Category: About the Banks (Page 1 of 2)

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?

We're early retirement frauds

Retiring Early? We’re Early Retirement Frauds

While we were off traveling, our dear friends over at Our Next Life issued a challenge. You see, the early retirement community is full of “Commandments” (as Our Next Life so hilariously outlined in their original post). This challenge called for a celebration of differences. A manifesto of what we’re doing differently. After I read it, I was immediately THRILLED about the opportunity to come clean. You see, Northern Expenditure is a fraud. I’m not sure why anyone reads us at all. We’re on the path to early retirement, but we’re doing everything wrong differently.

Why We’re Early Retirement Frauds:

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Northern Expenditure Turns 1

Northern Expenditure Turns 1!

The first year of any life simultaneously speeds by and seems like forever. When I think back on where we were a year ago, it seems so distant. But every week on the blog has been such a joy, it’s gone by in a flash.

This blog was born out of a malaise with the norm. Ironically, though our situation hasn’t changed much, the blog has helped us find more joy in the current situation. Why? Because we’re doing something about it while also realizing even more that living in the present is important.

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How Much Do Your Neighbors Matter?

We live on a cul-de-sac with a shared picnic/BBQ area. In the summertime, my kids are constantly riding bikes and playing in the cul-de-sac. There are currently no other kids, but we know most of our neighbors and they are great about letting the kids play. (One neighbor even bought them tiny rakes because she thought they’d like them. They do!) Our neighbors have been awesome. One helped with our windows, two of them insulated their attics the same day we did so we could all help each other out, and we used the tools of one of our neighbors to do all the window and door trim work. Two of our neighbors came over for Christmas Eve two years ago. We really like the dynamic of our cul-de-sac. We often end up having communal dinners in the picnic area during the summer and stay up late chatting with the neighbors when the sun is out until midnight.

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Organizing My Clothes Closet

The Banks family has embarked on a journey of creating a house of order in 2016. The first category to tackle was clothes. I started my thorough examination and culling of my clothing last summer. I knew I wanted to make real changes, but I wasn’t sure how. I considered why I had so many clothes. Here were the categories I identified:

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Merry Christmas from the Banks

We’re spending the Christmas holiday in Hawaii, so we will be taking a virtual break until the New Year when we will return on Monday, January 4 with a December plan update. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends and spend time on what is the most important. Also, I had another post planned about some little-known facts about reindeer, but Mental Floss beat me to it, so I recommend checking that out. Also, we were interviewed over at Even Steven Money so go check us out there! 

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My Dad Retired Yesterday

Yesterday, my dad drove up to his office with his briefcase in hand, went in through the back door, met with clients as usual, and when the day was done, he walked away forever. He hadn’t planned to retire for another 5 years, but someone offered to buy his small business earlier this year, so he did some calculations. He realized that if he carried the loan on the business and charged a low interest rate, the person buying the business would be happy with the low rate, and my dad could use the loan payments to retire five years earlier than planned. I’ve known about this for nearly six months and have had several thoughts since hearing the news. Here are a few of those thoughts:

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The Experience-Based Christmas

FLASHBACK: I’m eight years old. My mom and sister and I decided to be in the community production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” I was a baby angel. Adorable, I know. We had rehearsals/performances every evening Monday-Saturday through Christmas Eve. It was fun and festive and everything always felt so Christmassy! But what about my dad? He couldn’t be in the play with us because rehearsals started before he was done with work. He came to several performances, but mostly, he was left to fend for himself most evenings leading up to Christmas. Christmas is about families and he missed us. Christmas morning arrived and we were all together. My sister and I came running down the stairs and saw the biggest load of presents around the tree I’ve ever seen! It turns out my dad spent his evenings buying us stuff… lots of stuff… to make up for not being with us. As the stuff pile grew taller and the wrapping paper pile got more out of hand, my mom got a bit tense. The following year my mom made a sweeping declaration: this wasn’t going to happen again.

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What I Learned In Ice Skating Class

Yesterday, I finished the ice skating class I took at the university. My final included me performing a routine to “Shut Up and Dance With Me” (best song ever, by the way). Yes, I know, you wish you could have been there. But let me tell you that I was the worst one in the class. Don’t think I’m being humble. I’m just being honest. I’m a terrible ice skater. My final routine included mainly skating forward, doing one turn, and stopping while skating. The teacher told me to skip the other stuff. I did fall down in the first two seconds, but then I got up and did the rest pretty well.


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Northern Expenditure Retirement Soundbite

Happy Monday everyone! I hope your weekend was pie-filled and celebratory in meaningful ways. This Monday we’re doing something a bit different. Steve over at Think Save Retire issued a challenge to record a one-minute retirement sound bite. He posted an example (so fun to hear voices!). I started recording mine and suddenly it became a full afternoon of recording all the kids being crazy. Laughter ensued. While I cut most of that out to stay close to one minute, the family is all present. Enjoy our voices and we’ll be back to normal on Wednesday with our November plan update!

(music from

Retirement Soundbite

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