November 2015 Plan Update

We’re considering an “Ask Penny” segment on the blog. And may even include Florin if she can keep her answers somewhat on track. If this is something that would be interesting, submit your questions in the comment section. The series will be entirely reader-submitted questions. So, if we get enough interest/questions, we’ll do a post. 

November is so great because it ends with Thanksgiving and introduces the Christmas season. I LOVE both of those holidays! We’ve been working hard on some artsy things to attempt to sell at a Christmas bazaar in December as well as finishing up our Energy Rebate to-do list. An update on the final numbers there will happen when we finish next month.

This month has been one of introductions with the blog. We participated in two blog interviews: one with Alyssa over at Generation Y Retirement Account (she called me “financially audacious”! I’m so flattered!) and the other one with Brian at Debt Discipline (complete with a picture of us at the Iditarod!). Penny (who wants you to know that she just lost her two front teeth and now gets to sing, appropriately, “All I want for Christmas…”) introduced herself here on the blog as well (and even sang the song in our soundbite on Monday). And we shared our story of how we survived our ten months of unemployment. And now you know way more about the Banks than you did last month!

Thanksgiving was lovely. I stayed in my jammies and watched the parade. I was really mad that the NBC Alaska affiliate decided to show the hour of the Today show about making a turkey and then skipped all the Broadway performances before the Thanksgiving Day parade (Another tidbit: I’m a total musical theater nerd). Get with the program! That’s my favorite part! (Living in Alaska can mean weird TV scheduling for live events.) During the actual parade, I stayed on the couch in my jammies while Mr. T made the turkey and two pies (see why it’s one of my favorite days of the year?!). I did contribute rolls to the party and we had three other families come over and eat. I love how warm and yummy Thanksgiving is. Then, on Black Friday “Enough” Day, we listened to Christmas music, and made our house all full of Christmas cheer! We got nearly eight inches of snow earlier in the month, but then we got some early Chinook winds that melted everything. And now we’re in need of more snow!

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!

My 33% raise went through this month! (Yay!) But my hours were lower than usual, so I ended up making about the same amount as usual. That will probably pick up come January. But it was nice to work less and still make the same amount of money! We contributed our usual $800 to the mortgage (which we plan to increase in January). Our mortgage currently has $81,130 left to pay and our investments currently sit at $75,096. In next month’s update, I would love to see our investments surpass our mortgage debt, but that won’t be happening unless the market decides to help us out a bit. I do think we’ll be able to swing getting our mortgage under $80,000. That would be very exciting!

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:

$106.64 – Tickets to the Warner Brother (Harry Potter!) studios in London for next summer. For claiming not to be super Harry Potter geeks, we’re sure spending a lot of money on him lately! (Also, are you sick of hearing about our trip that is not even close? I’m sorry, but there’s a whole lot more coming!)

$57.57 – The cost of two amazing photo books we put together of us, our siblings, and all of our children. We did a “then and now” thing where we found a bunch of pictures of us when we were little and had our kids doing similar things. We didn’t go too crazy with specifically recreating, but we did different series like “in the high chair” and “Halloween costumes.” They turned out great and since we did it with our siblings, we should get some money back from them to split the costs.

$68 – Penny is just $12 away from earning her waterproof camera, so we ordered it and hid it so we could give it to her as soon as she had the money. She’s been working toward this for about four months and really wanted to earn it before we head to Hawaii for Christmas. She’s been doing a really good job.

$2 – The tooth fairy came twice this month. She gives out gold president and Sacajawea dollars which are just as magical as the glitter-sprayed dollar bills I keep seeing on Pinterest and way more practical. Mr. T had to go to the bank and ask for them specifically so we could have a stash.

$134.10 – Our semi-annual grain order. This round we bought 50 lbs of oat groats and 50 lbs of 7-grain berries. We hand grind half oats and half 7-grains for our breakfast every morning.

Financial Phrases:

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

“My husband makes a decent salary, but it’s never enough. We use our PFD to pay rent.” Same person: “Ulta is having a really good sale this week. You guys should go there.”

“We’ve lived a lot of places and I always think: ‘I’ll get to save all this money here because groceries are cheap!’ but we always end up spending the same amount of money no matter where we live. If it’s a cheaper place, we just buy more.”

“When we were young, people always said ‘six-figure income’ and that was doing really well. Now, that’s not really the case anymore. We make that much and it doesn’t go very far.”

“Student loans really take their toll on our paycheck. We would have a lot more freedom if we didn’t have those.”

“Money is crazy. It goes a long way when you have it and stops everything when you don’t.”

“I moved to Alaska for a semester [from Australia] without any money at all. I came here to ski, but I can’t buy a lift ticket!”

“It’s time to cut myself off from shopping this weekend. I saved millions all you Black Friday haters!”

What stories did your expenses tell this month?



Northern Expenditure Retirement Soundbite


The American Dream? No, Thank you!


  1. Hahaha…those comments are funny! I work with people who make more than me (with their double household salary for the past decade) and they’re still complaining about not knowing if they can afford their annual summer vacation. I’d love to tell them to try living on a single salary, being a single parent (up until recently), and supporting your parents all at the same time. Then they can get back to me with their whining. People don’t know how fortunate they are. Great post!

