Denali Northern Expenditure
Dipnetting 2019: I got a Triple!

Dipnetting 2019: I got a Triple!

Didn’t really bury the lede with that one did I? Whoops! Oh well. In mid-July, we dipnetted, as we do annually, for a new freezer load of sockeye salmon. We told the kids we would stay two nights unless we caught everything the first night. We set up camp just in time for a twenty minute torrential downpour and then had lovely weather the rest of the time. We played. We sat. We watched. We ate.

Around 6:30pm Mr. T and I finally hit the water. We fished for almost 4 hours (remember it stays light most the night this time of year) and caught 29 salmon! My last pass I got a triple (which means 3 fish in the net at the same time!). It was thrilling! That was when Mr. T said we should probably be done (it gets so addicting, we really try to be reasonable about when to quit when the fishing is so good!). Later that night, a lady passed me on the beach and said: “Triple girl!” and winked at me. Totally made my year.

So, long story short, we had to go home the next day and not stay two nights. The kids were fine with it when we promised them they could watch movies while we processed the fish and then we would all go swimming at the YMCA.

The numbers this year have been really high and they actually opened it up to all-night fishing the last week of July (usually you’re not allowed to fish between 11pm and 6am). I was so tempted to go back down just to do it, but decided against it. Because sometimes I’m reasonable. 😉

We ended with a total of 29 sockeye salmon! (though our household limit is 65, we never need that much!) That equals 80.6 lbs of fillets!

Biggest fillet this year: 31 oz (a pretty small year)

Dipnetting Costs

Because you know I like to calculate all of our costs, here is everything we spent for this year’s dipnetting trip:

  • $45 – The cost of camping on the beach and dropping off our stuff an picking it all back up the next day.
  • $35 – Gas for the car for the roundtrip – it’s about a three hour drive from our house.
  • $3.49 – Ice to keep the fish cool.
  • $21.90 – The annual Blizzards at DQ for all five of us post-dipnetting on the way home (Mr. T and I split a large to cut costs, but 3 smalls for the kids is still spendy!).
  • $19.65 – Replacement pole clips – Mr. T lost quite a few of the connectors to his poles last year. So, he had to get some new hardware to connect the lengths of pole to his net.
  • $58 – Fishing licenses for Mr. T and I.
  • $8 – A new tire tube for Mr. T’s bike. We bring an old bike so we can pay the drop-off fee and then park offsite to save $25.
  • $21.99 – Giant tarp to cover our tent because we’ve discovered it leaks pretty badly in the rain. Bonus: it keeps it much darker in there (again, light all night makes camping in Alaska tricky).

Total Costs: $213.03 – Usually we pay a significant amount for professional smoking. The place where we usually take it went out of business, so our friend said he would smoke them this year for us. Saves us money this year. Yay. We’ll see what we decide to do next year.

Total Cost Per Pound: $2.64/lb 

Thanks to not paying for smoking of the fish or freezer bags (we had enough left over), it was our cheapest per pound year ever! Check out Dipnetting 2015Dipnetting 2016Dipnetting 2017, and Dipnetting 2018 to compare. If you end up with some salmon, be sure to check out Mr. T’s perfect salmon recipe!

Q3 2019 Plan Update: Where’d Maggie Go? Edition

Hello friends! It’s me, Maggie! Remember me?! Well, here’s where I tell you ALL about how 2019 is going and what is happening around here. In short: I’ve been spending money like crazy and hustling hard to make up for it. 😉

Summer Update:

We spent a lovely summer being crazy travelers as per usual. We went dipnetting (post coming tomorrow because we’re either feast or famine around here!), took several Alaska ferries including one down the Aleutian Chain, and went to Oregon and Washington to be with family. Mr. T and I finished off the summer with an expensive weekend in San Francisco with just the two of us (and seeing Hamilton!). We also got to meet up with Revanche, who is one of my favorite humans.

I started the year with big savings goal (after paying off the mortgage), but then bought a whole bunch of tickets to all the ferries! I do not regret my decision. One of the ferries we rode has been dry-docked thanks to budget cuts and several other routes have been reduced dramatically with no guarantee they will remain at all in the future.

One of the great things about paying attention to money is the ability to SAY YES to opportunities. We really enjoyed the freedom we had to do that with the cash flow we’ve enjoyed since paying off the house.

Life Update:

At the end of August, Lui went to kindergarten and I retired from being a full-time stay-at-home Mom! (Until the summer I suppose…) This kicked off a big transition for me. I started working 32-hour weeks at my job and am trying to negotiate a full-time offer (sounds like it might be in the works! – I’ll do a post with a bit more info if and when that goes through). I also hired my designer full-time (at less than $450/month) to help grow my e-commerce business. She hated her job, asked to go full time, and I was able to say yes because at this point, we’re just risking profits (not loss). She helped me make a hilarious cat coloring book (affiliate link). So, between getting the kids off to school, throwing myself into my real job and trying to build up my e-commerce business, I’ve been busy, but I’m really enjoying all the things that are happening.

