December 2015 Plan Update

December was another lovely month and so very eventful. I finished up my semester-long ice skating class at the local university with my awesome skating performance (spoiler: I fell in the first two seconds). We finished up our largest project of the year: The Alaska State Energy Rebate Program and are looking forward to our $7700+ rebate check arriving sometime in February. I can honestly say that the thing I’m most excited about 2016 is that we are done with all the DIY home projects with a deadline! Mr. T and I attempted to sell some art at a holiday bazaar and hated it (upcoming post). But we weren’t too down because then we all got to get on a plane to Hawaii to celebrate my dad’s retirement in Hawaii for Christmas!

Hawaii was awesome and warm and perfect. We had a simple Christmas where my girls got hula skirts from Santa as their only presents (Lui got a ball and a banana… he was thrilled) and we just spent quality time with each other. We went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, we ate a million pineapples and other fruits sold on the side of the road, we swam in the ocean with sea turtles. Mr. T and I even got to get away for a night for our tenth anniversary. It was the perfect trip. We returned home last Saturday to find an unseasonably warm Alaska with no snow! So disappointing!

The Numbers:

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

The most exciting news is that we got our mortgage balance below $80,000 before the end of the year! The balance currently sits at $79,950. With the market fluctuations, we didn’t make the goal of our investments exceeding our mortgage balance. Those currently sit at $74,780 (a decrease since last month). Maybe next month we’ll successfully cross that milestone. With the new year here, I’ve set out our specific financial goals for the year ahead. (Next Monday I’ll be talking a bit about our non-financial goals for the year and this Friday, I’ll be issuing a challenge, so stay tuned!)

2016 Financial Goals:

  • $125,000 in investments (need some market help on this one, so I’m not going to focus on it)
  • Max out my Roth IRA for 2015 by April ($0/$5500)
  • Max out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2016 by December ($0/$5500)
  • Max out my Roth IRA for 2016 by December ($0/$5500)
  • Mortgage balance below $55,000 by the end of December ($79,950 – need $24,950)

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:vacuum

  • $161.99 – Our vacuum we purchased just after we got married finally died a few weeks shy of ten years. It was duct taped and bungee corded, but it worked. And then it didn’t. So we purchased the exact same one – the current model at Sears which now feels like a Jetsons vacuum compared to the old one.
  • $29.99 – Penny grew out of her old ice skates, so we had to get her a new (used) pair of skates and get them sharpened since she gets to ice skate at school.
  • $343.28 – Mr. T and I escaped from the extended family for a night in Hawaii to celebrate our tenth anniversary. (All accommodations are super expensive the week of Christmas, even booking a year in advance!) Our big trip will be to the UK and Paris this summer, but when people offer to babysit for us to get away, we take it (since this was only the third time we’ve done so since having Penny nearly 8 years ago)!
  • $423.19 – Good ole’ rental car in Oahu, Hawaii for the holidays.
  • $22.17 – I forgot my sunglasses and hat in Hawaii, so I had to purchase a hat and we forgot our toothbrushes! (We always seem to forget something!)
  • $49.54 – Santa candy and hula skirts for my daughters and nieces and a t-shirt for my nephew for stockings. This was the extent of gifts for our children. It was fabulous.

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’re sort of close to retirement, but our kids are still in college and we want to help them with that, so we’ll be working for several more years. And our oldest wants to start dental school, so that means we’ll be working for awhile.”

“When we moved to Alaska, I really didn’t want to be house poor, so we bought a house where we felt really comfortable with the payment instead of buying one that fit our family better.”

“My boss pays us $10,000 less than the other team that does the same thing. When I found that out, I lost respect for him and got out as soon as I could. Now that I’m no longer under him and he constantly has to train new people, I want to ask him: ‘Are the cost savings worth it?'”

“I always thought my husband would be the one that took the trash out and paid the bills because that’s what my dad did. Then I realized I liked doing those things and now I do both of them.”

December 2015


Merry Christmas from the Banks


Accept Yourself Now


  1. Happy New Year! Sounds like a great Christmas! Hawaii is on our travel bucket list. Good luck in 2016 and reaching your goals.

    • MaggieBanks

      It was a glorious trip and I highly recommend it! Thanks for the support.

  2. Great goals for 2016! Awesome job getting the mortgage so low already.

  3. So happy to hear you & the family had a wonderful time in Hawaii!! Happy 2016, and those goals sound outstanding. I can imagine your investments are going to surpass your mortgage balance in no time. 🙂

    P.S. For the financial phrases you gather – do you keep a notebook, jot them down in your phone, or mentally remember them? I was curious!

    • MaggieBanks

      I keep a draft blog post for the next month and record them as soon as I get back to a computer (so I know I mess up a couple words here and there, but I never change the message or the tone).

  4. That’s fabulous that you had a great time in Hawaii! I actually was there in August (my first time there), traveling around Oahu and camping, and it was truly amazing.

    I just started using Personal Capital a couple of weeks ago and I’m loving it so far! I still keep track of each individual purchase in a spreadsheet because I have a specific way I want to code them, but PC helps a lot with quickly getting a sense of the big picture.

