Month: July 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

EARTHQUAKE! Life can change so quickly.

We live in Alaska where there are a lot of earthquakes. According to the Alaska Earthquake Center, we’ve had 404 in the past three days! And we’re due for “The Big One” as they’ve been saying for years. The 9.2-magnitude quake that hit Alaska in 1964 was highly destructive and the local fear is a repeat of those events.

On Tuesday, we had a 6.4 earthquake. Again, we’re used to earthquakes around here. We feel them frequently. But this one started small and rolling so we were deceived into thinking it wasn’t a big deal. Florin stood there and said “this isn’t a REAL earthquake!” Then it got bigger. She immediately stood paralyzed, screaming, and we had to coax her under the table. Penny was calm and collected and popped right under the table and covered her neck. Lui just sat there and laughed.

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How to Save Money on a New Baby

There have been several posts lately in the blogosphere about babies and kids. As someone that has had three children and had her first during graduate school, here’s my two cents on how to save money on a new baby.

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It’s Your Fault!

I’m only a month into this “new lifestyle” of being awesome. But here’s what I’ve realized: I’m not as awesome as I’d hoped. I started by hacking my financial life. I took some steps to create an awesome plan to retire awesomely early. When you’re trying to streamline something to be the best it can be, you realize there are shortfalls. I realized I had places I could improve in financially, so to help me, I started this blog. It hasn’t been up long and it doesn’t have a lot of traffic, but it’s my piece to help myself and people like me be better. We can be smarter. We can make better choices.

In optimizing my financial life, I realized I’ve got more optimizing to do.

I set up the blog to help me make better financial choices, so I became hyper-aware of financial discussions happening all around me. It turns out people are always talking about using credit cards like checkbooks, struggling to pay off large student loans, and buying all the things! If you are involved in the online personal finance community, it makes you just want to shout “YOU KNOW BETTER! DON’T BE STUPID!” Because, of course, I’m smarter than them. But I’m not.

We all know what we should be doing, but no one can make us do it. If it’s not happening, it’s your fault! 

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Research Highlight: Temporal Discounting

We’re going to throw around some terms today that will impress your friends at dinner parties. Get out your notepad. Today’s topic is intertemporal choice and temporal discounting. Intertemporal Choice is a term used when a choice involves making a decision at a certain time that will impact the outcomes at a different time. For example, remember the Marshmallow Study? It is an intertemporal choice to choose between taking one marshmallow now or waiting for the second marshmallow. Temporal Discounting simply means that we value the second marshmallow less than we value the one sitting in front of us because the one sitting on the table is here NOW and the other one is LATER. If I told you I would give you a dollar now or you could wait a week and get the same dollar, why would you wait a week? The dollar now is worth more. You could spend it on your way home (don’t. even though the dollar is fake). In one of the most obvious financial examples, it’s hard for people to save for retirement because they value the money now more than the money later.

Temporal discounting is a highly studied topic because it’s important for people to understand how much an individual will discount that future dollar (or marshmallow, or whatever) for the one today. (Would you trade a dollar today for FIVE dollars next week?) It’s also important to understand what factors into that discounting. (Do you trust me? Have you been raised on a family saying of “Take the money and run?”)  This is one of my favorite topics (I reserve the right to share more research in this field at a later date… but because of temporal discounting, THIS post NOW is definitely worth more… I know. I’m hilarious.)

So what does the research say, and how can we learn from it?

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The Best, Easy Salmon Recipe

Mr. T is a man of few words (but crazy ties… I mean, he has a shag carpet tie! I digress…). He’s the salmon chef around here, so I talked him in to jumping in on this post to share his Alaskan expertise (since he’s been cooking it weekly for about five years now). After last week’s dipnetting adventure, we’re ready to cook up some more! Grab your baking sheet, line it with foil and get ready. Here he is now! Introducing, Mr. T….

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Dipnetting: How do you get your salmon?

Another fabulous benefit of being an Alaska state resident is the opportunity to dipnet for personal-use salmon. Between July 10-31, Alaska residents can use a gigantic net on a really long pole to catch salmon. The household limit is 25 for the head of household and 10 for each household member thereafter. If you haven’t already done the math in your head, our household limit is 65 salmon. Now that’s a ridiculous amount of salmon. We don’t bring home nearly that amount and we still eat it weekly in our home. It helps significantly with the food budget plus the added health benefits. And kids love salmon. Florin and Lui ate tons of it as babies and loved it. They still do.

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Energy Rebate Program Update: Windows and Bathroom Fans

If you forgot, the state of Alaska has a program called the Alaska State Energy Rebate Program that will reimburse us $8500 for making energy efficient changes to our house.

Replacing windows is something Mr. T and I figured we would have to hire out. We had no experience with anything window-related and we figured poorly sealed or hung windows could be scary. (Don’t ask me why we were more afraid to hang our own windows than reroute gas piping since we had no experience there either.) So, we got a few quotes around town. It looked like just replacing our windows was going to cost us $6-7000. Since this was the very reason we were doing the energy audit, we were resigned to the fact that this would take up our whole budget and we would go way over that $8500 target. But we needed new windows badly (remember the mold in fingers?) and $6-7000 seemed like a lot of money.

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Retiring Early: The Math

My “go to” answer to any of my kids’ questions is always: science. Try it. It works for a lot of things. “Why is the sky blue?” Science. “Why can’t I eat cake every day?” Science. “How do the ghosts in Haunted Mansion at Disneyworld look so real?” Science. “How are babies made?” Science. If they want real answers, we usually look it up together online, check out a book at the library (I prefer visual aids included in my explanations), or I send them to Mr. T who has both endless patience and an endless trove of random facts to share (aglet = the plastic or metal thingy at the end of your shoelace. Didn’t know that? Mr. T says “you’re welcome”).

In terms of money, the answer is always: Math. How do I know how much to save for retirement? Math.

Actually, I changed my mind. The answer is always: Spend less. How do I know how much to save for retirement? Spend less. Let’s explain.

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The Art of Mooching: The Tale of Rhubarb

Let me begin by saying that I do not condone mooching if it would impact the other person’s trajectory to early retirement (even if they’re not aiming there like you are). Think about the golden rule here people. If the mooching would be annoying to you or impact you financially, don’t do it to someone else. But when it comes to renewable resources that people have in abundance, mooch away!

Our precious rhubarb plant was always the first one to pop up in the spring (nay, before spring here in Alaska). It brought hope that the snow would melt and the rest of the plants would start to turn green. This year, it never came up. It died. The appropriate Alaskan response is: “How do you kill rhubarb?!” I don’t know! Maybe it was this winters’ lack of snow (yes, Boston took all of our snow).

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What to Buy at Trader Joe’s

I know. You weren’t expecting a “what to buy” post. We have good reason. Trader Joe’s is amazing (we’re not paid by them at all, but we should be!). Their prices are reasonable. Their food is delicious and made from good stuff. (See? We’re like a commercial!) Sadly, there is no Trader Joe’s in Alaska. Part of our grocery saving plan involves packing a suitcase full of Trader Joe’s items every time we leave the state. Thanks to Alaska Airlines’ Club 49, all Alaskans get 2 free bags on flights to and from Alaska. Plenty of room to stuff all these delicious items and bring them back with us for free. And, I find that every time I shop at Trader Joe’s, I experience reverse sticker shock. “That whole cart was only that much?!” So, what is worth shipping up in a big suitcase at Trader Joe’s? I’ll tell you.

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