E-Commerce update:

Since you asked (or wanted to), we’ve done pretty well so far this year. In June, we made $999.55 in sales (before expenses, but those are under $500/month with my designer) and that was the only month this year we’ve fallen below $1000 in sales (and missed it by less than a dollar!). January and March had sales right around $2000. With the heavy shopping months coming up November-December, we’ve been working all extra hours we’ve got to get as much up as possible. We’re working on a new line of coloring books I’m pretty excited about that are pixel art color by number books. We got our first one up this month: Pixel Museum World Famous Art (also an affiliate link).

Alaska Update:

We’ve moved almost entirely into cash hoarding at this point because we would like to have $80-100k saved for a possible down payment on a house ASAP. We do love our house and we’ll keep it and try to rent it out (which is why we need a new down payment), but things might get really cheap here soon. The economy in Alaska isn’t doing well thanks to state budget cuts and BP announcing it is leaving the state. We are a one-industry state, so BP leaving will make a BIG impact. Employees will find out their fates in December and there will be a mass exodus from the state. There are already an influx of houses on the market, but prices are remaining pretty steady. We will only buy a house if prices drop dramatically and we find a house we actually like (most houses up here make no sense at all). But we’re in a hurry to save the cash to be prepared!

The Numbers:

Full disclosure: I stopped using Personal Capital (affiliate link) because they stopped working for Mr. T’s retirement funds. But I really did enjoy them before they stopped working entirely for me. (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.) Also, once I checked this month to update the numbers, I went into each account separately and discovered it hadn’t updated MY Roth IRA for like six months. So we’re richer than I thought! Win! (also maybe another reason why you shouldn’t use Personal Capital…)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO!

As of October 1, we had $275,400 in investments. Not bad. (With such up and down in the market, a quarterly update on this number rather than a monthly update is probably a good idea.)

2019 Financial Goals (REWORKED):

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500/$5,500) – Thanks to the totaling of the car, WE DID IT!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capitol360 account so we can use it for free ATMs while traveling (but the account only earns 1%), we lowered our emergency account goal from $5000 to $1200. Then we changed this goal:
  • Extra Investments ($12,700/$45,000) – Thanks to the PFD, we were able to get over 25% of this knocked out this quarter. Unless we have some $10k sales months in November-December, we probably won’t get close to this, but I’m thinking I can at least get up to $25k. We’ll see.

So that’s where we’re at. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Dipnetting update and fingers crossed for a full-time job update soon! Thanks for sticking it out with us in our crazy journey! We’re grateful for all of you.

June 2019 Plan Update

It’s officially still July, so I’m still winning on this whole blogging thing, right?! Right. That’s what I thought. June was a fantastic month filled with more ferries! We flew to Juneau and took a ferry to Haines, saw the oldest lighthouse in Alaska, saw some more whales and otters and sea lions, took a ferry to another little island village and enjoyed slow, village life for a few days (we even attended a graduation party of some random stranger – the town is THAT small). Then we flew down to see family in Oregon and Washington. Summer is for travel. And we’ve been doing plenty of it.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO!

Okay, so with all the travel, etc. I actually forgot to check my investments at the end of June! By the time I got around to checking, it was July 12th and we had $267,000. Not bad. I really, really like forgetting about money, living my life, traveling, and still see this go up! It’s my favorite.

2019 Financial Goals (REWORKED):

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500/$5,500) – Thanks to the totaling of the car, WE DID IT!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capitol360 account so we can use it for free ATMs while traveling (but the account only earns 1%), we lowered our emergency account goal from $5000 to $1200. Then we changed this goal:
  • Extra Investments ($300/$45,000) – Nothing new here. Barring any $20k sales months toward the end of the year (not looking likely at all), we’re not going to even get close. Oh well. This is why we make goals, right? Or should we be sticking to “the unaimed arrow never misses” mentality? 😉

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 (prepare to be judg-y this month!):

  • $55.39– Our annual Trader Joe’s imports.
  • $102 – Alaskan Christmas presents for all the nieces and nephews purchased in Juneau.
  • $10 – The Haines Hammer museum. I’ve never seen so many hammers in my entire life!
  • $20 – The Sheldon Museum in Haines. Cute little museum and very well done.
  • $43.50– Breakfast aboard the LeConte Alaska ferry. Impressive food.
  • $89.10 – Wheat and oats for oatmeal and grinding our whole wheat flour.
  • $10 – Day pass to hike around Mendenhall Glacier area before the glacier totally melts. (Watch the crazy time-lapse of it melting.)

