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Raise your hand if you’re a saver. You know, you never spend money. You’re biologically opposed to pulling out your wallet. You’ve got thousands squirreled away in a savings account somewhere, and you’ve built it up almost without thinking about it.
I bet you grew up in a frugal family, right? Did your mom always pack sandwiches when you went on road trips? Did you rarely, if ever, go out to eat? When you did, the whole family ordered waters and split entrees. Am I close? Did you live in a modest ranch your whole life, wear hand-me-downs, and ride in the same car for a decade (that your parents paid cash for)?
I’m not making fun. No way. I’m actually a little jealous. Here’s why: you had the best possible education growing up. Your frugal family taught you how, almost without thinking about it, to spend less than you earn. You feel trepidation–a healthy fear–towards buying stuff, and you instinctively pause before buying a material item, and think about whether you actually need it or not. Continue reading “How to Save Money When You’re Not a Saver”
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.
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.
Frugality is such an important cornerstone to financial independence. Even if people disdain the word, the concept of spending less than you earn is essential to financial independence. After all, if Nicholas Cage can blow through $150 Million, there’s really little hope for the rest of us, unless we can mind the gap and stretch the space between what we spend and what we earn.
Since my family has a pressing reason to save a bunch of money–our dream of location independence–we are actively working to get better in this area.
I am mediocre at frugality. I didn’t grow up in a particularly frugal household (my parents having eschewed the Ziploc-reusing antics of their Depression-era parents) and although we did control our spending by wearing hand-me-downs and driving our cars to the ground (my dad drove one car he had for 17 years and then gave it to Mr. ThreeYear and me after we moved back to the States), we did not practice those everyday habits of frugal living that come so naturally to some. Continue reading “5 Frugal Lessons I’ve Learned From My In-Laws”
For the past three days, we’ve had Mr. ThreeYear’s cousin and her family staying with us. We’ve been living the best of August. Mr. ThreeYear took a couple of days off work, and we’ve been showing our family our town’s local lake, a craft fair, a dairy farm, and more. The five cousins have been playing, building forts, swimming, and eating ice cream (okay, the adults have enjoyed that one, too).
The weather has been warm in the day and cool in the mornings and evenings. In short, they’ve gotten to see the best of our area while they’re here. One of the nice things about their trip is that we’ve eaten all our meals, save one, at home. Since they’re Chilean, we’ve eaten the most delicious Chilean meals–empanadas, ceviche, and we had a killer asado. Asados are barbecues (not the Southern kind) where you cook chicken, sausages, and steak on the grill, then you make simple salads to accompany all the meat. Did I take pictures of any of this? Of course not. I was too busy eating! But it’s been delicious. All the delicious home-cooked food inspired this month’s habit. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: No Eating Out”
August has arrived. The ThreeYear family has been reunited, after the boys and I were away for the month of July in North and South Carolina. New England has a decidedly cool, rainy bent this month and, to my utter frustration (repeated every year at this time), tops of the trees are starting to change colors, and little red leaves are falling down all over my driveway. “I’m not ready for fall!” I always think, but it is coming, nevertheless.
The month of July was fantastic, in terms of deepening family relationships and making lifetime memories. It was not fantastic in terms of spending less and saving more, as I’d hoped. Our income always drops in the summers, since I’m not teaching, and while we were away, we spent a lot more than normal on eating out. Plus, we had the other half of our new roof to pay for. Still, thanks to the bull market that just won’t quit, our net worth continued northwards.
We have entered the first days of June. June, sweet June, has continued wet and cold here in New Hampshire. I’ve tallied the rain days–fourteen and then, after a few days of respite, seven. Still, school ends in eight more days, flowers are blooming, and the boys and I are headed to the South for our annual summer road trip at the end of the month. Life is sweet this time of year.
It’s amazing that at the end of the month we’ll have finished half of the year! In some ways, it’s lovely to see the progress towards our goals we’ve made this year, and personal growth we’ve made as a family, in helping the kids navigate school and friendships, and finding the best combination of after-school activities and fun without going over the top.
We’ve also started the process of replacing our roof, and just sent a check in for 50% of the cost–$7,000 dollars of our hard-earned, after-tax dollars. I just keep telling myself that we’ll have a beautiful new roof that won’t leak and will make the house sellable! And I’m grateful that we’ve saved up that cash so we don’t have to panic or take out a loan for this major home repair. Continue reading “A Year of Good Habits: Don’t Throw Away the Food!”
This month, the shower arm in our bathroom has broken, it has taken four different light fixture tries to replace the kitchen light above the sink, and our kitchen faucet has sprung a major leak. We’re getting quotes from roofers in the area to replace our roof. Because there’s a dearth of roofers in the area and the cost of labor and materials is so high, our best quote is $14,000. Yes, that is correct. The cost of a used car. One year of private school education. More than a years’ worth of groceries.
On May 14th, Mother’s Day, it snowed. It rained for fourteen days straight before that. Last week, we got two medical bills for a total of $2,000. We’ve been negotiating a new diagnosis with doctors and the school for our youngest child.
We’ve also had some awesome things happen this month. Mr. ThreeYear became an American citizen on Friday and my dad came up for a surprise visit. After the rain and snow, we got a week full of 80 degree weather and the flowers are blooming. Everything is green and alive. The school year is winding down–as of Wednesday, we’ll have just four more weeks.
We’re healthy, have a stable and happy home life, reliable jobs, and money in the bank to cover our expenses. In the grand scheme of things, the problems that have besieged us this month are minor annoyances. Continue reading “DIY Mayhem in May”
When Mr. ThreeYear and I decided to turn our financial lives around in 2008, we had a lot to learn. When we first started to budget, we wasted tons of money on what we now consider unnecessary expenses (things like alarm systems, cable, and yard service).
We were living in Atlanta at the time, and the dominant culture in that city can be a bit… showy. Since public transportation is limited there, as it’s one of the most spread-out metropolitan areas in the country, cars are a must. And one of the most popular Atlanta pastimes seems to be car one-upmanship. There was even a Lexus Lot at Turner Field, so that Lexus owners could park their cars in an exclusive lot much closer to the field. We were driving a BMW and an Acura at the time (although they were both very used), even though we had debt.
Then we moved to New England and we were exposed to a completely different culture. In the rural New England hamlet where we live, people like to say that they’re of hardy stock. After all, you have to be tough to brave seven months of snow, mud season, and the fierce weather that characterizes the very northeastern-most region of the country. Natives of this region are often seen in January in nothing more than plaid shirts, jeans, and boots, with temperatures in the teens (that’s roughly -10 for you users of Celsius).Continue reading “Planing Our Way to Frugality”
Our family lives in Northern New England, so we have lots of ski slopes very close by our house. Unfortunately, skiing is very expensive and can work against our ability to save, so if we want to ski, we have to be smart about it.
Admittedly, skiing on the cheap is very difficult. Skiing is an expensive hobby, with expensive equipment, clothing, and lift tickets. And since our family is on a three-year journey to save as much money as possible so we can become location independent, we have to be careful about what we spend on entertainment costs. But our family gets around a lot of those expenses by utilizing some of the following “tricks”: Continue reading “How to Ski on the Cheap”