Teaching Kids Perseverance

I’m spending the week at the beach this week with my family for the upcoming Independence Day celebration.

Last evening, the boys and I went kayaking with my dad. Junior ThreeYear and I had our own kayaks and Pata (my dad’s grandpa name) and Little ThreeYear shared a two-man vessel.

We put the boats in at high tide from the slip off the back of our house and paddled through the marsh. We got all the way out to a channel of ocean water, with a strong current, and pulled our kayaks up on a sand bar to enjoy our own private beach.

It was one of those magical experiences that I knew the boys would remember forever, as they made giant sandcastles out of the soft, wet sand and slung sand balls at each other.

Dad and I decided to go back when the sun got lower in the sky and we knew we only had an hour or so of light left.

As magical as the kayaking experience was going out, coming back, it was an exercise in frustration for Junior ThreeYear. Because he was paddling his own kayak, he was responsible for getting back across the windy channel, then paddling himself all the way back through the marsh to our house.

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Paying Too Much? How to Unstick Your Money Habits

Earlier this year, my family switched to an HSA Health Insurance plan. Unfortunately, I found out after we switched that we’d no longer pay a low $10 or $20 copay for our prescription meds. Instead, we paid upwards of $100 for each of my two boys’ ADHD meds each month.

We suffered through these costs for a few months until one evening, Mr. ThreeYear saw an advertisement for the GoodRX app on TV. “You should look into it,” he prodded me, for maybe the tenth time. “Okay, fine, I’ll download it, but it’s not going to save us anything,” I said. I was convinced that there was no way there could be much of a price differential between our meds, because I’d looked online at our health insurance’s price comparer, and thought I’d found the cheapest pharmacy.

Well, it turns out that I was in for a delightful surprise. In a strange twist of fate that has only happened a couple of times in our marriage (ha), Mr. ThreeYear was right and I was wrong.

I downloaded GoodRx and found out that the local Publix Pharmacy carried our meds for less than HALF the cost. Instead of Little ThreeYear’s meds costing over $150, they now cost $58. I was floored! How could they be so much cheaper? I had our prescriptions transferred and went to the pharmacy, and not only were the medicines cheaper, the service was much better and the pharmacy techs were more knowledgable.

A few weeks later, when we needed antibiotics for strep throat, all four of our prescriptions were $0 at Publix! (That $0 is to be read as “no additional cost” since my father, who abhors the term “free,” occasionally reads this blog).

If Mr. ThreeYear hadn’t pressed me to look into the cheaper option, I would have kept paying more and going to a worse pharmacy, probably for years.

When we got Lucy the dog, I began calling around to find out vet prices. All of the vets I called cost about the same, and charged around $400-$600 to spay young puppies. I dutifully took Lucy to her first check up at the vet, and paid $150 or so. Then, a friend came into town and I mentioned the high cost of a spay to her, and she recommended looking for a Humane Society close by where she thought they’d offer services for cheaper.

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How We Survive and Thrive in Summer

So far, summer 2019 has arrived fast and furious, and hasn’t felt like summer at all. But today, for the first time in 2 weeks, we don’t have friends or family visiting, Mr. ThreeYear and I are back from his work conference, and it looks like we can finally *start* our summer. 

I’ve updated this post from a couple of years ago to reflect what we’ve kept the same and what we’ve changed to keep summer running smoothly, without spending a fortune. Hope it helps you to enjoy your summer and family a little more!

Summer looks and feels a little different for most of us, but for those of us with kids, there are some big logistical challenges to overcome. My friend who has works full time starts planning her kids’ camp schedule in February. Another friend who works part time has her husband work remotely on days she goes into the office. I’m home with my kids all summer since I’m a teacher, but I definitely need a plan for fun and sanity.

Read on for how I’ve finally figured out, after many summers, how to include both, without spending a fortune.

Survive and Thrive in Summer--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

In 2015, after seven and a half years as a stay-at-home mom, then two years as a part-time marketing manager, I did an abrupt career change and became a part-time ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher at my kids’ elementary school. It’s been such a wonderful way to make a difference, earn money, and see my kids every day. Since we’ve moved to North Carolina, I’ve become a full-time Spanish teacher.

The best part of being a teacher, full- or part-time, is that when summer finally arrives, the boys and I are off! We are free to enjoy the summer, go to the beach, and have playdates.

Even though we look forward to summer all year, I’ve learned over the years that ten weeks of expansive free time makes mama and boys less-than-happy. Continue reading “How We Survive and Thrive in Summer”

I’m 21. What Do I Do with My Money?

I was at a party last year, and there were several college students there who knew about my blog. They were in the final years of college, and thinking about the next stages of life. One earnestly asked me, “What do I do with my money when I get a job?”

Do you know how to shut down a party? Ask me that question. I can talk about money all night long. Poor kids. But I tried my best to refrain from throwing up money advice all over them, and focused on giving them a few key pieces of advice they could maybe remember. Then I hightailed it out of the kitchen and found some other people to bore.

After our conversation, though, I started thinking about the implications of the question. It’s a well-known fact that we offer little to no personal finance education for high school or even college students. That’s changing, slowly, but as I think about teaching high schoolers, I want to have some actionable advice to give them.

Here’s what I told the guy in the kitchen.

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Working 9 to 5

Well, I have some news. I got a job. Yes, that’s right, my days of practicing retirement are over (or almost over, since I have the summer ahead of me) and I am joining the masses for my first true full time job since Junior ThreeYear was born.