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “All I need is a million dollars to retire. Only $990,000 to go!”
  • “They didn’t care whether we succeeded or failed. It was a franchise model so they made money whether or not we did.”
  • “I tried to go to school, but then decided: ‘I’m already doing what I want to be doing!'” – the guy running the Hammer Museum in Haines.
M/V Tustumena

Taking the Alaska Ferry Through the Aleutians

This year, we decided to take our family on the Alaska Marine Highway from Dutch Harbor to Kodiak – a 2.5-day journey and often referred to as the “ferry to the end of the world.” The trip was worth it and wonderful and here’s what you need to know:

One of the many, many bald eagles in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Why We Did it:

I’ve been wanting to take this ferry since moving to Alaska. We live in a weird and wonderful state and I want to explore as much of it as I can. The push to actually book the trip this year was the Governor threatening to cut all Alaska ferries. These ferries are vital to connecting Alaskan communities and were never built to be a money maker. That is why they called them the “Alaska Marine Highway System” because roads also don’t make money. They make communities. All of the communities on the Aleutian ferry can only be accessed by ferry or plane. Many are too small for a landing strip.

Aleutian village

The Route:

We flew to Dutch Harbor and rode the ferry up the chain to Kodiak. We were told by ferry staff that we rode the “locals route.” The tourist route is the opposite one: Homer or Kodiak to Dutch Harbor/Unalaska (The harbor is called Dutch Harbor, but the town is called Unalaska, so you fly into Dutch Harbor, but the town and the island it is on is Unalaska). Ferry staff told us that during the “tourist route” the tiny towns come out in full force at each stop with stopover tours, local donuts, and tiny souvenir stands. Though we’re sad we missed the tours and donuts, we’re glad we got to see the ferry exactly as it is used by fellow Alaskans.

Dutch Harbor – and some of the famous Deadliest Catch boats in the harbor

As a tourist, I would probably recommend you take the other way. Homer is a 4-hour drive from Anchorage, but one-way rentals are hard to find which is why we chose to end in Kodiak. We flew into Dutch Harbor from Anchorage and flew back to Anchorage from Kodiak. Flights to these areas (especially Dutch Harbor/Unalaska) can be very expensive, costing hundreds of dollars for a one-way flight. This can be a good use of Alaska Airlines miles. Instate flights are cheap using Alaska Airlines miles – Dutch harbor can be as low as 7,500 one way and Kodiak 5,000. Keep in mind that inclement weather cancels flights in Dutch Harbor very frequently, so add a few days of a buffer in your trip if you get stuck in Dutch Harbor at the end of the journey so you don’t miss your Anchorage flight home. We left Dutch Harbor at 4pm on Saturday afternoon and arrived in Kodiak on Tuesday morning at 2:15am. The ferry journey was $361 for each adult, $181 for kids 6-11, and free for kids 0-5. Our 4-person cabin with bathroom was $635, so we paid a total of $1,719 for this ferry journey (and used miles to pay for flights each way).

Fossil Beach, Kodiak Alaska

On-Board Logistics

The Solarium on the Tustumena

While it is legal to duct tape a tent to the top deck of the ferry, this route isn’t the best to do that. We watched a family try, but nearly lose their poles to the wind. Eventually, they gave up and headed inside. One man did set up just a cot in the solarium at the top deck (it’s both covered and heated but very, very loud). We got a 4-person cabin and one of the kids slept on the floor between the 2 bunk beds. Our cabin had a small bathroom in it, but many don’t. There are, however public bathrooms and showers on board. You’re also able to sleep in the lounge chairs or the few booth tables in the lounge, but booth benches fill up FAST by locals that ride the ferry frequently. I recommend a cabin. It was worth sleeping in a bed in darkness (reminder: Alaska doesn’t get dark all night during the summer).

Our fancy cabin on the ferry

Food on board is available in the full-service restaurant on the M/V Tustumena. The restaurant is only open 1-1.5 hours for each meal and has a limited menu with prices $10-12 per entree (and no tipping servers because they are all public servants and can’t accept tips). Also, they are limited to ingredients on board. After the second morning, they ran out of syrup for breakfast. There are also 2 public microwaves and a Keurig that offers free hot water. We ate two meals in the restaurant, but ate the rest using the microwave and hot water options. We brought oatmeal and hot cocoa packets for breakfast, lots of snacks for lunch, and just-add-water pho bowls and microwavable indian food and rice packets for dinner. We brought our own microwavable bowls (cups were available for coffee) and never had to compete for the microwave.

Also, the ferry is in the open ocean for much of the journey in a very windy/rainy part of the world. We lucked out with 5-8-foot swells but the crew said 20-30-foot swells aren’t uncommon. I was definitely on Dramamine for the ride.

