Denali Northern Expenditure

Q1 2024 Plan Update: We’re Millionaires!

You thought I would never blog again, didn’t you? Hilariously, I thought I missed just one plan update, but turns out I haven’t done a plan update for nearly a YEAR! WOWZA.

Okay, so quick recap of the past two updates that I should have done so we can all pretend I’m a good blogger and you’ve been following along the whole way (we’re also going to pretend it’s not almost time for a Q2 update):

Q3 2023: Our investments were at $816,000 and our mortgage was at $259,000.

Q4 2023: Our investments were at $947,000 and our mortgage was at $255,000.

So now… drumroll please… here are our Q1 2024 numbers: Investments at $1,060,211!!!!! (Our investments have gone down since these numbers at the end of March, but we’re still above $1 million.) Our mortgage is at $250,000 which is a nice round number as well (but again, our mortgage rate is 2.125%…. that’s right, I shall repeat that for you 2.125%, so we’re not paying any extra).

We’re Millionaires!

I’ve read so many blog journeys of people on their path to becoming millionaires and the majority have said something along the lines of “it was just another day. A non-event. Nothing has changed drastically.” You know what? THEY LIED. I know that with our current spending a million dollars does not make us financially independent, but there’s something about millionaire status that has fundamentally changed my attitude.

It’s akin to that time I had a dream I was shirtless but times a million (get it? because we’re millionaires now). “I’m a millionaire” has sort of become a mantra of its own that has made me more bold. I’ve been more outspoken at work when people do dumb things, chanting to myself “If I got let go, it’s okay, I’m a millionaire.” Again, we’re not financially independent yet, so maybe that milestone will be the non-event since my brain is already sort of acting like we are.

For your visual pleasure, here’s a two-second not-at-all-fancy Google Sheets chart of our journey to millionaire status:

Now, when you stack our chart up with the graphs of a bunch of other millionaires, you see that very same exponential kick at the end.

save a million dollars

I had concluded when analyzing those graphs that once you hit $500k, it’s completely possible to hit $1 million in four years. And IT’S TRUE! We crossed the $500k mark in April 2021 and the millionaire mark in March 2024, so it took us just THREE YEARS!

Reasons we were able to hit millionaire status so fast:

  • High income
  • Dual income
  • Dual, high income
  • Low mortgage rate (have you heard about my 2.125% mortgage rate yet?)

Honestly, luck on timing and high income is what got us here today. You can see in our chart the significant spike when I went back to work full time in December 2019. Mr. T and I collectively make just over $200k, so we’re in the unrelatable category to so many. And that’s the single biggest factor in making it to millionaire status for us. Because, if you’ll recall, we’ve spent the last four years buying a house, paying nearly $200k to add an addition to said house, while also saying yes to so many expensive things. We also just bought a hot tub!

So What Now?

Well, we had announced we were quitting in May 2025, but then we learned how much college costs and now sequence of returns risk seems to be against us. We’re entering the most expensive 12 years of our lives with three possible college students and our mortgage wrapping up in 2036. So for now, we’re crafting the life we want now and letting our investments continue to plug along. We’ll see where we’re actually at a year from now, but I highly doubt we’ll be totally ready to pull the plug on steady income.

Travel Hacking to Australia and New Zealand

Travel Hacking New Zealand and Australia

I have cousins in New Zealand, so I’ve always wanted to visit, so we decided to use all the miles we hoarded during the pandemic and finally go. Here’s the price break-down of how much that trip cost and a few tips for if you’re planning a trip yourself. All costs are in US dollars.

Accommodations for 22 nights – $2,044.20 ($1,218.68 of it was 3 nights in Queenstown). Tip: Have relatives in New Zealand and have friends that live with a view of Harbor Bridge so you can watch the New Year’s fireworks from their balcony. 😉 This was seriously a fill-the-bucket list item. It was INCREDIBLE.

New Year's Eve Harbor Bridge Sydney

For reals though, Queenstown during the holidays was expensive because that’s the local travel destination. Everything else was reasonably priced (again, we had free accommodations in Sydney, which definitely helped).

All flights for 5 people: 570,200 airline points, $4,613.59 (since holiday tickets from Anchorage to Oceania were nearly $2,500 each, I think we did pretty good). Here are the details of that:

  • Vancouver to Auckland – 4 tickets purchased by transferring Chase points to United and booking Air Canada (44k + $79.98 per ticket for a total of 176,000 Chase points and $319.92). We needed one more ticket, so we transferred Chase directly to Air Canada for the fifth ticket (91,700 points plus $75).
  • Then we had to get to Vancouver from Anchorage – Alaska miles for 3 tickets (30k plus $5.60 each for a total of 90k Alaska miles plus $16.80). Cash + companion pass for two tickets: $811.17
  • Sydney to Anchorage: 5 tickets on American for 42,500 miles plus $88.07 each for a total of 212,500 American points and $440.35 cash.
  • Auckland to Christchurch (on the busiest NZ domestic travel day – Dec. 23) x 5: $338.56 total
  • Queenstown to Sydney (on New Year’s Eve) x 5: $1,115.05 total
  • Sydney to Cairns (roundtrip) x 5: $1,496.74


This is just a handful of highlights, with tips and costs (in USD):

  • Glowworm Caves – I highly recommend seeing glowworms in NZ. I also recommend you get the double cave pack and see both the Glowworm cave and Ruakuri cave, which is actually much cooler but has less glow worms. I also recommend doing the Ruakuri bush walk after dark. It’s free and there are glowworms everywhere! – $219.78 (for both caves)
  • Great Barrier Reef – an amazing day-long boat trip stopping at three snorkeling locations – $511.63
  • Flightseeing to Milford Sound (we only did this because I had a high school friend that owned the company and gave us a family discount, but no regrets. It was GORGEOUS) – $1231.29
Milord Sound
  • Skyrail Cairns – I really enjoyed seeing the rainforest this way. We took the historic train up and the Skyrail back down and the ticket included both, which means we got to see the rainforest at the ground level and then from above the canopy – $261.74

All in all, it was an AMAZING trip, even though my kids were mad we left Alaska during Christmas (it is quite Christmassy up here) and my oldest wouldn’t let me hear the end of making her miss finals to leave the country.

