August 2015 Plan Update

We live very seasonally in Alaska. That’s just the lifestyle. The summers are glorious, but short, so any day where the weather isn’t terrible, we’re doing something outside. Our house and garage get all kinds of messy during the summer because our bikes are always out and ready to ride, we have a million projects going on, and we’re exploring this state as much as we can.

August began with the death of my Grandfather and a trip to Oregon for the funeral. Then Mr. T’s bike got stolen. Things turned around when mid-August brought a visitor to the Banks home. M, a dear friend from my youth, flew all the way from NYC to experience as much of Alaska as four days could provide. Our family drove all over, climbed glaciers, picked berries, explored gold mines, ate out, looked at furs, watched Beluga whales, hiked, used a hand-tram, and laughed a lot. It was a fabulous visit and we all had a great time.

School also started which means we now juggle trying to keep up our adventuring before winter comes while also trying to find a schedule. It’s a tricky transition, but things seem to be going fairly smoothly so far.

The Numbers:

We were able to throw some more at the mortgage this month and bring it down to $87,536. Chipping away. And after the roller coaster of a market month, our investments are down at $57,926. We’re actually hoping the market stays down for another month and a half so we can drop our PFDs into a down market on the cheap!

Notable Expenses this month:

  • $2.99 – Sam Lustgarten’s new book, Frugaling. This was a great $2.99 read about his interesting experiences and how to navigate saving and giving and paying off debt. It is inspirational for a lifestyle change toward frugality and I recommend it.
  • $4.55 – This is my most disappointing money spent this month. I got peer-pressured into getting a soft serve ice cream. As soon as I ordered it, I regretted it, and then when it came, it was gross. And then I came home and Mr. T had homemade some delicious raspberry cobbler from berries we picked and then I felt really bad about the stupid ice cream. (Of course, I totally ate a whole bunch of cobbler as well… lest you worry I passed it up.)
  • $1108 – AIRPLANE TICKETS! These tickets are for next summer when Mr. T and I are going on a 10th anniversary trip to London and flying home out of Paris (a good way to avoid the British Air Passenger Duty that can cost like $200-300/person). We used Alaska Airlines miles (with a free stopover to drop the kids off with the grandparents), so the $1108 involves the taxes and fees on two tickets from Anchorage to Europe and back to Oregon, cash tickets for Mr. T and I to get home from Oregon (we couldn’t get miles to go all the way from Paris to Anchorage for some reason), and cash tickets for all three of our kids to fly from Anchorage to Seattle and then from Portland back to Anchorage. (We also had some flight credit I used for these tickets from watching the price of flights and re-booking on Alaska Airlines when the price goes down – you can change your ticket fee-free up to 60 days before your trip and get a flight credit for the difference in fare.) I also flew down to my Grandpa’s funeral last minute this month, but between flight credits and miles, it was free.
  • $68- Pizza and breadsticks at Moose’s Tooth and Brunch at Snow City Cafe for the clan. With M here, we ate out twice to show him the best restaurants in Anchorage. I never regret this food (and we eat out very rarely).

    Penny and Florin playing on Matanuska Glacier.

    Penny and Florin playing on Matanuska Glacier.

  • $35 – the price you pay (literally) for the privilege of hiking on Matanuska Glaicer. Totally worth it.
  • $10 – Parking at the state parks.
  • $25 – Wildlife Conservation Center entrance fee.
  • $190.76 – GAS. I won’t bore you with the minutia of all of our expenses, but I do want to periodically throw a glimpse into the high cost of living we face in Alaska. Gas is one of them, which is ironic, because we produce the oil up here but have to ship it elsewhere to get it refined. Gas is currently around $3.20/gallon at Costco.

Extra income this month:

  • $19.25 – Another payment from an out-of-towner that paid me $25 to send him his mail in a $5.75 flat rate envelope. Not a bad tip for a trip to the post office.

Financial Phrases (overheard or said in conversations with me):

  • “Commercials are just dumb T.V. shows that try to get you to buy stuff.” – My very own Penny. So proud.
  • “I worked really hard to pay off my student loans. I told myself as soon as I paid them off, I would hire a maid, but once I got them paid off, I decided I could just take fifteen minutes a week to clean up my apartment since I’m hardly there anyway.”
  • “I wish someone sat me down when I took out my student loans and said ‘This is how much you will have to pay every month until it gets paid off.’ Instead, it was just a whole bunch of free money.”
  • “You’re young. You should get out of the market and invest in something much more stable.”

