. But we’re going to try.

This month’s net worth report will be a little strange. It will take into account the (massive) loss of equity in our net worth from the move. We paid for realtors’ fees, closing costs, repairs, the move itself, attorneys’ fees, hotel stays, eating out, and the other myriad costs to move. Was it worth it? 100%! We’re living our dream of location independence (very firmly in one location, but hey, that’s what we want). It is a little hard to write down in black and white, though. Continue reading “June Net Worth Update”

A Year of Good Food: Survive the Move

June is here and with it, summer weather and summer eating! We love the beginning of fresh fruits and vegetables and the lighter meals we tend to eat during the summer months. There’s no air conditioning in most places in New Hampshire, our house included, so keeping our house cool is important. That means limited time using the stove and oven.

A Year of Good Food: Survive the Move www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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 focused on shopping the perimeter of the store only. It meant we ate healthier. You may have read the news that we’re moving at the end of the month. That’s right; our dream of location independence is coming true.

May

Because of the move, there was zero planning for May’s food shopping. We went to the store when we could, didn’t use lists, didn’t meal plan, and generally just pieced our meals together as best we could. Despite the chaos, I’m happy to report that we spent $775.95 in May. Yes, I know that figure goes over our budget, but it only goes over $3.95, and believe me, we were spending left and right with no plan. Our house was on the market and we sold it this month. Plus, we had one visitor during the month of May and took two quick weekend trips, meaning our routine was even further skewed. So the fact that we were able to keep the spending down even while not really thinking about it makes me feel like we’re changing our underlying spending habits around groceries.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Survive the Move”

What Our Cars Really Cost

On Wednesday I wrote a post about all of the cars Mr. ThreeYear and I have owned in our time together (it was actually about most of the cars we’ve owned. There were a lot!).

What Our Cars Really Cost

Today I thought I’d delve into the financials of those cars, or as much as I can remember and piece together, and see what the total operational costs of our cars have been over time.

I predict that I will be shocked and disgusted by how much we’ve spent on transportation. A keystone to Mr. Money Mustache’s low spending is his reliance on bikes. Operating cars is one of the big three expenses that we’ve worked on reducing. But I suspect we’ve still spent a lot.

Let’s dive in: Continue reading “What Our Cars Really Cost”

I Spend a Lot. So How Do I Save?

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I have always loved to spend money. Over the years, I’ve had to teach myself to save despite my spendthrift ways. It’s been a lot of trial and error and sometimes I do better than others.

This month, with the advent of Spring after such a long, harsh winter, my inner Spendthrift has broken free.

I Spend a Lot. So How Do I Save? www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Some people, Mr. ThreeYear included, can’t understand this behavior. He grew up in a household where frugality wasn’t just a good idea, it was a way of life. Spend too much on electricity? Not enough for food. It was kind of that simple. So he grew up with such anxiety around spending that it’s hard for him to spend now, even when he wants to.

I had no such constraints. I have found that especially during times of upheaval, or during season changes, or Christmas, my impulse is to spend more. What does that look like?

  • Not being as careful at the grocery store. Buying without having a meal plan or list.
  • Buying clothes I don’t need
  • Going out to eat because I don’t feel like cooking
  • Making a convenient choice rather than the slightly-more-difficult-but-much-cheaper choice
  • Impulse travel

Continue reading “I Spend a Lot. So How Do I Save?”

April Net Worth Update

Happy May! How are things going for you? We finally have no snow on the ground as of yesterday, and that is not an exaggeration. Winter definitely held on as long as it’s ever held on this year, which is my eighth winter in New Hampshire. For the past seven winters, we’ve had all snow melted by April 23rd (even if we’ve gotten a freak snow storm in May afterwards) but this year, we had snow cover for a whole extra week (lucky us!).

April Net Worth Update www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

We did get some beautiful 70-degree days at the tail end of this month, which made everything feel hopeful and Springy. Our crocuses have bloomed (all 2 of them) and our daffodils are pushing up, as well as our alliums and the dahlias. We spent this month doing a variety of activities, some of which I’ll be revealing down the road (hint hint!). It’s been a busy month. Over Spring Break, Mr. ThreeYear and I took a fun trip to Portland, Oregon, while my mom flew up from sunny South Carolina to watch the boys. She had horrible snowy, icy, weather, so we appreciate her sacrifice even more!