Q2 2023 Northern Expenditure Plan Update

Q2 2023 Plan Update

It’s feast or famine here at the ole’ Northern Expenditure blog (okay, mostly famine these days, but I’m going to post a NZ/Australia cost breakdown this week as well, so a bit of a feast even though I’ve been silent for six months).

If you’ll recall from the last time I posted, we have two goals this year:

  • Finish a draft of my novel
  • Finish the home addition

Good news! The first one is DONE. I managed to finish a draft of my novel before the summer craziness set in. It has been sent to two rounds of beta readers who have returned very helpful feedback, which I will incorporate when the kids are back in school. I also plan to start pitching to agents at that point. I have also started a second novel that follows the first, so that’s the fun update there. It was a slog for awhile, but once I hit my groove, it was actually really fun. And I think now that I’ve written one novel-length story, it will be easier to fit a story into that size again.

Addition Update:

I know it’s July 14, so technically not still Q2, but we finished tiling the bathroom shower last night, which is the last BIG project left. We will grout it tomorrow. And I’ll call around to get shower glass ordered.

Things left to do before the addition is done:

  • Grout the shower tile
  • Add our accent line of river rock (which we’ve been collecting and tumbling from all of our travels around Alaska and elsewhere)
  • Seal the shower tile
  • Order shower glass to be installed
  • Make a countertop for the bathroom vanity
  • Install vanity and sinks
  • Install the toilet
  • Install the bathroom mirror
  • Install sliding door over walk-in closet
  • Install bathroom door
  • Finish trimwork
  • Extend deck
  • Get a new as-built survey completed
  • Get final inspection
  • MOVE IN!

It’s actually starting to feel doable and close to being done, which is VERY exciting. And I’m very over pouring money into it. Once it’s all buttoned up, our final big celebratory purchase will be a hot tub off the deck so we can watch the northern lights in comfort!

Work Update:

The new team is working out just fine, for now. It does involve a lot of last minute scrambling projects, which aren’t my favorite, but it’s still way better than it was at the end of last year and the big news is…

With this big promotion, I crossed the $100k earning threshold, which was a giant goal of mine for purely mental reasons. I somehow wanted to prove to myself that I could do that even after being a stay-at-home parent for a decade. I even crossed Mr. T’s earnings again! Our money is pooled, so it doesn’t matter, but it feels like an accomplishment!

Important note: I recommend everyone have an account in just their name, just in case. Mr. T and I each have a little stash of our own money. Mr. T is not offended that I think this way because he’s not a jerk and he knows the statistics on women, financial abuse, and divorce. Have your own money!

This also means we now collectively make over $200k, which I’m told is past the threshold of relatability. And let me tell you, I GET IT. When I started this blog and read so many blogs of dual-income families that were making MORE THAN DOUBLE what we were, it was completely unrelatable. But I want to remind you that early on, the numbers don’t matter and please do not discount the reality of the 4-year potential! I mean, four years ago, I was still a stay-at-home parent and we were still making less than $100k, combined!

Life Update:

We stayed in an AMAZING AirBNB in March in Mexico for Spring Break with our friends.

Mexico AirBNB

This was the last of my revenge travel trips I booked during the pandemic, and it was perfect. We played on the beach and went swimming in a million cenotes (natural sinkhole pools) that were incredible.

Swimming in a Cenote

The thing I loved the most was just being able to buy amazing, healthy pre-cooked food for my entire family for cheap. I’m so burned out of making food from the pandemic, I literally don’t do it anymore. Mr. T has taken that over entirely. If we had something like that here, I would be totally tempted to get it every day (even so, we’ve been going out to eat WAY more than we used to and I have no regrets).

Then, in May, we took my parents on a trip to Southeast Alaska, exploring islands via the ferry and making stops in Skagway and Juneau. We saw a ton of whales and had an amazing time.

In other news, I have a new Lego obsession. Okay, I’ve always loved Legos, but I managed to score two GIANT bags of Legos at Goodwill in May for $125 each. I’ve spent a lot of my free time sorting them into over $1200 worth of sets and planning a whole Lego corner for the basement once we move into the addition. I also want big, expensive Lego sets now, so the whole thing probably backfired, but I am HAVING SO MUCH FUN. And just LOOK at this amazing minifigure collection from just the first bag! The second bag doubled this number.

Lego Minifigures Collection

The Numbers:

I know, this is what you’re really here for and you had to put up with me talking about work, travel, and Legos for SO LONG (who are we kidding, you scrolled right on down to this, didn’t you?).

Well, since I skipped blogging for Q1, I’ll start there and say that at that point, our mortgage was at $267,000 (a reminder that this is a 15-year mortgage at 2.125%, which we don’t plan to pay off early and which I will brag about until the day I die). Our investments at the end of Q1 were at $746,600, which is just past the previous high of $744,000 we saw at the end of 2021.