The ferry has a “movie room” where the purser will load movies during the slower times on board – the days with fewer stops. She played a few kid movies and a couple Alaskan documentaries. We also brought lots of games to play as a family. My kids also had Kindles and workbooks for when we needed them to calm down on the boat.

Tufted Puffins

Bring a good camera and binoculars and be ready to just watch the waters. We saw cute otters, some fin whales, a pod of orcas, some porpoises, tufted puffins, horned puffins, and many, many other kinds of birds. Bring lots of coats and hats and gloves because sitting outside the boat in the wind and rain can be very cold.

Cute Little Otter

The Stops

Since we were on the “locals’ route,” we didn’t have offered tours and most of the towns weren’t close enough to walk all the way into “town” (they’re all really small) during our small stop, but we made sure we got off at each one and walked around the dock and took pictures. We also got good views of each town as we pulled up and drove away on the ferry. Akutan is the one town that is right at the dock. The whole town is car-less and has boardwalks between all the houses for 4-wheelers. In 20 minutes we were able to walk all the way from one of town to the other. Each town has its own cute little Russian Orthodox Church and most have fish processing plants.

Akutan, Alaska

Who Rides the Ferry?

There were 5-6 other Alaskans that took the governor’s threat seriously and bought a ticket like we did and there was one explorer from California, but the rest of the people on board were using the ferry for real life. We were there at the end of the school year, so there were 4 teachers from several of the islands that were moving to other villages to teach the next year. There were sports teams riding to compete with other villages. One family was moving from Dutch Harbor to Colorado. Two of the towns are on the same island but have no road between them. One town has the airport and the other has the harbor. Many residents of one town got on the ferry to get to their fishing boats in the other.

Us watching the car elevator on the Trusty Tusty

We spent a lot of time at each stop down on the car deck watching them load and unload all sorts of things onto and off of the ferry with the ferry’s unique car elevator system. The dock at each stop is at a different height, so the car elevator allows vehicles to be loaded and unloaded at each stop despite the height differences. Every stop was a complete logic puzzle. They loaded garbage trucks, semis, several boats, many 4-wheelers with trailers attached, and a whole carnival of rides!

Loading a boat onto the car elevator

Was It Worth It?

I absolutely loved the trip. It was beautiful and crazy and fun. It was so fun to talk to locals about how they use the ferry, talk to the staff about how they ended up there (many, many crazy stories), and see the landscape of the Aleutians. We were also able to learn a lot more about the history of WWII in Alaska in Unalaska and Kodiak which are important stories all Americans should discover (you should at least know about the Battle of Attu and the Aleut Relocation Camps). We were able to explore old bunkers and lookout points at both Unalaska and Kodiak.

Hiking up Bunker Hill in Dutch Harbor

The boat ride through the tree-less cliffs of the Aleutians was unreal. It was a scene from a movie and I am so glad I went!

Treeless cliffs of the Aleutians
Fin whales

May 2019 Plan Update

May was absolutely lovely. School got out and we took a week-long ferry down the Aleutian islands. (A whole post about that by request later this month.)

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO!

Investments have dropped slightly to $255,000 – but staying above a quarter of a million dollars, so overall still pleased. Still really haven’t saved much this month. We’ll have to really work hard to hit most of our goals this year!

2019 Financial Goals (REWORKED):

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500/$5,500) – Thanks to the totaling of the car, WE DID IT!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capitol360 account so we can use it for free ATMs while traveling (but the account only earns 1%), we lowered our emergency account goal from $5000 to $1200. Then we changed this goal:
  • Extra Investments ($300/$45,000) – Nothing new this month because we had to come up with the $2,500 to max out my 2018 Roth IRA. But we’ll catch up. $45k by the end of the year still seems like a big stretch. But you know, aim for the moon and you’ll fall among the stars or whatever. 

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 (prepare to be judg-y this month!):

  • $451.44 – Hotel in Dutch Harbor/Unalaska for 2 nights.
  • $422.44 – Hotel in Kodiak for 2 nights.
  • $23 – Museum of the Aleutians – a tiny little museum in Dutch Harbor.
  • $92 – Train tickets for the 5 of us between Seattle and Portland for our upcoming trip. It’s a lovely ride if you’re trying to get between those two cities – much more pleasant than I-5.
  • $47+$55 – Two meals aboard the ferry restaurant. It’s only open for an hour per meal and you can’t tip the staff because they’re all public servants.
  • $27 – 1/2 pound of king crab in Dutch Harbor (where we saw some of the Deadliest Catch boats in the harbor) so everyone could try some (basically two bites each).
  • $20 – Kodiak museum tickets – housed in the oldest Russian-built structure in the United States – an old store during the Russian settlement days that also survived the 1964 tsunami following the great earthquake.