And now for September! What does August mean for you? Do you live as seasonally as we do?

August 2015 Plan Update - Northern Expenditure


The About Series: The Banks!


Fireweed Finance: A Seasonal Check-up


  1. I too wish that someone had explained the long-term implications of taking out all of those student loans. Instead, they made sure to stress the MAXIMUM amount you could take out and allowed you to assume that BIG BUCKS would be readily available with your degree.

    Your friend is very fortunate to have a tour guide like you, sounds like an awesome vacation. If we ever make it up to Alaska, will you help us plan our trip?

  2. Sounds like you had a blast with company! It’s a great time for it, with the leaves just turning. I vote you share some more of your travel hacking secrets; that’s a great flight deal. We just grabbed a couple more AK air cards and are now happily swimming in miles (caveat: we’ve only mortgage debt and pay the card off dutifully each month).

    • MaggieBanks

      We have two alaska airlines credit cards and pay them off every month. But we use the two companion fares for our annual trip in the fall to Minnesota (where I work). Keep checking booked flights. When the price drops, switch flights online and then switch back. They send you a flight credit to your email. That is how I saved over $500 on the cash prices of these tickets. Totally worth it.

  3. I just came across your site – I love what you’re doing! I especially like the list of the small expenses. Writing it out is a real eye opener to where you can save a little more here and there . . . I definitely need to work on that. August was such a volatile month. If you paid any attention to the markets, your heart was probably racing, but it also presented some great opportunities for some good value investments. That’s mainly where I was in August. Keep up the good work!


    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks for stopping by! We’re hoping the market keeps tanking until the first week of October to maximize our PFD. Then things can start to rise again .:)

  4. Your trip next year sounds fabulous! That is great that you have someone you can drop the kids off with so that you and your husband can enjoy a trip alone.

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m really, really excited. And that’s an understatement. We are spending two days in Paris at the end… any tips on only two days there? (I’ve been there before but Mr. T hasn’t.)

  5. J

    Matanuska Glacier looks awesome! I’d pay $35 to see it, except of course, it will cost me waaay more than that. Ha! This makes me want to refund the $45 we paid for a car pass in a ski resort last weekend.

    Your next trip sounds exciting! I remember you writing before that you’d like to live in London because you studied there for a while. You probably can’t wait to go there! 🙂

    Happy weekend, Maggie!

    • MaggieBanks

      It’s always great to get visitors because then we can really justify expenses to see awesome things here in Alaska like the Matanuska Glacier.

      Yes, I would still love to live in the UK. Maybe one day. But for now, saying that I am excited to go back is an understatement!

      Weekend? Have we made it there already? You’re a day ahead. Tell me what happens Friday! 🙂

  6. Your AK adventures sound so wonderful! And what a deal you found on your flights — nice travel hack. I keep eyeing my 700k United miles, thinking about all we can do with them, but it will be tough to use many before we quit.

    If it makes you feel better, we pay more than that for gas, and we have oil AND refineries! (Shhhh… Those are big clues!)

    • MaggieBanks

      Ooooo! 700k United miles! The possibilities are nearly endless!

      When you’re ready to come to Alaska, definitely let me know and we’ll at least feed you a friendly salmon dinner. Should we plan on Summer 2018? 🙂

  7. So sorry to hear about your loss 🙁

    Congrats on chipping away at the mortgage! Every dollar helps for sure. I love that you’re so concious about what you’re spending – even on something as small as ice cream. To the point I just made, every little bit adds up. I totally agree that spending money on experiences is worth it too – although I’m sure we have nothing as beautiful as the Alaskan landscape in Ohio. Lastly – that’s so cool that people will actually pay you to send them their mail – I guess some people live super rural in AK?

    • MaggieBanks

      It’s someone that just moved out of state but still has a post office box up here. It’s a pretty good gig (I’ve done it twice… we’ll see how long it lasts).

  8. Hey Maggie – I like the format of your plan update, the “numbers with a story” is a good idea.
    I should probably not tell you that gas at Costco here is 2.05$/gal, so I’ll skip that.

    When you go to Paris, if you’re up for this, I would recommend going for a picnic by the Eiffel Tower on the “champ de mars”. You get some bread, cheese and wine from a local groceries store, head there about 1h before dusk and you’ll get to enjoy a very romantic evening 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      I don’t even pay attention to gas prices anymore. There’s nothing I can do about it… so, meh. (Though I will ignore your $2.05.)

      Great tip about the Champ de Mars. Sounds like a perfect place to enjoy some bread and cheese! Thanks!

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