Well, the market has continued to rip and we’re seeing a new number at the front now! Investments are up to $818,500 and my personal 401k crossed $100k, which is VERY exciting for me since I just started it at the end of 2019 when I went full-time at work. I can’t believe the progress I’ve made financially in less than four years! The mortgage is now at $263,000 and will be totally gone in 12.5 years if we pay nothing extra.

So far, we’re still on track to max out both of our 401ks and my Roth IRA is already funded for the year. TBD on Mr. T’s. We’ve been very spendy-pants the past couple of years, so after the year of yes last year, I’m hoping for balance. I think 2023 will still have elevated spending (braces for the oldest and finishing up the addition), but it’s nice to have the majority of the addition expenses finished. We also look forward to having more TIME after the addition is done. We’re building this life we want, but we don’t have time to live it between jobs and the addition (and travel, which is definitely part of that life). So, we look forward to being able to enjoy relaxing days filled with Legos, archery in the back yard, and evening dips in the hot tub (fingers crossed we get that before winter!).

I hope you are all doing well. Remember to be kind to one another. Also remember that money is just a tool. Use it to take care of yourself and your family.

Q4 2022 Plan Update

I’m only 6 weeks late, so it totally still counts, plus we were out of the country for the holidays, so I actually have a reasonable excuse. We took a 3.5-week trip to New Zealand and Australia over the holidays and it was glorious. I will write a separate post with a break-down of the costs for that trip (with pictures), but this post is our life update as of the end of 2022. So here it goes:

Addition update: Our walk-in closet is now fully installed, so I’ve moved all my clothes into it. Since we’re not quite done with the bedroom, it now just means I have to walk across the house to get my clothes each morning, but no big deal because I love my closet so much. The bedroom now has flooring and a birch plywood ceiling. We’re working on window casings and trim now. We will finish up the bedroom before starting on the bathroom, so fingers crossed we’ll get there before the end of Q1. TBD. We’re also done with most of our most expensive parts of the addition, so it’s nice to put those big costs behind us in 2022.

Work update: Isn’t work always a ride? Well, everything was restructured AGAIN while I was out of town and I was moved to a new team. I’m still in the limbo between teams finishing some things up and starting new things, but I think the new team will be a better fit for my skillset and interests, so I’m actually hopeful (and so glad I didn’t even have to apply for a new job to get to a better place!). Fingers crossed I’m right.

The Numbers

These numbers are actually from January 11 (when we got back into the country) because it turns out, when you don’t have access to your phone number, it’s really hard to check bank accounts with 2-factor authentication. Our mortgage was at $268,700 on a 15-year mortgage at 2.125% (which was the main topic of conversation among our New Zealand cousins at Christmas dinner since most countries only lock interest rates for 3-5 years, so they were all very jealous). With our savings at Ally Bank up to 3.4%, I’m not tempted to pay this down early, currently.

Our investments ended the year at $684,000 (though, again, this was January 11). Maybe we’ll pass the $744,000 we ended 2021 with again this year? Literally no one knows.

The Year of Yes

2022 was the Year of Yes, and wow was that expensive, but we had a fabulous time. Here are the things we said “Yes” to:

  • A week in NYC and 5 Broadway shows 
  • A week in the Florida keys followed by a week in DisneyWorld with my whole family
  • Solar Panels
  • A pizza oven
  • The continued addition project
  • Season tickets for the touring Broadway shows visiting Anchorage in 2023/2024
  • Australia/New Zealand – this included tours of the glowworm caves, a day out on the Great Barrier Reef, a flightseeing trip over Milford Sound and the Fjordlands, and obviously a visit to Hobbiton.
  • Tickets to Mexico for Spring Break 2023

Even with all of that, we still managed to max out both of our Roth IRAs and 401ks and put a few thousand in our SEP-IRA. Bonkers, right? High incomes, man. Still the ultimate life hack.

2023 Plans and Goals

2023 will be my year of “balance” after my year of saying yes to all the things. I was so excited to not make any large purchases or have any large costs, but then my oldest daughter got scheduled for braces next month, so that will be $8k. Oh well.

We have two goals for 2023:

  • Finish a draft of my novel – I decided to write a romantic comedy novel to see if I could. I chose Romcom because it’s formulaic, but challenging to make it interesting while still fitting a formula. I’m also writing it in first person present tense, which has also been a fun writing exercise. The novel can be terrible and I can choose to do nothing with it, but I want to finish it.
  • Finish the addition – This means building an entire bathroom and shower, finishing the trim in the bedroom, and rebuilding the deck.

We’ll likely try to max out all the things again, but I’m flexible on that, so I’ll keep you posted.

I hope things are looking up for you in 2023.

Q3 2022 Plan Update

It’s fully fall and our six-pack of skeletons from Home Depot are dressed in costume as trick-or-treaters on our front lawn (yes, this purchase will continue to make me happy every single year. Tempted by that 12-foot skeleton…). They can all be seen here, in their debut last year:

We’ve also had our first snow, so I did what any reasonable human does and went to the library to check out ten Rom Coms and I’m plowing through reading them in my cozy new wearable sleeping bag (hygge, right?!).