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “Working on this ferry is my second retirement.”
  • “I came up with a genius idea that is going to get me to retirement. Someone pursued a patent for it nearly a decade ago but abandoned it.”
  • My 60-year-old Neighbor: “Your new copy of Work Optional [(affiliate link)] just came. I’m going to keep the one you gave me. And I’m getting one for each of my kids. They’re at the perfect age to read this. I’ve kind of missed the boat on most of it.”

April 2019 Plan Update

Since it’s almost June, I figured I should back it up and talk about April before the month completely escapes me. April was a great month. Still spendy as we finished up our big purchasing, but we’re starting to get back on track. We also introduced our children to a rudimentary budget we attached to the fridge. After each shopping trip (or for each field trip cost, piano lessons check, etc), they had to write the amount in the category it fit into and then deduct that amount from the total we set for the month (you know, like balancing a checkbook! Imagine that!). It went well. They started realizing how much things cost and got a better sense of: If we do this, we can’t also do that. We’re continuing it for May.

In other news, we managed to max out my Roth IRA by the deadline despite our high spending! I also headed to the office for a week and, though it is lovely to interact with coworkers, I do not know how people go to offices every single day.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO!

Investments have moved to $262,900 (by the end of April). Again, cash hoarding now. But I’ll be adding our cash hoard to this stash as well. So “Investments” will basically mean all savings in all varieties. I’d love to hit $300k by the end of the year, markets willing. But LOOK! We now have a QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS saved! And are halfway to our original goal of $500k! So very, very exciting!

2019 Financial Goals (REWORKED):

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500/$5,500) – Thanks to the totaling of the car, WE DID IT!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capitol360 account so we can use it for free ATMs while traveling (but the account only earns 1%), we lowered our emergency account goal from $5000 to $1200. Then we changed this goal:
  • Extra Investments ($300/$45,000) – Nothing new this month because we had to come up with the $2,500 to max out my 2018 Roth IRA. But we’ll catch up. $45k by the end of the year still seems like a big stretch. But you know, aim for the moon and you’ll fall among the stars or whatever. 😉

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 (prepare to be judg-y this month!):

  • $616.15 – My car needed new brake pads – bonus: They washed it!
  • $35 – My haircutter moved at the end of April, so I had to chop off all my hair before she was gone!
  • $699 – A new camera because ours stopped turning on.
  • $690 – A new mattress – Mr. T has been wanting one for awhile since ours was 13 years old and starting to hurt his back a bit. I wasn’t on board until this month. I spent an entire weekend in bed sick and my back was killing me by the end of it. We ordered a new mattress that night.
  • $69.85 – We took the kids to the local brew pub theater to eat pizza and watch the new Apollo 11 documentary. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we’re headed to see the command module in Seattle this summer.
  • $510 – The last of the ferry tickets needed for this summer’s adventures on the Alaska state ferry!
  • $749.20 – Plane tickets to San Francisco in August to take Mr. T to see Hamilton! (It will be lovely to have another trip with just the two of us.)

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “I just want a credit card with no limit and that I don’t have to pay. Obviously there wouldn’t be jobs. I would just travel with it.”
  • “I’m pretty behind on retirement after the attorney fees for my divorce.”
  • “I know a lady that has no idea if they even have retirement funds. I mean, she’s nearing sixty and has no idea how much is left on her mortgage or if they even have anything saved.”

March 2019 Plan Update

This month has been one of the warmest in the history of Alaska. We’re already starting to get buds on the trees and nearly all of the snow is completely gone. Luckily our community doesn’t depend on permafrost as much as many others… so we’ve been enjoying more afternoons outside!

From a financial perspective, March was another crazy month of spending (remember how I said I’d calm down from spending? I will. I will. I promise). But the crazy story goes: my husband’s car got totaled by an uninsured motorist. It would cost $2k to fix, the insurance deemed that totaled… which apparently means they give you more money…? So, they gave us $5,100 to keep the car, we took it to a different place to get it fixed, which charged $1500, we had to pick up a “reconstructed vehicle” title at the DMV, and just like that, we’re $3,600 richer! (Spoiler: $3k went into my Roth IRA for 2018 and Mr. T bought a nice telephoto lens with the rest. We’re a wild bunch!)

