A 2017 Earth Day Checkup

A 2017 Earth Day Checkup

Earth Day was this weekend. To celebrate, Florin’s school passed out garbage bags to kick off next week’s city-wide clean up (my favorite time of year… all the trash that was hiding in all that snow gets picked up!). Each year, I perform a personal Earth Day Checkup. We could all be doing better protecting the environment, but every year, I like to celebrate the things I am doing, note my own improvements, and come up with something I can improve upon.

Earth Day Checkup: The Good

  • Growing Food – We’re pretty good at taking advantage of our short growing season. We got started a bit late this year, but we’ve now got some arugula, basil, and tomatoes starting in our window. (We can’t move plants outside until June 1). When it’s time, we will plant zucchini, carrots, and peas outside. Our raspberries continue to take over the garden and we let them.
  • Sourcing Food – I think it’s important for my kids to understand where food comes from (and not just the store). Partly because of this, my kids are aware we grind our wheat into flour and they help crack our oat groats into our version of “steel-cut.” We also catch enough salmon each year to eat salmon weekly. Our kids are very involved in that process. Though we are not hunters, we try to eat other meats sparingly.
  • Using Fabric Grocery Bags – This is a development that I’m happy to see has caught on. The actual materials may not save the environment, but re-using the same bags over and over is where the environmental benefit is seen. Our bags have all been used many, many times.
  • Recycling – Getting recycle bins in our neighborhood is actually how I become HOA president. I showed up at a meeting and was nominated and voted in immediately. We are very good about recycling everything we can.
  • Drinking Tap Water – Hard to complain about glacial tap water here in Alaska. It’s delicious. And when we need water on-the-go, we bottle it up!
  • Preserving Food – We’re actually pretty good at not having to waste food. Occasionally the last few celery sticks will go bad before we consume them and we do have a hard time making it through the Costco spinach before it’s mushy (we always get really, really close!), but on the whole, we’re actually pretty good about this. We also don’t buy jam (we bring some homemade blackberry up from Mr. T’s mom in Seattle and we make our own raspberry from our own plants) and we preserve when we’re given food (ie: canning delicious homemade applesauce).

Earth Day Checkup: An Improvement Goal

Drive Less – We’re very solid 2-car people lately. I don’t regret this decision since Florin and Penny go to different schools and they are rerouting the city buses and we will no longer have convenient access to them. However, with the chaos of having two kids in two different schools this year, it seems I’m always driving all over town. I’ve been bad about efficiently planning my errands. This year, I want to at least be more conscious about the things I need to do that involve driving and try to limit the amount of trips needed.

What are your goals for improvement in your Earth Day Checkup?

Why Are We Afraid of Boring?

Why Are We Afraid of Boring?

Everyone lives their lives trying to not be boring. They don’t want to live like everyone else. They don’t want to seem average. People prove they’re not boring by buying nice houses, interesting cars, fashionable clothes. “I couldn’t possibly be boring. Just LOOK at me!” In this cycle of trying to prove we’re not boring, we also expect boring answers to be wrong.

The Boring Answers are the Best Ones

People want shortcuts. They want to hear the anecdotes and not the research. Everyone wants to be in shape and everyone wants to be rich. Why do you think the weight loss and financial industries are so large? We want a pill or a get-rich scheme. Do you know how to get in shape? You exercise. You actually work the muscles you want to be strong. Do you know how to get rich? You save money. You let money grow by not touching it.

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Anecdotes vs. Research (and the benefits of each)

Anecdotes vs. Research (and the benefits of each)

As a researcher, it is important to me that you know the difference between anecdotes and data (the stuff produced through primary research).

What is Research?

This is a broad question that has many different facets, I realize. And I could bore you with the specifics of randomized controlled trials vs. observational studies, but our purposes here, I consider data/research to be something that has been tested. Many subjects have been involved and conclusions have been drawn. Research is testing whether defaulting workers into contributing to retirement funds actually increases earnings and then finding out that it does.

The conclusions drawn from research mean that they’ve been tried and tested. Many, many people save way more money into retirement plans if you default them into contributing in the first place. What do we do with this information? If you default your contributions, you may not end up clawing them back at all!

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Northern Expressions

Northern Expressions: Money without brains is always dangerous

Hello fellow money nerds. Today’s quote comes from the very famous book by Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich.

Money without brains is always dangerous. Properly used, it is the most important essential of civilization. -Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

“Money without brains is always dangerous. Properly used, it is the most important essential of civilization.”

Money plus brains equals nearly endless opportunity! Use your brains. Use your resources. And get out there and make the world wonderful!

Happy weekend!

Love, Maggie

A Simple, Month-Ahead Elimination Budget

A Simple, Month-Ahead Elimination Budget

Mr. T and I were married in the midst of college. We were happiness-rich, but cash poor. We were both lucky to not be in debt because we were both given some assistance from our parents for college. After we were married, we combined our meager bank accounts and started an elimination budget.