Addition update: The drywall is DONE and painted! Now we’re working on fun stuff like our birch plywood ceiling in the bedroom and starting the flooring. The contractor still hasn’t finished up his outside portion, but the longer it takes him, the longer it is until I owe him a final check, so c’est la vie. He’ll get around to it eventually, I’m sure. AND he let us borrow all of his fancy drywall tools, so we’re not too upset with him. Maybe we’ll be moved in to the new bedroom by the next plan update, but I’m guessing probably not because we’ve got quite a few upcoming trips.

Work update: It’s been a RIDE since last quarter. We were told in July that our team was going to be let go. Then the entire company literally changed from being a research company to a tech company, but we weren’t let go. So, the COVID research stopped, as did most other research, and our team became technical writers…? It’s not a place I thought I would land, being in research and all, but here we are. I applied for a few jobs that I got excited about, but didn’t get, so I’m still rolling with the current company for the time being (until it becomes unbearable or I find something better, I suppose). Though reading all the Rom Coms has me wishing we can just jump to the early retirement part where Mr. T and I write books together (it’s def on the list of things we want to do and Rom Coms have been floated. Though Mr. T wants to specify that ours would NOT fit the standard mold). Since we haven’t been let go, my boss has indicated I may be up for a promotion in the near future… which is, by all accounts, totally crazy and may not end up happening since my boss was also allegedly going to be let go just a few months ago, so… I can’t count on anything. But I do think the whole thing is definitely adding fodder to my future novels… workplace Rom Coms called “Endless Redundancy”? or “Under Threat of Discharge”?… uh, yikes. Nevermind. Forget I said anything. Better keep workshopping. Or working.

Also, I started Adderall for my recent ADHD diagnosis this summer and it has been life-changing. I can accomplish SO MUCH in so little time. Of course, now there’s a major shortage on Adderall, so I’m rationing through some of my PTO this month. So that’s fun.

The Numbers:

The numbers don’t matter right now because we all know they’re bad, but I still love tracking them, so this continues. Our mortgage is down to $271,500 and I think I’ve finally gotten over the desire to put any extra toward this because this month, our savings rate at Ally Bank just jumped to 2.25% which is MORE than our mortgage interest rate of 2.125%! So I’m keeping the mortgage for the full 15-year mortgage length (just 14 years left!).

At the end of September, our investments had fallen to $605,000, which is down 20% since December, but remarkably higher than our last update, so not all bad. Probably because we managed to max out our Roth IRAs with this year’s $3,284 PFD, but while we thought the market was bad, we put in 12k on a Tuesday and by Friday, it had all disappeared… just shows you can’t time the market.

We continue with the Year of Yes (minus quitting my job to write Rom Coms, I suppose). We have a trip to the Midwest planned this month to see family and enjoy visiting pumpkin patches (UPDATE: had to cancel last minute because the family we were visiting testing positive for COVID). Then we’re off to Australia and New Zealand over the holidays! I have purchased tickets to Mexico for Spring Break. Last week, when a flight deal popped up, I said to Mr. T: “We’re going to Spain in April, right? Just kidding” to which he responded: “I’m not sure you ARE kidding.” I’ve started to make him nervous with the amount of travel I’m planning, so it might be just the right amount. (Note: I did not buy tickets to Spain, though I was certainly tempted.)

Alaska Sockeye Salmon

Dipnetting 2022: Inflation Hits the Waters!

It’s time for the annual Banks family Alaskan dipnetting update for 2022! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ve explained the dipnetting process here and even shared our salmon recipe if you want to know how we cook it.

Each year, because I’m me, I calculate how much we pay per pound for our salmon in our big dipnetting adventure. To be clear, we don’t entirely do it because it’s cheap. I LOVE dipnetting. It’s my favorite sport. It’s my favorite holiday. It’s is quintessential Alaskan life. I love it so much. I digress. As a reminder, last year, we caught 33 salmon for a total of 77 pounds of fillet meat which cost us a total of $2.53/lb.

Before I get to the numbers, let me explain how this year was a bit different. Dipnetting each year runs from July 10-31. This year, my daughters had a youth camp July 10-15 they attended 2 hours away. I chaperoned the camp the first night, meaning July 10-12 were off the table. We hate going on weekends because it’s really crowded. And we will be out of town for the last two weeks of July. That basically left us with July 13-15 to go dipnetting. This is pretty early in the season and fish counts are pretty low that early, but it was the only time we could go. We also realized just a few weeks before going that the tides those days were really high, so camping on the beach, while still possible, was dicey at best. So, because this is our Year of Yes, we booked an AirBNB close to the river (so yes, the click-baity title should more accurately have said “lifestyle inflation, not actual inflation, made this year more expensive”… but who would click on that?!). This significantly raised our costs, but from a time perspective, it was fabulous because we processed and vacuum packed our fish at the AirBNB between tides and came home with our fillets ready to go into the freezer! (Processing and packing usually takes another whole day upon return. AND, don’t worry, the AirBNB binder had specific instructions for where to process fish in the yard, so it was totally allowed!)

How Many Fish Did We Catch?

The fish were, indeed, slow, but we managed to come home with 22 sockeye salmon, and the tides let us fish from 9-11 pm which is my FAVORITE time to fish. It’s so peaceful and the sun is setting at 11 and everyone has to stop fishing at 11, so you have people on the shore counting down the minutes yelling: “4 minutes left, get back in there!” So, the second day was very slow. We had caught 3 total fish that day, but it picked up for the last 20 minutes of the night and we caught 6 just between 10:40 and 11 pm. It was so exciting and communal. (Have I mentioned I love dipnetting?)