We haven’t entirely finished spending on travel for the year yet – a few loose ends for all of our trips need to be tied up, but after that, we’ll be good! In fact, in April, I’m going to get the kids involved in budgeting. We’re going to put a very simple budget up on the fridge and have them help us track everything we spend. My oldest heard the plan and whined: “But I already did that at school once!” I laughed in her face and told her money is kind of an every day kind of thing, not really a one-time school project. We’ll see how it goes.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO! However, having a zero mortgage (and the mishap of the almost-totaled car), we’ve completely changed our financial plans. Our family really has outgrown this house. We can stick it out for a few more years, but with Penny solidly in her tweens, sharing a tiny room has led to much angst. And with bigger kids, clothes and such get bigger. Also, the biggest problem: no place to hang with friends. The bedroom basically fits the bunkbeds and that’s it and the only communal room is our small living room, so we’re literally always going to be in the same room if friends come over. Also, our car has made it through much. It’s a 2005 and though we’re glad it made it through this accident, we can’t be guaranteed it will last forever. We need to be prepared to replace it. And so, with those decisions ahead of us, we’re now entering a cash-hoarding stage!

Investments have moved to $242,870. Again, cash hoarding now. But I’ll be adding our cash hoard to this stash as well. So “Investments” will basically mean all savings in all varieties. I’d love to hit $300k by the end of the year, markets willing.

2019 Financial Goals (REWORKED):

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($3,000/$5,500) – Thanks to the totaling of the car, I’ve added $3k for 2018! I’m determined to get the other $2.5k in there in the next two weeks, so stay tuned!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capitol360 account so we can use it for free ATMs while traveling (but the account only earns 1%), we lowered our emergency account goal from $5000 to $1200. Then we changed this goal:
  • Extra Investments ($300/$45,000) – Financial plans should by dynamic to meet your individual needs. Recap: Right now we feel like we should be cash hoarding. I’m pretty sure we will want a bigger home in a few years (the main thing we’re missing is a place the kids can hang with their friends as teenagers. We have one small living room and the girls share the bedroom). We want to be prepared with a large down payment in 2-3 years so we can either rent out this house (in case we want to return to the small house when the kids are gone) or apply the full sale amount of this house to the next house to get us mortgage-free again faster. Plus possible new car if ours dies. So, we’re no longer maxing out Mr. T’s 401k (don’t worry, he’s still contributing and getting matches). I will also be contributing enough to get the match in my 401k (which starts in April!), but nothing more. Instead, we will be saving money in a high-interest Ally savings account. We will be monitoring our income closely so that we don’t get killed on taxes with these adjustments. We’re using Ed’s super useful “free money” post to make sure we don’t go above the 12% tax bracket.
  • NOTE: $45k feels like a bonkers amount for us. It’s a stretch goal. It includes the state government deciding to stop capping the PFD and it includes our t-shirt business continuing to bring in money each month. But also, knowing that we spent $26,000 on our mortgage in 2018 (after factoring in still paying for taxes and insurance) that we won’t have to spend this year makes this seems a lot more doable (even after spending 3+ months spending like crazy people!).

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 (prepare to be judg-y this month!):

  • $1500 – The whole car being totaled debacle.
  • $668 – Ferry tickets to get us from Haines back to Juneau on our second Alaska ferry trip this summer. (All the ferries!)
  • $897 – One-year YMCA membership. We’ve been talking about joining for awhile, but actually did it right before spring break so we could swim every day. We nearly did! Since then we’ve all been going as a family at least twice a week to different classes and we’re big fans.
  • $740 – Mr. T’s telephoto lens. (I’ll mention that he purchased the lens because it went on sale from it’s usual $1000 price tag. Our camera broke, so the replacement camera has yet to be purchased… expect to see that in April.)
  • $248.62 – With Payless Shoesource going out of business, we may have gone a little nuts. But, we don’t have tons of low price shoe options up here for the kids, so everyone is now set for all seasons for at least the next year or so.
  • $391.23 – While we were at it, we figured we should buy everyone’s school clothes for next year and all the summer clothes as well. So, now everyone should be set on everything! (Remember how I said we’re just in crazy buying mode? I wasn’t lying.)
  • $59 – Date night to an improv show and some dinner.

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “I don’t know what a SEP-IRA is. I’m not good with computers and tech stuff.”
  • “We thought we were pretty good with money but when we started tracking it, we realized we were not. We had no idea where our money was going.”
  • “We have more work than we know what to do with right now after the earthquake.”

February 2019 Plan Update

In February the light starts to return and by the end of February it’s finally light when I take the kids to school and when they return. We also celebrate two birthdays in February so it’s all chocolate and cake (even though we only sort of celebrate Valentine’s Day). It’s a good month. Though with last month’s mortgage pay-off, we may have gone a bit hog-wild and has a pretty spendy month. We’ll level out again, I promise. But for now… on to the deets.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Our mortgage is now at $ZERO! So far I’m keeping this in the monthly update because I’m so not over it. Still super thrilling. Read the story of our mortgage pay-off here. If you remember that I’ve been overpaying property taxes by nearly $900/year the update is that I can’t get any of that money back. Alas. I still have NO MORTGAGE. If I hadn’t paid it off early, I’m not sure when or if I would have noticed I was overpaying. So… #winning ?

