February 2016 Plan Update

I love the beginning of the month. It’s the time to sit down, figure out where we stand on the plan, and track the numbers! Overall, this was a great month at the Banks’ house. The most exciting news? Our post about putting your kids to work was featured on Rockstar Finance! Dreams do come true! February was spent touching everything in our house and getting rid of tons of stuff. We started with organizing our clothes, moved on to purging books, tackled the bathroom and kitchen organization (and found a million bag clips and hairbands!), and then worked our way through the rest of the house.

The Fill-the-Bucket List is still going strong! Several more bloggers participated this month including: Amber Tree Leaves, It’s a Kate Life, Debt Discipline, Notorious D.E.B.T., The Personal Economist, Our Next Life, Slowly Sipping Coffee, and Financially Alert. These posts are super fun to read and I hope they keep coming! In case you missed the ones written last month, those can all be found in our January update.

In other blog news, we hit 100 posts this month and celebrated with a blog clip show. We also started a new guest series we hope to continue called the Roth IRA Challenge. Claudia and Garrett from Two Cup House were the first people to take the challenge. We would love to have you take the challenge as well! If you want to participate, let me know and we’ll feature you!

The Numbers:

We started using Personal Capital to get a snapshot of our monthly finances. It really is a geeked-out dream for someone like me that loves to see graphs and make spreadsheets. If you don’t like doing that, it’s also really user-friendly and does all the work for you. Best part? It’s free! Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence!

The markets are making it difficult to achieve the goal of having our investments exceed our mortgage balance. It didn’t happen again this month, but that’s alright. Slow and steady, right? Our investments currently sit at $70,878. We were able to throw an extra $1800 toward the mortgage this month (to partially make up for not achieving our goal last month) so that brought the mortgage balance down to $76,200.

Thanks to Leap Day, I actually managed to hit my goal work hours this month. We are awaiting a $900 tax return and we still haven’t received our $7800 energy rebate, so hopefully March will mean we get to throw some money into our Roth-IRAs and exceed our mortgage balance in investments! Fingers crossed! Also, streamlining the monthly finances will fully go into effect in March, which means bill paying and financial tracking will get a lot easier for me! Yay!

I’m also starting to track a new metric this month… savings percentage! I know, I know. I’m not a big fan of the percentage metric since it favors people that make a lot more money than we do, but as I continue down this journey, I find that we’re capable of doing hard things. I also wasn’t sure how I wanted to track this, so I decided we would track the percentage of our pre-tax (or gross) income and the extra payments put toward the mortgage would be included in the amount saved. So, after all that… the grand total for February: 44.8%! Can you believe it? It turns out when you don’t make a whole bunch of money, months where you can throw an extra $1800 at the mortgage make your savings rate really high! We’ll see what this ends up leveling off at in the next few months. I have a few financial/savings experiments planned to push ourselves a bit harder.

Notable Expenses This Month: The Story Our Money Tells:

These are expenses that tell an interesting story. A peek into our lives through our pocketbook:

$30 – Tickets for the girls and I to see the local high school’s version of Cinderella. The girls were in absolute heaven and even asked to stay after and get pictures with Cinderella. It was adorable.

$88.48 – Cell phone plan. We don’t have anything great like Republic Wireless or Google’s version up here in Alaska yet.

$99.80 – Internet. That’s right. Almost $100. Welcome to Alaska. The other company has lower rates, but charges for bandwidth! Is that even still legal?!

$3.74 – Shipping charges to send a present to my brand new nephew!

Extra Income:

$47.84 – SellBackYourBooks.com (use Book Scouter to see which service gives the most money back)

$53.25 – Textbooks.com (use Book Scouter to see which service gives the most money back)

$8 – selling some old toys to a local consignment shop

$47.50 – For a guest post. Can we now say I’m a “professional blogger”? 🙂

Financial Phrases:

These are things said by actual people that were either talking to me or near me enough that I could hear them:

  • “When you’re happy, you don’t need anything else, right?”
  • “When they first starting building giant houses, they gave reasons. She was always saying ‘my parents may end up living with us.’ Now they just do it.”
  • “I started working as a noon duty at the kids’ school and I was talking to the lunch lady–Ha! The lunch lady and the noon duty–that’s got to be some great joke somewhere. Anyway, she had just passed her inspection and was celebrating: ‘I got 100%.’ Then the guy asked why she wasn’t trying to become the manager at the high school. And she was like ‘I’m happy here.’ She’s good at what she does, but she loves the school, she loves the kids, and she’s happy. Why would she want to move up for the sake of moving up?”

February 2016 Plan Update


Lessons from Decluttering Everything


Roth IRA Challenge: Creating My Kaleidoscope


  1. I always love these PF thoughts you hear from folks. Lately, I’ve been hearing lots of complaints about student loan payments, so I guess some of my co-workers are coming out of that grace period. Ick. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      The one about the lunch lady and the noon duty is probably my favorite one so far. Ick, indeed, on the student loan front!