The girls caught 6 of our 33 last year, so we didn’t have them helping us out this year, and Lui is more interested in digging giant sand holes than in fishing (he’s still too small to hold the net without help), so it was back to just being the two of us fishing. On one tide, I only caught one fish, but it was gigantic (pictured in the header image) and gave us our two biggest fillets of the year (35.3 oz and 35.2 oz)! I was surprised when we weighed them all to see that this year’s salmon fillets totaled 74.5 lbs, just 2.5 lbs less than last year’s 22 fish, so this was a year of pretty big fish!

How Much Did it Cost?

I know, you want me to stop talking about the fishing and get to the NUMBERS! I get it. Here we go:


  • $40 – Fishing licenses for Mr. T and I.
  • $16 – Ice to keep the fish cool after catching.
  • $300 – AirBNB for two nights (camping would have cost us $60, so it was spendier, obviously)
  • $86.65 – Gas for the car. This is significantly more expensive than last year as gas is currently around $5.50/gallon in Kenai and $5/gallon in Anchorage (down from nearly $6 a few weeks ago!)
  • $31.50 – Drop-off and parking fees to dipnet for the two days.
  • $13.50 – Vacuum Bags for the FoodSaver for packaging up the salmon fillets
  • $12.17 – Blizzards at Dairy Queen for Lui, Mr. T, and I on the way home. This is cheaper than last year because we didn’t have the two girls to buy them for as well!

Total Costs: $499.82

Total Cost Per Pound: $6.71

This is our second most expensive year, with making 2020 our most expensive price per pound at $7.15/lb as we bought a smoker that year. But we filled our freezer, had a fabulous time, and came home with totally processed and packed salmon, so was totally worth it this year with so little time between fishing and travels. Have I mentioned I love dipnetting? 😉

Eklutna Lake

Q2 2022 Plan Update

Wait, what happened to Q1? That’s what you’re asking, I know it. Well, I guess life happened. We are in the process of building an addition after all! The good news is, I already mostly achieved my one goal for 2022: solve my migraines! Turns out iron supplements solved it. I now have 1-2 migraines a month and an amazing medication to take when they start that stops the headache. Modern medicine is a miracle.

Also, I’m ignoring the current state of the world in this update. I’m tired.

Addition update: We got our solar panels installed and I will never not geek out about them (okay, maybe in the winter when they don’t actually produce anything, but hopefully we’ll be living on energy credits we generated this summer!). We’re also in the thick of installing drywall, but took a break when the weather got nice to build a paver path and retaining wall along the property line. This was a ton of work and the kids were very helpful. Luckily, we had pulled up all the paver stones that were on the side of the house before building the addition and stacked them in our yard last summer so we reused all of those and saved ourselves at least $1000. The good news is that once the drywall and landscaping is done, the rest of the projects actually seem fun to me because they are weekend projects that have great payoffs (ie: installing flooring, installing closet shelving, bathroom vanity, etc.). So I look forward to all the exciting stuff ahead. And, we’re through all the expensive parts of the addition and almost done paying contractors (15k left!), so we can cash flow the rest of it when we feel like doing the projects. This is very relieving to me as a PF Geek.

Work update: I still have a job, but this month saw another dozen coworkers leave and an emergency meeting from the CEO about how “there is no mass exodus occurring” (which directly followed a 30-minute meeting where four people announced their resignations: something I would definitely define as a “mass exodus”). I’m still on COVID research all the time, so we’ll see how long that lasts, but I’m sticking it out while it does.

The Numbers:

Our mortgage is at $277,000 and at 2.125%, we don’t plan to pay this down early. With the rocky ride of the market as of late, our investments now sit at $593,000. Sad to drop below the 600k line, but we’re not worried (and we totally skipped the 500k bracket on the way up, so it wanted to say hello in our plan update page).

The Year of Yes

Maybe you recall that at the end of last year, I decided not to set financial goals this year and just say yes to all the things I wanted to do. Well, that is going SMASHINGLY. So far, we’ve said yes to:

  • A week in NYC and 5 Broadway shows – We timed it perfectly in February between COVID waves and the kids got to see Wicked, Hamilton, and The Play that Goes Wrong for the first time and all of us got to see Music Man with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster and Come From Away. It was an incredibly redeeming trip after two years of no live theatre and I loved it all. My daughter’s request was that next time we see MORE shows because five wasn’t enough. 😉
  • A week in the Florida keys followed by a week in DisneyWorld with my whole family – Just one week after returning from NYC, we went to Florida and I’m so glad we lucked out on COVID waves for both trips because both trips were crowds! But the kids had a great time in DisneyWorld with their grandparents and cousins and we all enjoyed trying every Key Lime Pie we came across as we worked our way through the Florida keys.
  • Solar Panels – I already talked about these, so I won’t say more here except that I have no regrets.
  • A pizza oven – This was on Mr. T’s “rich list” – a list we made at one point of all the things we would purchase if we were actually rich. It turns out, between the two of us it was basically just a pizza oven, solar panels, and a hot tub, so we plan to complete our rich list by the end of the year! And we’ve all been enjoying some delicious homemade pizza in our new Ooni (affiliate link).
  • The continued addition project
  • Tickets to Australia/New Zealand this Christmas – Okay, I actually used all the points we hoarded during the pandemic to pay for these flights, but am definitely spending money on tours of the glowworm caves, a day out on the Great Barrier Reef, and obviously a visit to Hobbiton.

We haven’t yet contributed to our Roth IRAs or maxed out our 401ks, but I think we will likely end up doing those things, too. Turns out that having two decent incomes is the ultimate life hack.