Investments have moved to $234,209. Now that I’m actually starting to pay attention to this number, I’m actually starting to get a bit nervous that 75% of economists predict a recession by 2021.

2019 Financial Goals:

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA (0/$5,500) – I may have given up dreams of this goal when I bought tickets on the ferry to the end of the world. But it was a decision I made consciously. There is still a possibility I can put some money in here before April 15, but we’ll see.
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($800/$5,000) – The only goal I made any headway on.
  • Extra Investments ($0/$10,000) – I haven’t figured out what this will look like yet (ie: brokerage, self-employment account etc.) because our income sources and amounts will impact that, but the goal is to invest another $10k.

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:

  • $6 – Sound transit tickets from Seatac airport to downtown Seattle to see Dear Evan Hansen with a friend of mine for her 40th birthday. I paid for the hotel and plane with points. We split food but I bought discounted gift cards last month for a few places, so for February, this trip cost me $6.
  • $41 – Tickets to see Lego Movie 2: The Second Part for the president’s holiday.
  • $320 – Our cable cutting technique requires a computer hooked up to the TV. Ours just died after 9 years, so I bought a slim tower on clearance at Office Depot.
  • $75 – Ice skate sharpening punch card (so we can keep enjoying family skate nights at the school, etc.)
  • $1794 – Tickets for our family to take the “ferry to the end of the world” which is a ferry that goes all the day down the Aleutian chain to Dutch Harbor. With the current proposed state budget, ferries would shut down by October. I’m sure something will change to keep running some ferries, but this route has been on the chopping block for YEARS since it loses millions of dollars each year. Read about this reporter’s journey in 2015. I know I would regret not taking this if it gets cut and I had the chance so I jumped on reservations when they announced the ferries were no longer taking reservations past September until the budget gets finalized.

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “We were kicked out of a restaurant once in rural Alaska because we were camping. It was in the middle of nowhere but it was the kind of place they flew people in to go to.”
  • “Our whole tax refund was taken out from under us because I messed up our 2016 taxes.”
  • “We never use checks. We are a cash only family.”

January 2019 Plan Update

I CANNOT BELIEVE WE’VE PAID OFF THE MORTGAGE! Nothing else major is happening in January. It’s been a good month.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Our mortgage is now at $ZERO! I haven’t yet decided if I am going to include this in every single plan update from now until the end of time or if you will all get annoyed by that. 🙂 NO MORTGAGE BABY. NONE. ZERO. Read the story of our mortgage pay-off here.

Investments have moved to $222,960. To be honest, I haven’t really been tracking this for the past year. I mean, I’ve been updating the numbers correctly and adding them here, but I haven’t really cared. Now that the mortgage is gone, I feel so free with so many possibilities. I have already upped Mr. T’s 401k contributions to the maximum he can get with work rules ($18,600) and I’ve upped my 401k contributions to the maximum of 50% of my pay (which will only end up being like $10,000). And without a mortgage, there’s STILL money left to save! I can’t wait to see this investments number rise this year even if the market tanks.

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – DONE! Please eat chocolate in my honor.
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) – WE DID IT!!!
  • Max out Mr. T’s 401k – We got to $18,000 – His work has weird administrative rules, so we were only able to get $18,000 in there last year and we’ll hit $18,600 in 2019.
  • Stretch Goal: Put $5500 into My Roth IRA – NOPE. But there’s still time for 2018’s contributions!
  • Market-Based Goal: $250,000 in investments by the end of 2018 – Nopety nope. But as we know, market-based goals are always just for fun. We have no control over the market.

INTRODUCING: 2019 Financial Goals!

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500) – I didn’t manage to put a penny into my account in 2018, but I still have until April 15th to make up for it! $5,500 by April 15th with no mortgage seems totally doable. ANYTHING seems doable these days!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA ($6,000) – Self-explanatory.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA ($6,000) – Self-explanatory.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($5,000) – I’ve depleted all cash resources around here because when the mortgage got low enough that being mortgage-free was in our sights, I lost all sense of reason and sanity and started throwing everything at it possible. I’m coming clean that I don’t have an emergency fund anymore and I plan to remedy that in 2019.
  • Extra Investments ($10,000) – I haven’t figured out what this will look like yet (ie: brokerage, self-employment account etc.) because our income sources and amounts will impact that, but the goal is to invest another $10k.

If we manage to hit ALL of our goals this year, in addition to the 401k savings, we’ll be saving a total of $61,100! That’s NUTS! Fingers crossed!

