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.”

50 Ways to Become More Frugal

I was not born into a frugal family, and frugality has never come naturally to me. Over the years, I have developed more frugal habits, very slowly. But if you’re not naturally frugal, then frugality, spending less, being careful with your money, or whatever you’d like to call it, IS a habit that you can acquire.

Why is frugality so important? There are many who argue that you should keep your main focus on earning more money, because there’s only so much budget you can cut, but an unlimited amount of income you can create. True, but, the truth is, most of us waste an incredible amount of money, and focusing on becoming a little bit more frugal doesn’t just help us save $1, it helps us save an after tax dollar. Meaning, if your tax rate is 25%, when you save $1, you’re really saving $1.25.

Once you’ve adopted a frugal habit, it will stay with you for years. Get in the habit of cleaning your own house? That’s $150-$200 per month that you’ll pocket for years. You don’t have to keep hustling to make more dollars–once you’ve adopted the habit, you can keep at it ad infinitum. Continue reading “50 Ways to Become More Frugal”

A Frugal Reputation Pays

When we lived in New Hampshire, it was pretty standard to be frugal. New England is a region of the country that was settled by English Puritans. A group of Puritans settled the area around Boston back in 1640 in order to escape increasing religious persecution in England.

Putting aside the theological, Puritans believed in living Godly lives both as individuals and as a community. They believed that hard work was the epitome of such a life, and eschewed owning servants or slaves for that reason. They stripped their daily lives of “worldly distractions” such as entertainment and ornate adornments or decorations in the house.

Fast forward four hundred years, and the descendants of that group continue to value some of those core beliefs, like dressing simply and practically (trust me when I tell you that makeup and highlights aren’t big in New England), using their resources wisely (ie being frugal!), and simple entertaining (people don’t have big parties and it isn’t very common to be invited over to your neighbors’ house for dinner).

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The Art of Frugal Entertaining

One of the components of well-being, based on research by Martin Seligman and many others, is meaningful relationships. In a study done in the 1960s on the residents of the small community of Roseto, Pennsylvania, and reported on by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, researchers found that all of the residents in the community, who had immigrated from Roseto, Italy, had low incidences of heart disease and other illnesses and enjoyed long lives, despite the fact that they ate poorly, exercised little, and smoked heavily.

Researchers were intrigued and spent several years figuring out the key to the unusual longevity and health the Roseto community enjoyed. Finally, it was determined that the key to the community’s good health was the tight-knit community, the feeling that there was always someone to whom residents could turn if they had a problem. Families and extended families were large and well-connected, and there was a deep sense of community in the town.

We are social creatures. Many of the things we do are for social reasons, whether or not we realize it. I am convinced that the terrible swath of gun violence in the US has come from increasing levels of isolation and loneliness in our society.

One of the reasons our family moved to North Carolina was to live closer to extended family and to cultivate a community of friends and neighbors with whom we had close relationships.

In order to cultivate those relationships, we’ve had to work at starting and nurturing those friendships.

Mr. ThreeYear and I picked the neighborhood we did precisely because it was bike able, kid-friendly, and “warm.” It’s lived up to our expectations. Just last week, Little ThreeYear was invited to ride his bike in the cup-de-sac with some classmates. Mr. ThreeYear and I have met all of our neighbors, and have started several friendships with neighbors with similar interests.

Despite our efforts, families with kids are busy with work, after-school activities, homework, and sports on the weekend. So finding time to hang out with our newfound friends will require some concerted effort on our parts.  Continue reading “The Art of Frugal Entertaining”

How to Save Money When You’re Not a Saver

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please read my disclosure at the bottom of this page).

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”

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.

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)”

5 Frugal Lessons I’ve Learned From My In-Laws

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”

A Year of Good Habits: No Eating Out

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).

No Eating Out--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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”

July Net Worth Update

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent so we can move. Each month(ish), I’ll keep you apprised of our progress. This year, we’ve got some major goals, including paying off our outstanding debt (car and apartment in Chile), replacing our roof, AND saving around $70,000. As of June, we were roughly 18% of the way to doubling our net worth.

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.

July Net Worth Update--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

 

Continue reading “July Net Worth Update”

A Year of Good Habits: Don’t Throw Away the Food!

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.

Don't Throw Away the Food!--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

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!”