It’s so true. Our life got so much easier when we both started earning decent incomes. High income is the ultimate life hack. Like, I can just choose to have a “year of yes” and check it all off while the market tanks and inflation goes through the roof….? Unfair, right? It absolutely is.

Capitalism is the Worst

While we’re on the subject of unfair: my daughter just got her first job. She’s minimum wage and loves it, but I’ve been livid about the whole thing. First off, she was hired because they can’t find minimum wage workers that can drive themselves because they can’t afford to work minimum wage! The job is great, it’s great to have her get experience and have fun and get out of the house, but default capitalism is the worst. Her first three hours of work are deducted by the company for her mandatory uniform. I know this is the norm, but it shouldn’t be. If you require it, it should be covered by the company! When I asked her about breaks, telling her about her legal right to a break during her long shifts, she said that no one really does that because there’s not really a place to take a break. I basically lost my mind. I was like: “You say: I’m taking my break now, find a place, and sit down for a half hour.” She doesn’t see the problem in any of this because we drive her to the job, all of her expenses are paid for, and she doesn’t have a problem being on her feet for eight hours (apparently). One day, she worked a three hour shift and her allergies were out of control so her eyes were so red. She needed eye drops to be able to see clearly. I dropped her off at work, picked up eye drops, and brought them back to her at work. I then realized she would earn less than those eye drops cost at that shift and I was livid all over again. In short, my daughter is earning a few bucks that I will then match into her Roth IRA, and she’s also getting an anti-capitalist earful about worker rights. So win, win, right? 😉

Bear Market?

It’s actually killing me that I don’t currently have the cash to throw into the market right now because of the Year of Yes (and the final contractor bill pending). I have no idea what the market will do. I do, however, think the inflation is temporary and a lot of it is caused by companies inflating prices because they can. Yes, I think things are actually inflated because of supply chain problems (still pandemic and war related, primarily), but profits are also up considerably in many sectors. I don’t think inflation will stay high for years, but definitely likely for at least the next year. As for the market, I’m hoping it stays down long enough for us to get to our investments for the year! I have no way of predicting any of that, and I don’t like to time the market, but will Roth IRAs, which we usually fund in lump sums, it’s nice to see the market dip for the occasion.

It’s good to be back around these parts after a 6-month break. I missed you. I’ll share some pics of the inside of the addition as things move along. As for now, it’s just a boring box with some drywall. Stay healthy, friends. And hold on to each other. Be kind. The world is dark enough.

Q4 2021 Plan Update

Well, we wrapped up 2021. Woof. The kids are now all fully vaccinated with the oldest getting a booster this week. That is a big thing we’re grateful for. We’re also grateful Omicron was not quite here yet during the holidays, so we got to have our two usual families over for Christmas dinner and it felt somewhat normal. Omicron is def here now, so we’re back to hunkering down as much as possible and wearing our N95s everywhere (if you haven’t found a good, comfortable one yet, I recommend this one. I love it. Not even an affiliate link, just want you to have a good mask!).

My migraines ramped up to being 2-3 days a week, which is awful, so 2022’s main goal is to just get rid of migraines.

Other things that have gotten me through:

  • Online Board Games with lots of amazing PF bloggers. A new way to learn new games and get a dopamine hit when it’s my turn!
  • Weekly Goodwill trips: seriously love this new thing I do. I’m definitely not a minimalist. I have found so much great stuff including lots of the Christmas presents we gave. My daughter even found me an amazing Where’s Waldo shirt she gave me for Christmas. Good times had by all. I have considered just turning this blog into: things I find at Goodwill, but will save you all. But I will share the dollhouse I got for $3.50 and turned into a haunted house for Halloween:

We’re still up to our necks in house projects with the addition (we’re starting the wiring this week) and Mr. T building us some new chairs (aren’t they incredible?!):

Another picture, just in case you didn’t get a good look at the one at the top!

The Numbers:

Well, our investments are now at $744,600, which is INSANE. That’s over $300k from where we were a year ago. INSANE. A reminder that when we sold our condo last year, we brought out current mortgage under $300k and then refinanced at the end of 2021 into a 2.125% 15-year mortgage, so we’re trying not to pay that off early. Right now the mortgage is at $285,300.

As for 2021 spending (I didn’t keep track in 2020 with the world exploding right after we bought a new house), we spent a whopping $265,000 but that includes more than half of the addition and the extra mortgage payments to bring the current mortgage under $300k. In fact, when I take out all housing costs (mortgage, extra payments to mortgage), home updates (all the addition plus the furniture builds), and taxes, we only spent $46,500. We’re front-loading a lot of home costs (instead of buying a house with the right amount of bedrooms, we decided to buy one we liked and add a bedroom and cashflow that cost). But this also means I have NO IDEA how much “normal” spend is for us anymore. And likely won’t until at least 2023 (still much spending for the addition).

2021 Goals

We made these goals before we knew we were selling the condo. That certainly helped fund most of what we have listed here. But the addition is still the big unknown. We’ll hold off on making any new goals or doing anything big with money until that is paid for.