  2. Nice savings rate! I agree the PF thoughts are great. I overheard someone talking about financing a mattress the other day. They were like oh well everyone does it. Ah – No!

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Brian. Financing a mattress? That’s one of the last things I would say everyone does! Oh boy.

  3. Sounds like a great month! I’m inspired by your success in selling books. I need to use Bookscouter at my house to see if there is any extra money laying around. Yes, I would say that you are a professional blogger. And, I can’t wait to read the next Roth IRA Challenge post 😉

  4. Kim from Philadelphia

    Awesome progress, Maggie!
    I really enjoy your updates.

  5. Tawcan

    Congrats on being featured on Rock Start Finance. Do you feel like a Rock Star now?

    I’m working on a Fill-the-bucket list article… it’s going to be epic.

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh, I’ve definitely made people refer to me as Rockstar Maggie. 🙂 And I look forward to your epic list!

  6. A few very nice milestones this month!
    The fill-the-bucket series is really ice to read

  7. I love the fill the bucket lists! I should really do one… I keep saying that, but I never do… Okay, I will do one for a post next week. 🙂

    The markets didn’t help us out this month either… I just keep reminding myself that it’s a “sale” so all my contributions in this low time are going to help me eventually come out way further ahead, right?

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh I hear ya! I’m hoping the markets stay low or go lower at least next month when we plan to throw a bunch into our Roth-IRAs…. SALE! And I really hope you do a fill-the-bucket list. They’re so fun to read!

  8. Congrats on Rockstar Finance – yeah! I love the PF thoughts too, those things remind me of conversations around the office here. 🙂
    The one that stuck with me is the lunch lady comment. I totally agree if you’re happy doing what you’re doing, there’s no reason to move up for moving up’s sake. I re-iterate every time I’m asked by my managers, “I don’t want to be on the managerial path. Keep me at tech, please.” hahahaha
    There’s way more to life than money and titles…
    Fingers crossed the markets stay down until you get to dump your coin into your IRA’s.

    • MaggieBanks

      That’s probably my favorite overheard one of all time! And thanks for crossing your fingers for a low market for me. 🙂

  9. Congrats on all of your accomplishments last month. I really should get better at thinking about and/or documenting mine. I’d say you knocked it out of the park. And you’re TOTALLY a pro blogger now. Thanks for the tip about Book Scouter. I usually use Half.com…but I really just want a few books OUT of my classroom. They’re teacher textbooks. I’d never sell my YA collection! 😉

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Penny! I feel really good about February! We’ll see if I can keep it up with March!

  10. Cool cool, sounds like a great month! I’m trying not to be jealous of your upcoming energy rebate. I definitely hear you about the percentage thing — it definitely is easier to save, say, 80% of your income if you’re making a ton of money. But I think 44% is amazing, and I’m actually inspired to calculate what percentage I’m “saving” (saving means putting towards student loans and Roth IRA) this month. Did you calculate the percentage out of your pre-tax or post-tax income?

    • Oh, and: congrats on the Rockstar feature! You deserve it!!! 😀

      • MaggieBanks

        And by “deserve” you mean “annoyed J with submissions until he published me?” Right. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh we worked hard for that energy rebate! And put more money in than we’re getting back, but I’m super excited nonetheless. I calculated the percentage based on pre-tax income for the sole reason that a lot of our savings this month were from pre-tax accounts (namely, Mr. T’s 401k). If I was counting after-tax, the extra mortgage payment would have been our only savings for the month. 🙂

  11. Maggie, I miss you! 🙂 Sorry to be late to the party, but I’m glad I came back to read this. Congrats on your first (of many) Rockstar features — it was well deserved, and long overdue! And huge congrats on finishing the full declutter. You are seriously my hero for finishing that! That’s on my “after we retire” list. And the savings rate — it *for sure* benefits people who make big money — but you guys are doing an awesome job all the same! Especially considering the Alaska premium you pay for everything. And congrats on getting paid for a guest post! You’re now infinitely more professional than I am. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Awww. Thanks guys. I miss you too! Life has just gotten crazy for everyone these days, hasn’t it? What’s with March? I’m pretty happy with our progress. I got super sick this past week, but because the entire house was completely clean before I got sick, I am confident I can get it back to that state in just a couple of hours today despite it falling to shambles during the week. That’s a good feeling. And I’m pretty proud of that savings rate. Again, we’ll see what it ends up leveling off at, but it was a pretty solid month for us!

  12. Awesome savings rate! We actually just started tracking ours back in December and were pretty shocked, in a good way.

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m pretty proud of that, though I think it will go down considerably or at least level off at a lower level.

  13. That’s an awesome savings percentage! I can’t wait til I’m done with grad school and the huge amount we are paying in cash for school can go towards the mortgage and the new roof we’ll need.

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