I am going to be a Spanish teacher for middle and high school students at a local private school just eight minutes from my house (that detail was an important part of my decision-making).

I’ll actually be working 7:45 to 4:00, but in deference to Dolly Parton (and my fifth grade talent show tune-yes, there were strategically placed balloons), I took some creative liberty with the post’s title.

How did I decide to go from no job to a full time job?

When we moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina, I knew I wanted to take a year off from teaching. Both Junior and Little ThreeYear have had a rough go of it in school with their ADHD and other assorted issues, and I wanted to make sure they were settled and at the right school before diving in to a new job.

Luckily, after a few months it became apparent that they were both thriving in their new schools.

I toyed with the idea of building a business and becoming my own boss instead of returning to teaching, but I realized that I’m not interested in being alone all day in front of the computer. I’m such a social person that instead of taking on more freelancing gigs, I joined the tennis team and started running with friends. Needless to say, my income flow has not been very strong this year.

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How to Travel When You’re Saving for Financial Goals

So many people think that travel is prohibitively expensive. They think, “I can’t afford to travel internationally.” But international travel can be downright inexpensive, if you travel to the right areas and use some tricks to keep your costs down.Is it a good decision to travel when you’re saving for financial goals? When you’re in the middle of paying off debt, should you plan an international trip? Should you go somewhere new when you’re working so hard to eliminate all of your payments?

My very biased opinion is that you should make travel a priority. In my experience, life passes you by really quickly, debt payoffs can be slow, and children grow up quickly.

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A Year of Good Money: Make Repairs

Six months into the year already! Time for another money challenge, the monthly challenges I give myself or my household to improve our spending habits or make us better stewards of the planet’s resources.

Last month, I read that the third top way to mitigate global warming is to reduce food waste.

And the fourth top way is eating a plant rich diet.

So during the month of May, I paid attention to how much food we wasted, and worked to decrease what we threw away.

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May Net Worth Update

The final countdown… yes, we have one more week of school left. The kids are remarkably sanguine. I am excited for the days where we won’t have the mad morning rush for a few blessed months.

We had another extremely full month in May. Since the weather has warmed up, there has been almost more to do than I can keep up with, leading to this post on how it’s a lot harder to be frugal when you’re busy.

We’ve also been spending a lot and not saving as much as I’d like, which has reminded me why I like having a job so much… extra income. While I’ve been on several interviews, I still don’t have anything lined up for fall. However, I have two promising meetings this coming week, and I’m continuing to apply to many different schools (and universities!).

Our Progress

This month our net worth dropped, because the stock market dropped. So, sadly, we ‘re one step back. We usually have less net worth progress in the summer months, so I’m prepared for several months of disappointing net worth reports.

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Wanna Be More Frugal? Try Under-scheduling.

I hope that this post isn’t head-smacker obvious in its conclusions, but I had an epiphany of sorts yesterday at my kids’ swim practice.

First of all, I’m not super frugal but I’m always trying to get better at spending, because it’s my Achilles’s heel, my Kryptonite.

Second of all, I believe very much in a simplified schedule. This year, I don’t have a full-time (or even part-time job), so my schedule has been very bare, on purpose. That’s been nice. We’ve enjoyed a blessedly busy-free schedule for the entire school year. It’s very much in keeping with our location independent lifestyle. We’ve made last-minute decisions to have a beach weekend or travel to see a relative several times, even skipping a day of school if we needed to.

However, this week, I’ve had a taste of what an over-scheduled life might feel like. The kids have only had one activity each for most of the year, but as of two weeks ago, they both tried out for and made swim team. We have practice every evening.

During the day, after I get the kids on the bus, I’ve been running, writing, applying for jobs, and quickly tidying the house. Then, I run off to help my sister with her new baby, so she can work her Etsy business. After that, I drive back home, pick up the boys on the bus, get them changed, take one to swim practice, come home, eat, then take the other to swim practice.

I’ve had one week of this, not an entire school year, like many parents. But already I’m feeling the effects.

Yesterday, I ordered groceries from our grocery service (which continues to be a major, huge, wonderful help in my life that helps me spend less on groceries despite its cost). After putting them away, I realized that I hadn’t taken inventory of the food we currently had in the house. Because our week had been so busy, and we’d eaten out once during the week, we had a lot more food left over than usual.

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Which College Major is the Best Return on Investment?

What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m guilty of asking this question to my kids. But the truth is, it’s hard to figure out what you want to be as a kid. As an eighteen-year-old entering college, it’s still pretty difficult. We share words of wisdom with freshmen in college like “follow your passion” but that is terrible advice, according to Cal Newport, author of How to Be a High School Superstar.

First of all, how many of us have passions? If we do, it’s obvious what we’ll major in. If we don’t, how are we supposed to develop said passions?

When we send our kids to college, we’re often making a huge financial investment in their futures, or asking them to take on massive amounts of debt. Yet we do so with very little forethought or planning into what, specifically, they’ll get out of the process.

Sure, we know that four years at a liberal arts university will teach the next generation higher thinking skills, give them writing skills, and generally expose them to thinking that will help them in the workplace (and maybe help them learn to hold their own at parties), but do we give enough thought and planning to how they’ll produce a return, in the form of a salary, on the investment of college?

The Chilean model

When I lived in Chile, where I moved shortly after I finished my own university education, I was surprised by how pragmatic Chileans were about their educations.

With average student debt rates climbing ever higher, it's time to pay attention to our return on the college investment. #highered #college #university #careers #collegemajor
Continue reading “Which College Major is the Best Return on Investment?”