  • Have the Addition Exterior Finished – So we have a roof and it’s all framed… so kind of a win?! The windows and garage doors have been paid for, but thanks to supply chain problems, the windows aren’t expected until February and the garage doors should be arriving in May…
  • Max Out My 401k ($19,500/$19,500) – Done. My plan doesn’t let me go over, which is super nice, so I have it set up to max out on my last paycheck.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($19,384/$19,500) – So close. Mr. T’s retirement has had a slider that only allows him to contribute in certain increments (ie: $798 or $819, but nothing in the middle). The GREAT news is that they have added a little box to the slider for 2022 that let’s you ENTER an amount!!! So we should be able to max him out in 2022!
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2021 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Probably the earliest I’ve ever done so!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2021 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Seriously nailing these goals (thanks to the unexpected condo sale!)
  • Max out a SEP-IRA – This will happen at tax time when our accountant tells us what we can contribute. But will hopefully happen then.

2022 is shaping up to be much less specific in goals.

I assumed I would get a lot of pushback on that idea, but all the comments were overwhelmingly supportive. Basically, 2022 is going to be me saying yes to all the things that feel comfortable and exciting and if I have to slow down my 401k contributions for that, I feel great about it. The first thing I’m saying “yes” to in the New Year is solar. Because for our addition, we have some serious electrical needs (service upgrade, panel upgrade, and sub-panel install). Mr. T is doing the main wiring, but doesn’t feel comfortable doing those thing. BUT, if we do them all with the solar stuff, we can deduct 26% of the costs with our solar. And if we’re going to do solar at all, we should do it soon to start the ROI clock. So I think that’s going to happen. I’m just really into spending money right now it seems. 😉

We also have to figure out the plan in the next few years because if we plan to pull the plug on working in May of 2025, we need to focus more on the brokerage account (which currently only has $60k in it). So maybe we’ll start those discussions in 2022 when we stop spending so much on this addition!

I hope you all have a lovely 2022 – well, as lovely as possible with Omicron raging and under 5s not able to get vaccinated…

Q3 2021 Plan Update

This has been an eventful quarter. We went on our first trip since the beginning of the pandemic. We traveled to see our parents in the Pacific Northwest before school started. It was lovely to see them and siblings and cousins, but by the time we went, Delta was starting to take over and things were not very relaxing and traveling was stressful. So, when we returned home, it was time to send the unvaccinated kids back to school and scream into the void. We’ve so far only had one known exposure at school and no one has managed to get it yet (knock on wood) despite cases in Anchorage being astronomical and hospitals being on rationed care. I hate this. Can it please be over yet?!

Alaska is now the worst place in the world for per capita COVID cases for the entire pandemic! I’m sick of all this winning!

Work continues to lay people off at least monthly and everything is still so up in the air. I’m still on COVID research full time, but luckily that isn’t as time consuming as it was in 2020. I accidentally started freelance editing on the side because it’s enjoyable and not COVID related. (Turns out my standards for work are pretty low right now. Not about COVID? I’m in!)

I’m trying to handle the general pandemic stress by reading more. I recently read:

  • The Five Years Before You Retire (affiliate link). The book is about traditional retirement, but is a great resource for navigating that transition.
  • Working Twice as Hard (affiliate link) is written primarily for Black entrepreneurs, but I recommend it to white people too as it is helpful to be aware of racism in the workplace, help call out microaggressions, and be sure you’re not leaning too heavily on your Black colleagues to do your anti-racism work for you.
  • Laziness Does Not Exist (affiliate link) is revolutionary in that it’s thesis makes it really easy to call out unfairness. We’ve used “Laziness” to actually mean people who are disadvantaged in some way and are actually working way harder than the rest of us (ie: homeless, depressed, poor, etc.). It talks about how our culture has made us all so afraid that deep down we’re lazy, so we stop listening to our bodies and push through. I’ve been trying to slow down, nap when I feel tired, and really listen to my body. We’ve all been through a lot of stress and trauma this year and this book was a helpful excuse to give myself grace to rest.
  • Die With Zero (affiliate link). My main thoughts on this book were about how you can insure against money fears (and when an annuity makes sense). But this book also justified my desire to spend a bunch of money when this pandemic ends. I’ve got ten years with kids at home and I’ve got a lot to pack in! (Only 5 years left with Penny!)

I’m not sure what I’ll pick up next!

In other exciting news, the work on the home addition has begun. We have a foundation now! It’s been touch and go because there’s a contractor shortage (everyone wants to work on their houses after being stuck in them for so long). We’re still hoping they can finish the exterior so we can get roofing and gutters done before snow sticks around, but we really have no idea at this point.

The Numbers

This is the last quarter we’ll be paying such a high (3%) interest rate on our mortgage. I realize that sentence is crazy, but we were able to lock in a 2.125% and the bank paid us $500 toward property taxes to do it (this was in part because we bought the house so recently, they didn’t require an appraisal). The world is upside down right now. We just closed on it last week. I’m thinking with a sub-$300k mortgage at 2.125% for fifteen years, I may actually be able to have the self-restraint to not pay it off early. TBD, but if I can’t do it under those conditions, we know I’m not capable. The mortgage is currently at $288,000. With the fifteen year clock starting over and the lower interest rate, our monthly payment is also going down nearly $400! In the usual vibe of “my life is wonderful but it sucks right now for so many people,” my broker was talking about how the people who lost jobs in the pandemic, etc don’t have access to these low rates because they don’t have the income to qualify for a refinance, so they’re stuck with high interest rates on mortgages they can no longer afford because the bank says they can’t afford lower payments. Make it make sense.

Seeing our investments double in a year is also a bonkers situation. It feels unsustainable. I literally have no idea what happens next. But the pandemic has taught me that nothing can be predicted, so we just live our lives and do the best we can. With that being said, despite the market dips of September, our investments are now at $659,000.

