Living in Alaska, I start taking things for granted. I stop realizing that things we do and experience are actually odd and interesting to people outside of Alaska. Our weekend was exactly that.
Scarcity is a big economic principle surrounding the basic idea of something being in short supply. For our purposes here, however, we’re going to define scarcity as the “opposite of sticker shock.” Our definitions:
Sticker Shock – Something you experience when you see how expensive things are. When you first move to Alaska, you will experience this. Apples are nearly $3/lb?! (not at Costco, though still more expensive than outside Alaska).
Scarcity – When you leave Alaska and realize everything is so cheap, but those prices will only last until you go back to expensive Alaska!
Tomorrow’s Halloween!! Mr. T and I love holidays. We both decked out apartments and dorm rooms with decorations (many sent from our parents) before marrying each other and consolidating our decorations. Don’t worry, we’re not all scary-music-in-the-lawn for Halloween or timed-musical-light-show at Christmas crazy. But we do decorate. We have a 4-foot tree in our entryway that we decorate for every holiday. For Christmas, we move it upstairs and put it in our window. The kids love holidays because we love holidays. While decorations are not something we would currently spend money on, we’re glad we have them.
Alaska is a tough place to navigate physically. Many villages are only accessible by plane and/or boat. There are not even any roads into or out of the capital city of Juneau. You can actually drive to Alaska (unlike Hawaii), but it takes days, and only a handful of places are on the road system. Shipping stuff to Alaska can cost a lot of money and it’s annoying to do so. I get it. I lived outside Alaska once. But here are a few tips for U.S. based businesses to navigate the shipping to Alaska conundrum (I’m assuming these apply to Hawaii as well, but have no personal experience there):
Tonight, I’ll go to bed as I usually do, and when I wake up, I will be $10,000 richer. The secret? Live in Alaska. Okay, so the title was clickbait. But it’s true. Tomorrow every eligible Alaskan will be $2,072 richer than they are today because the Permanent Fund Dividend will land in bank accounts and be mailed out to others. (To celebrate, it decided to snow last night!) With five of us, that makes us $10,360 richer tomorrow.
Mr. T is a man of few words (but crazy ties… I mean, he has a shag carpet tie! I digress…). He’s the salmon chef around here, so I talked him in to jumping in on this post to share his Alaskan expertise (since he’s been cooking it weekly for about five years now). After last week’s dipnetting adventure, we’re ready to cook up some more! Grab your baking sheet, line it with foil and get ready. Here he is now! Introducing, Mr. T….
Another fabulous benefit of being an Alaska state resident is the opportunity to dipnet for personal-use salmon. Between July 10-31, Alaska residents can use a gigantic net on a really long pole to catch salmon. The household limit is 25 for the head of household and 10 for each household member thereafter. If you haven’t already done the math in your head, our household limit is 65 salmon. Now that’s a ridiculous amount of salmon. We don’t bring home nearly that amount and we still eat it weekly in our home. It helps significantly with the food budget plus the added health benefits. And kids love salmon. Florin and Lui ate tons of it as babies and loved it. They still do.
Let me begin by saying that I do not condone mooching if it would impact the other person’s trajectory to early retirement (even if they’re not aiming there like you are). Think about the golden rule here people. If the mooching would be annoying to you or impact you financially, don’t do it to someone else. But when it comes to renewable resources that people have in abundance, mooch away!
Our precious rhubarb plant was always the first one to pop up in the spring (nay, before spring here in Alaska). It brought hope that the snow would melt and the rest of the plants would start to turn green. This year, it never came up. It died. The appropriate Alaskan response is: “How do you kill rhubarb?!” I don’t know! Maybe it was this winters’ lack of snow (yes, Boston took all of our snow).
After ten months of unemployment during the Great Recession and feeling like failures for having to move “home” with our one-year-old, Mr. T applied for a job in Alaska. I had a cousin that lived there and she recommended applying in the state since there was no sign of a recession there. Mr. T applied for one job. Within a week of applying, he had his second interview in ten months (this time over the phone), and within two weeks of applying, he had an offer. They asked him when he could start. Since “yesterday” wasn’t an option, the start date was in two weeks. The same day we got the job offer, my cousin walked through a house with a realtor. It was the only house on the market in our price range in a decent area of town (there’s a housing shortage in Alaska). She sent us pictures of its hideous interior (ugly paint colors, low hanging ceiling fans, and oddly-placed bead board make for a great deal!) and told us it was “seven minutes and two moose” away from her own house. We made an offer. All in one day, we got a job offer and bought a house. I had been to Alaska once, but only to a remote island when I was eleven to visit my relative who worked as the local masseuse. Mr. T had never been in the state. Ready to finally live the “American Dream,” we were gifted a snow suit for Penny, and we boarded a plane to move to Alaska just before winter started.
You’ve heard rumors. “Alaska will pay you just to live there.” Maybe you’ve seen references to this. Well, I’m here to tell you, as an Alaskan, that it’s true. In Alaska, a PFD does not mean a life jacket (those we mainly just call “life jackets”). The PFD is the “Permanent Fund Dividend.” The Alaska Permanent Fund is an investment fund the state of Alaska voted to create in 1976 as the oil pipeline was just finishing up. The constitutional amendment created states: “At least 25 percent of all mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sales proceeds, federal mineral revenue-sharing payments and bonuses received by the state be placed in a permanent fund, the principal of which may only be used for income-producing investments.” Basically, the state of Alaska saw that with the oil pipeline about to open, oil would become a big deal financially to the state for awhile. So, they set up a fund in which they put 25% of all profits. And every year, the interest produced from the fund is divvied up between all investors: every Alaskan man, woman, and child.