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:

  • $367.20 – I signed Lui up for preschool Parkour classes. It lets him run around in a safe space for an hour a week and he loves it. It’s HILARIOUS to watch. He basically just slams him body against the walls and flails around. Classic.
  • $35.90 – Mr. T and I were FINALLY able to see Crimes of Grindlewald. We had tickets for the day after the earthquake and the movie theater was closed because of damages. So, we finally saw it this week and the local brewpub theater. Yummy pizza and root beer. So good.
  • $35 – Took the whole family to see the new Mary Poppins. I enjoyed it greatly.
  • $8.23 – I had to order my parents gifts from Amazon FOUR TIMES. They kept refunding me and then I’d have to reorder. With credits and refunds, I think I had to repay this much this month. Good news is they finally got them the third week of January. Sheesh.
  • $1,199 – Plane tickets to family in the Northwest and explore some Alaskan islands this summer.

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “We moved into an apartment so my husband could change jobs and put our house up for rent.”
  • “I think the pressure to buy his wife expensive gifts really motivated his career.”
  • “I went through Hell to pay off my student loans. They better not forgive everyone’s loans now!” Though I prefer Matt Lane’s (over at Optimize Your Life) response:

The Mortgage is DEAD!

8 days ago we paid off the mortgage. The moment itself was completely anticlimactic. I had anticipated paying it off Friday afternoon after receiving my paycheck and when I had my family around me. I would get off the phone, pop the Martinelli’s and we’d party. Instead, on Thursday, I called the bank to verify the amount due, noticed I had enough in my Escrow account to cover the last of the mortgage, and asked about it. He said: “Oh yeah. We can use that. Do you want me take care of that right now?” And just like that, the mortgage was paid off. And I was alone in the house on the Thursday. I message Mr. T at work. I called my sister. I called my parents. And my family popped the Martinelli’s while I was at a meeting that night. Yawn.

As soon as he “took care of it” and paid my mortgage, the banker, in the very same breath, offered me a home equity loan. I’ve never flipped anyone off in my entire life. But at that moment, that felt like the very best reaction. Because I was on the phone, I did not actually flip him off. I politely declined like a good citizen, but it really ruined the moment.

I’ve had all the feels in the past week. I had to figure out how to move my taxes and insurance into my name. In the process, I discovered that for the past ten years, we haven’t had the residential exemption applied to our property tax bill which means we’ve been overpaying our property taxes by a third for 9 years! ANGER. I think I solved that for 2019 anyway. Hilariously, I’m so happy that the house is totally paid off that I can’t even be that mad about this. I’m trying. But the house is MINE. We are DEBT FREE!

It has felt so. dang. good. Also, I’m totally counting that we paid it off in December 2018 because I didn’t actually pay a dime toward it this month. WINNING! In the past 8 days, I have had so much fun figuring out where to send all of our money. An advance copy of Tanja’s new book, Work Optional, came this week as well (perfect timing). I’m still neck deep in new spreadsheets, calculations, and possibilities. It. is. glorious.

Does is Make Sense to Pay off the Mortgage Early?

There are fairly sound economic arguments that say no. However, I work in behavioral economics which takes into account that people are irrational beings. We aren’t good with following strict economic principles because FEELS. Ultimately, the answer of whether or not to pay it off early is entirely based on your own emotions. If your mortgage doesn’t bother you at all and you’ve locked in a good interest rate, don’t even worry about.

Here are the 3 things that have changed the most for me with the mortgage payoff:

  1. My Savings: It’s been 8 whole days and already my savings rate is up (I immediately changed my 401k contributions to 50% of my pay). I learned a couple of years ago that I am a terrible financial multi-tasker. If I wanted to accomplish more than the average, I had to go all in. So I decided to kill the mortgage. Now that we’ve done that, it’s time to go all in on savings!
  2. My Peace of Mind: At least a couple times every single day since paying off the mortgage, I take a deep breath and think: it’s mine. No more payments to any bank. My money is MINE.
  3. My Risk Tolerance: With that peace of mind comes possibilities. As I mentioned in my 2018 recap post, I hired a couple of designers last year. When one of them offered to design for me nearly full time for $200/month, I immediately jumped on it. If I still had a mortgage to pay off, I’m not sure I would have risked it. Who knows if we’re able to turn that $200/month into way more profit, but if it doesn’t work out, a whole year of hiring her was the equivalent risk of less than one mortgage payment! In those terms, it was totally worth the risk! Especially since growing our business is something we’re actively trying to do in 2019.

What Happens Now?

Full disclaimer: we may have another mortgage sometime in the future. This house is fabulous and we absolutely love it, but it really isn’t conducive to teenagers. There’s no place for teens to hang out without us more than 5 feet away. And even if we’re there, we can only fit like 2 other teens comfortably. Our housing future is entirely uncertain. It could go either way: stay here forever or buy a different house (I vacillate daily).

What we do know: we are going to enjoy no mortgage payments for awhile and take advantage of that time to increase our savings significantly. I don’t regret paying it off early at all. It still feels so good!

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