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. 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 the wild ride the market’s likely to take us on this year, I’m not sure it’s doable. But we’re going to try.

Last month, even though we enjoyed more lackluster results from the stock market, we got a huge jump in net worth since Mr. ThreeYear’s annual stock gift was given out. Each December, his privately-owned company, which is 100% employee-owned, invites outside auditors to set the stock price. Given the wild surge the stock prices took in December, his company’s stock was given a much higher valuation than the year before. That meant all of the stock we currently hold in the company rose substantially, and we received more stock (valued at more money).

Continue reading “April Net Worth Update”

What You Shouldn’t Spend Money On and Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Me

Mr. ThreeYear and I have, over the course of our ten years of paying attention to finances, amassed a pretty decent net worth. We have done it by prioritizing spending in the areas that we care about (like saving for the future) and cutting spending in other areas. Many times on the blog, I write about the things that we do spend money on, like travel, and I can’t help but get excited and implore you to adopt similar spending habits. However, the truth is, this is a mistake on my part, and I apologize for it. You should not necessarily spend your money on the things I spend my money on. Nor should you save your money for the reasons that I save mine.

What You Shouldn't Spend Money On and Why You Shouldn't Listen to Me www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Why? Because you and I have different values. I’m sure some of our values coincide or else you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog for very long, but it is almost definitely true that you and I value some different things. Your values are based on where you grew up, how you grew up, the challenges you faced, things that went well for you, and special circumstances you currently have in your life. You prioritize your spending based on those values.

In our family, we value three things particularly highly: Continue reading “What You Shouldn’t Spend Money On and Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Me”

Bank Your Raise

Most of us, when we hear we’re getting a 3, 4, or 5% raise, go out to dinner to celebrate and then, without even realizing it, slightly adjust our spending to the “new” income level.

Bank Your Raise www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

One of the most powerful tools you have, though, especially if you find it hard to save, is your yearly raise. For the last six years, Mr. ThreeYear and I have used every cent of his annual raise to increase our savings and investing.

Why? Because we live a very good life at our current level of spending, and we don’t need to spend more. If we want to go out and celebrate, take a trip, or spend the money some other way, it will be waiting for us in the savings account. If we didn’t squirrel the money away where we didn’t see it, we’d spend it without even realizing it, and then all the effort behind earning that raise would be for nothing.

We’ve frittered away money over the years in exactly this way, and it always made me feel powerless over our spending. “But where did that raise go? How do we spend more now? Where is that money?” Now, as I watch our savings grow, I realize that we’re the ones in control of the money, and we’re holding on to it until we’re ready to use it in a thoughtful way (or invest it, which is my favorite thing to do with our money besides travel!).

Continue reading “Bank Your Raise”

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.

Your Money Or Your Life Chapter 6 www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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)”

A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store

Happy April! Time for this month’s recap of A Year of Good Food.

A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store (March) www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Our family is challenging ourselves to spend less on food this year so we can reach our goal of location independence by the end of 2019. Last year, I challenged myself to adopt one habit a month that would translate into better money moves for our family. You can read all about what I called A Year of Good Habits here.

This year, 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.

For some people, $772 is a huge amount to spend on groceries. Others couldn’t imagine spending so little. The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion says the average that monthly expenditure for a low-cost food plan for a family of four in the US was $731.20. The liberal food plan average expense was $1093. I’ve seen bloggers who spend $60 per month on their food (they garden and eat two meals a day). I know friends who spend $400 a week for their family of five. Food spending really does seem to be all over the place for people.

This experiment is about behavior change for our family, so by teaching ourselves to spend less and not waste food (which we can be pretty bad at) my hope is that at the end of this year, we’ll have developed permanent habits around spending less and eating everything we have in the refrigerator.

So far, it has not been easy to achieve this goal.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Food: Shop at One Store”