    Awesome goals for 2016…I’m excited to read updates! 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks! And don’t think I’ve given up on my millions of personal spreadsheets as well. I love a good spreadsheet! 🙂

  5. Sounds like Christmas was awesome, and if it makes you feel better, even down here it was unseasonably warm. Like, HOT, and mosquitos were out, and no fires were lit… A lot of my colleagues traveling to the Northeast had even warmer weather than we did, so there were a lot of people disappointed with warm weather this year.
    Congrats on the savings goals and the mortgage. We also use PC, but like you, Mrs. SSC has her own spreadsheets where she can get stuff way more detailed and compartmentalized than PC. It’s still a great tool to complement those spreadsheets. 🙂
    I love the financial phrases, it reminds me of my work place conversations. Like hearing about, “Yeah, I just got my 27 yr old off of my phone plan!”

    • MaggieBanks

      It has felt pretty good around here sitting between 40-50 – it’s the yucky slush and ice I dislike! Conversely, my parents just got snow in Portland, Oregon! Some people have all the luck! 🙂

  6. Happy new year! Your Hawaii time sounds like it was fantastic! We did the Christmas in Hawaii trip a few years back, and know what you’re talking about in terms of expensive! Even on the cheaper Big Island. But hooray for gifts of experience for the kids and whole family.

    I was laughing at your vacuum pic, because I went so far as to buy our vacuum on airline miles. I know it’s a bad value, but as far as I see it, miles are basically free for me (since they’re mostly paid by work) whereas any cash price is money we’d rather not spend. I think I’ll cry when it dies eventually. 🙂

    Sadly, it looks like the markets are not going to be much help for a while, but I still have a good feeling about 2016. Here’s hoping!

    • MaggieBanks

      Luckily, I’ve learned from you guys that goals should not be market-based! 🙂 I’m super excited about a full calendar year on the FI-wagon. I’m excited to see what we’re capable of!

  7. Congrats on crushing the mortgage debt! You can do it! Looking forward to regular updates. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Claudia! I’m excited to be completely debt free – probably in just over 3 years.

  8. Some interesting quotes there…

    And congrats on the progress of the mortgage, it’s tough to feel good or bad about the stock market though when so much is out of your control. Where it goes, it goes. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Jim. I agree with you on the market. It feels good to see the market dip and my net worth still go up because of chipping away at that mortgage!

  9. I’ve been using Personal Capital for over a year now and love it. Still won’t give up my spreadsheets either. Sounds like you had a great trip to Hawaii. I’ve personally never been, but it’s on the list. Haven’t been to Alaska either come to think of it.

    Good luck in 2016!

  10. Kim from Philadelphia

    Happy New Year, Penny!
    So glad you had a fabulously warm holiday in Hawaii!
    Your goals are the perfect combo of challenging but doable. I’m sure you will succeed.

    I think it’s incredibly cool that your daughter gets to ice skate at recess. The weather in PA has been wacky; 68 degrees on Christmas Day, and this week it’s been in the low 20’s. Bizarre!

    • MaggieBanks

      Weather here has been nuts too! It was in the 50s Christmas week and now it’s sitting just above freezing so all the streets are like ice rinks. Happy New Year to you as well, Kim. I love your comments!

  11. Mrs. FI

    Trading in Christmas presents for a grass skirt and a trip to Hawaii? No brainer. Sound like you had a great time and good luck with your 2016 goals!

    • MaggieBanks

      That’s what I thought! I wish we could do that every year! I’m excited for 2016 to see what we’re capable of.

  12. Congrats on a great year! I’ve been following along for several months, but this is my first comment. I love reading your monthly updates (as well as your other posts). I also like taking out the trash and paying bills. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Well I’m glad you’re chiming in. Thanks for the feedback. I’m a bill payer, but I make Mr. T take out the trash because that’s why my dad did too. 🙂

  13. Congratulations on your 2015 accomplishments! Here’s to another year of financial fabulousness!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks! I love the start of the year – the possibilities are nearly endless and there haven’t been any pitfalls yet!

  14. That sounds like a great trip. I LOVE the gifts. Perfect and minimalist. Ma Ingalls would be pleased. We are on a very similar trajectory: just got the mortgage below 100k and psyched to keep kickin’ it in the rear. Looks like you are doing great and right on track for your goals. Side note: they hubby and I are heading out for two nights next week (we were going to Girdwood but decided to head to ANC instead to stretch the money further) and I’m SOOO looking forward to rehashing our long term financial goals as you described in your “financial date night” post. You gotta love planning and dreaming!

    • MaggieBanks

      Stuck in a car is the perfect time to do it! Mr. T hates the hopes and dreams chat, but I LOVE it. I just keep truckin’ on in between forcing him to verbalize his actual hopes and dreams. Getting him to do that worksheet annually may even be a stretch! We’ll see. 🙂

  15. Kudos to you on your mortgage and everything else you accomplished in 2015. I don’t even know what I’ll do when our mortgage gets below $100k. Virtual party for sure! 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m pretty excited about it! And kicking it entirely seems actually doable!

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