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.

Continue reading “I’m 21. What Do I Do with My Money?”

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.

Continue reading “Working 9 to 5”

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.

Continue reading “How to Travel When You’re Saving for Financial Goals”

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.

Continue reading “A Year of Good Money: Make Repairs”

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.

Continue reading “May Net Worth Update”

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.

Continue reading “Wanna Be More Frugal? Try Under-scheduling.”

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?”

Practicing Retirement

Happy Memorial Day. Many thanks to those who died serving their country, and to the families they left behind, we are grateful.

It’s been almost a year since my family achieved our goal of location independence and moved to North Carolina from New Hampshire.

Which means it’s been almost a year since I stopped teaching.

When we moved, I took a year off teaching in order to make sure that we got the boys into the right schools, we could get them well-settled, make appointments with doctors, dentists, counselors, and get their lives set up.

In many ways, this past school year, soon coming to an end, has been a practice retirement for me. Sure, I’ve had small jobs: I’ve tutored a middle schooler in Spanish once a week, written several freelance articles for various websites, and blogged three times a week. But by and large, I’ve had large chunks of free time to fill up and enjoy.

For one thing, both boys adjusted to their new schools really well. They had great teachers and counselors in place who made sure they were getting the assistance they needed. So I could take a giant step back from setting up counseling appointments, getting them into charter schools, and the like. They just didn’t need those things.

For another, we had hardly any activities programmed this year. Junior ThreeYear went to a climbing club once a week and Little ThreeYear had tennis lessons for half an hour on Sunday afternoons and did Lego club for a few weeks in the winter. Other than that, they didn’t do any organized activities.

Continue reading “Practicing Retirement”

Effort, Achievement, and FI

This article, written over a year ago now, is timely. I’ve been looking for jobs for next year. Looking for jobs isn’t fun. It’s an exercise in humility, effort, and rejection required to be undertaken daily. One of the reasons I blog is to remind myself of lessons I’ve learned that I can easily forget as time goes on. I wish that I could learn a lesson once and internalize it forever. Alas, these life lessons are to be learned over and over again. 


As educators, wrote an article I recently read, we must teach our students the relationship between effort and achievement. That is to say, there is a direct correlation between the effort we expend on a particular endeavor and the likelihood that we’ll have success in said endeavor.

Effort, Achievement, and FI--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This may sound like a basic concept, but, like so many basic concepts, once you take a minute to unpack it, it has profound implications.

The more effort I put into something, the more likely I am to have good results. 

Many times, I water that advice down in my head. I pretend there’s not a direct correlation between my level of effort and my achievements: “I’ll just run three times this week instead of four. I’ll skip the mid-range run.” Every time I skip a mid-range 6-mile run, my longer 10-12 mile run is super painful and I’m slower. Over an entire training period, that means I’ll run (even) slower on race day.

“I’m tired, so I’ll wake up at 6am instead of 5am. I can still write a blog post.” That’s when I publish 2 posts per week, not three. Over time, I notice my page views slipping and readership going down.

“I’ll just wing it in class, instead of preparing a lesson plan for the week. I can prep before class each day.” My classes are not as good, I’m scrambling for activities to fill the time, and over time, my students don’t make as much progress learning English.

The truth is, consistent, daily effort pays off. It pays off in life, and it pays off (literally) when you’re working towards financial independence.

Making More Money

In the past two and a half years, I have expended a great deal of effort towards my new career–ESOL Teacher. When I started teaching in September of 2015, I knew very little about teaching English. I worked very hard to network with other teachers, observe their lessons, ask questions, and take copious notes. I started a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and many nights and weekends were spent reading, on our online classroom, or in class, an hour and a half away. Continue reading “Effort, Achievement, and FI”