2021 Goals

We made these goals before we knew we were selling the condo. That certainly helped fund most of what we have listed here. But the addition is still the big unknown. We’ll hold off on making any new goals or doing anything big with money until that is paid for.

  • Have the Addition Exterior Finished – So far, we have a foundation, which is good progress. Fingers crossed the framing happens this month. I’m hoping to report this is finished by the end of the year and Mr. T and I can start our work on the interior (we plan to do most of that ourselves).
  • Max Out My 401k ($15,138/$19,500) – My plan doesn’t let me go over, which is super nice, so I have it set up to max out on my last paycheck.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($14,300/$19,500) – Mr. T’s retirement contribution “slider” may be the death of me. I can slide it to “$732,” “$798” or “$819″ per paycheck, but not $750.” We were under by $600 in 2020 because of the dumb slider. I’m hoping to get closer to maxing out this year, but I’m doubting we’ll actually be able to get the exact $19,500. My company doesn’t let you overcontribute, but I’m not sure about Mr. T’s. I’m afraid to try.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2021 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Probably the earliest I’ve ever done so!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2021 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Seriously nailing these goals (thanks to the unexpected condo sale!)
  • Max out a SEP-IRA – My current plan is to save all our self-employment income in our business account without using any of it. This will mean we can max out our SEP-IRA and then put the other funds into the new brokerage account, but we’ll wait until the addition is done… we may need to use the funds we get from our t-shirts/coloring books business for the addition.

I’m watching Pfizer closely hoping we get an approved vaccine for the kiddos by the end of the month and spending some of my free time researching Japanese toilets for my master bathroom. I would not have predicted I would be doing either of these things in Fall of 2021, but life is crazy sometimes. As we enter the holiday season, I hope you have time to slow down, rest, recover, and safely spend time with loved ones.

How to Insure Against Your Money Fears (And When an Annuity Makes Sense)

I just finished reading Die With Zero (affiliate link). The basic premise is that your money is worth more at different stages of your life (ie: when you’re younger you can do more things, so you shouldn’t wait until you’re old and retired to enjoy your money). The book is a good balance to all the “do nothing but work until you can retire early” literature available, but the most interesting idea to me was the fact that you can insure against all of your money fears.

People often save WAY too much money because they fear leaving their kids in the lurch, ending up in a retirement home, or outliving their money. Insurance can help you overcome these fears.

When You Need Life Insurance

Life insurance is a way to make sure your kids will be okay financially when you die. Term life insurance is the way to go because it’s cheaper and you likely don’t need life insurance for your entire life. I firmly believe everyone should have life insurance if you have young kids. Life insurance would allow your family the financial options of being able to pay for the funeral and end of life expenses, but also be able to take the time they need to adjust to just one parent. Even stay-at-home parents need life insurance. They are covering the bulk of the childcare and housework and those things are NOT free. Also, again, the loss of a parent/spouse would be a serious adjustment. Money can help the other spouse take a break from work to figure things out.

At the end of a 20 or 30 year life insurance term, you likely won’t need life insurance any longer. If your children are adults and you have enough savings to be able to continue to help them with college (if you’re still doing so) AND live your current life AND pay funeral expenses, you’re successfully self insured and no longer need life insurance. Indeed, your savings will no longer need to cover two of you (as one of you will no longer be around).

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is complicated and expensive, but if your biggest fear is not being able to afford expensive long-term care toward the end of your life, you can help relieve that fear through insurance. Nursing homes can cost upwards of $100,000/year, so it’s a legitimate concern. However, in the worst case scenario, you run out of money, they don’t kick you to the curb. If your assets have been depleted, Medicaid kicks in.

I don’t think long-term care insurance is a good fit for everyone, but I do think it’s a great idea if your biggest concern is long-term care.

When an Annuity Makes Sense

An annuity is an insurance plan against outliving your money. This was maybe the most interesting idea Die With Zero introduced. Annuities are terrible investments and only exist because people think they will live longer than they actually do, so the annuity makes money because they don’t pay out as long as you think they will.

HOWEVER, if your biggest fear is outliving your money, an annuity is a great idea. Guaranteed income forever to help you overcome that fear!

Do I think everyone should go out and get annuities? Nope. They’re still terrible investments, but prior to this book, I didn’t see a reason anyone should get one.

Money is Emotional

Anything that pretends we can all make totally rational money decisions based entirely on math is crazy. We’re emotional. We have histories with money that color our decisions. We have actual fears about money that lead us to make other decisions. Using insurance products to help people have less fear is actually a great idea. If you won’t be comfortable knowing you may not be able to pay for long-term care or will never feel like you have “enough” because your biggest fear is outliving your money, there are ways to help you overcome those fears!

Spend More Money Now

I think Die with Zero is actually a great book to read in the middle of a pandemic, because if you’re anything like me, you feel like after the past year and a half of being stuck a home, you’re a bit concerned about how much you’re going to “let loose” financially when it’s safe to go and do things again. I’ve already prepped Mr. T that if cheap tickets to somewhere I want to go pop up, I’m not going to be as rational as I once was about my decisions and will probably be purchasing said tickets (work and school can work around TRAVEL for a change!). This book will make you pat yourself on the back and say: I’m in my golden years when I can go and do and have the health to do so, so it’s time to be SPENDYPANTS. (Also, this is your warning that if you’re following for frugality tips or semi-minimalism, that Maggie is no longer with us. The current Maggie goes to Goodwill weekly and plans to go hog wild the next few years financially. It’s gonna be a wild ride.)

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