We both worked hourly as custodians for our college football team cleaning the locker rooms and the coaches’ offices between 9:30PM and 1AM. Perks: football games were way more engaging because we knew the players intimately though we never met them (“the player that’s got that cute letter from a 6-year-old fan on his locker board has the ball!”). We also got random things out of the trash, like a barely-worn pair of shoes and a dozen tickets to the nearby waterpark. Also, we got to work together and we got a slight pay increase for working nights. Downsides: It was very late and we were tired. We got weekly wheatgrass shots at Jamba Juice to get us through.

The Simple Elimination Budget

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How "Make More Money" is Like a Video Game

How “Make More Money” is Like a Video Game

Quick call to action: I’m running an awesome research project and need your help. I need as many responses as possible. Go take the survey. It won’t take long. Thanks so much! Do it for science!

Maybe you’re like me. You read all these amazing posts about how the solution to your problem is simple. Make more money. And then you think: “Yeah, wouldn’t that be great?!” The posts say: “Don’t worry. It’s easy. Start a blog. Make an extra $90,000/year” Or “just start an e-commerce business and watch the sales replace your day job income in no time!” Now, as a consistent blogger of nearly 2 years that has made a grand total of less than $400 on this blog (want to increase that? Sign up for Personal Capital with my affiliate link. The service is free. And awesome. I promise), and as someone that runs an Etsy shop with 2 total sales (I won’t pitch that to you as well. You’re welcome), let me tell you that I finally figured it out!

There are levels to the game Make More Money

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March 2017 Plan Update

March 2017 Plan Update

March 2017 has been an awesome month! We traveled to Nebraska and Texas to see my sister and Mr. T’s brother and the kids got to play with cousins. We went to museums, parks, zoos, and just generally had a great time. A week after we got back from our trip, school was canceled here in Anchorage because we got nearly a foot of snow on top of all of the break-up ice (not even April Fooling you)!

We’re still discussing the best town to live in if you want to weigh in!

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (I assumed bloggers pushed this because of the affiliate income until I started using it myself… worth the FREE pricetag! And Seriously Amazing.)

I think we’re officially a month ahead in finances between some major hustling in March and our tax return! (but then we went on vacation and so my April paydates will be much lower, so we’ll see if we can maintain it!)

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Northern Expressions

Northern Expression: Most people leave no traces.

Today’s Northern Expression comes from Ivan Illich in his H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness. Illich was a fascinating Croatian/Austrian philosopher that had very interesting perspectives on many everyday things. In today’s quote, he talks about how we leave no traces in our fast-paced lives:
Most people do not dwell in the place where they spend their days and leave no traces in the place where they spend their nights.

“Most people do not dwell in the place where they spend their days and leave no traces in the place where they spend their nights. They spend their days next to a telephone in an office and their nights garaged next to their cars.” – Ivan Illich

He’s onto something, right? If you work full-time, where do you actually spend most of your time? And how do you interact with your “stuff”? It’s something we don’t think enough about.

I like the idea of where you leave your traces. As a work-at-home mom, I definitely leave my traces on my home, but they’re not always the best traces.

Where do you leave your traces? Are they the traces you want to leave?

Happy Friday and last day of March! See you next month!

Love, Maggie

Why I Want to Move to the U.K.

Why I Want to Move to the U.K.

I often wax poetic about wanting to move to the U.K. and long-time readers of the blog know that I sincerely mean it when I say I want to move there. But, recently, I had a breakthrough in thinking. Last week, Mr.T and I were on a road trip from Dallas to San Antonio with two sleeping 3-year-olds in the back seat. So, we were stuck in a car with time to chat.

Our usual conversation is about where we would move if we left Alaska. Our parents are in the Northwest and we grew up in the suburbs of Seattle and Portland, but we’ve found that when we go back, we’re stressed out by the amount of people and traffic and the bustle that has moved into the suburbs. Living in Anchorage has made us small-time people. We’re now definitely more country or suburbs-of-suburbs type of people. We also would love to live next to siblings, but our siblings are all over (Texas, Nebraska, California) and we’re not in love with any of those locations and we can’t count on them to stay there either.

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What's Stopping You From Cutting That Budget Line Item?

What’s Stopping You From Cutting That Budget Line Item?

I am a big fan of making sure I get value from my money. Each month as I look over the month’s spending, I look at where I can improve and where I can optimize and where I’m happy with my spend. Each budget line item should have a purpose. So often, we get stuck with ones that don’t, so why do we avoid cutting them?

Things Change, So Should Your Spending

We used to cloth diaper, but with health problems after Lui’s birth, we stopped. Paying for diapers was worth the expense.

This week, we returned from a 2-week vacation to visit the kids’ cousins in Nebraska and Texas and I realized diapers are no longer worth the line item on our budget. Lui’s 3 now and is ready.

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