    Mrs Mad Money Monster

    • MaggieBanks

      It’s a lot easier to buy into the “grass is greener” mentality than accept where you’re at financially and make it work to achieve your dreams. Humanity is really good at short-changing. “If only I made more money, I could be happy.” And good for you. Being a single parent is something I hope never to experience, and I commend you. Single parents deserve more than all the praise in the world.

  2. I would definitely like reading more from your kids.

    Glad to hear you had a nice Thanksgiving and are all set for Christmas.

    The craziest thing I heard recently was a radio advertisment for laser hair removal, “with financing available.”

    • MaggieBanks

      Yikes! Sounds like a great idea to finance your hair removal! 🙂 We’ll do a Penny segment if we get enough reader questions. I think it would be fun!

  3. Oh, I’m super jealous of Penny! I wanted to lose my two front teeth around the same time, but it was not to be. And clearly I’ve never gotten over that trauma! 😉

    I always love reading your money quotes you overhear… I can relate to a lot of that thinking from before we wised up, and I keep hearing stuff like that all the time. It’s so sad that our culture says we’re not supposed to talk about money, which results in most people not knowing a lot of the basic financial literacy stuff.

    And clearly I’m out of the loop on this particular Pinterest trend — people are *spray-painting* money?! Can you even still spend it after that? I like your idea of the fancy coins much better, though I remember getting dimes for my teeth, and I’m not THAT old. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Moms are crazy these days. For real. They spray them with like glitter hairspray. I have no idea… clearly, I’m not a Pinterest mom and I am completely fine with that. Yes, inflation has hit the tooth fairy.

      I love my financial phrases. It’s fun collecting them throughout the month. And it’s most interesting to try to respond when they are talking to me specifically.

  4. a woman

    Black Friday: I spent nothing. But 2 weeks ago I did a good business to buy 3 set of puzzles with 5 each one, perfect gifts for the next parties where my daughter is invited.

    About the craziest words: same in my office, my colleague has almost gaining double money and he spend 3 times more than me. But after several discussions and explanations from my part, he will try to follow my idea and to change/renegotiate several bills one by one ( no, he don’t want to cut it off): internet, cable, satellite, netflix, 3 phones, gasoline for 2 cars etc. Even he is interested now to go to the bank to renegotiate his mortgage to a lower tax. I estimated him that he can pay less 3-400 monthly, money enough to help him in 4-6 months to get out one credit card depth ( he is paying a lot of penalties for every credit card, around 100-150 monthly)

    • MaggieBanks

      You’re awesome for helping other people be wiser with finances! When people are willing to talk about it, it helps. And well done on the puzzles. I do keep a pile of last minute birthday party gifts in my closet as well.

  5. Great comments. It’s amazing the things people say who don’t have a plan for their money. Crunching our November numbers tonight, looking like a good story.

    Always great to hear from the kids, its interested to hear their POV on things.

    We had a great Thanksgiving, glad you guys did too!

    • MaggieBanks

      Yes… overhearing makes me cringe and laugh and mourn all at the same time. When you don’t have a solid plan, money seems to rule your life. It’s sad.

  6. Despite my best efforts, I ended up at the mall on Black Friday. The future Mrs. Vagabond works retail and the registers at her store went down first thing in the morning. I went in and sorted it out. Total cost to me: $0. But fun people watching, anyway!

    I’m with you, I love Thanksgiving and Christmas the most. It’s probably going to be a pretty quiet one for us this year, since we’re coming up on a critical year of investing and lord knows we have more stuff than any two couples could possibly need! That’s ok, my favorite parts about Christmas are the rain and the smell of cinnamon, also free.

    • MaggieBanks

      Saving the day in Herculean tasks on Black Friday doesn’t count against you! I love the magic of Christmas as well. And all the stuff I like about it (minus the food) come free as well. Merry Christmas!

  7. That is SO awesome you all are going to the Warner Brother studios in London! I had the chance to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando (my fiancé & I may be going next summer!), but I can’t even imagine what it will be like when you go there. 🙂 November turned out not too shabby, and I kick-started my Flexible Philanthropy Fund (more to come on that next week!) in which I donate to various causes, or spread social goodwill. My spending was a little bit higher, but it went more towards others than myself after setting aside for goals like retirement – I definitely like to see that.

    Here are my proposed questions for “Ask Penny!” (& Florin too!)

    1. What is your favorite dance move?
    2. What’s one of the best things you’ve learned about money from your parents?

    P.S. – I LOVE musical theatre. I actually got a role in Oliver my Sophomore year of high school! The hilarious part is I can’t sing worth anything, I mainly just danced and pretended to sing in the background. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m beyond excited about our trip next summer. I can’t wait to hear about the Flexible Philanthropy Fund! That sounds awesome! (And maybe you’ll suggest parameters we can copy…?) Of course you love musical theatre… since we’re basically the same person. And the questions you asked Penny could solicit some pretty hilarious answers! We’ll see if we end up with any other interest. 🙂

  8. Hahaha, those overheard comments are great! Here’s one that I overheard this very evening: “[insert name of town I live in] is the only place in the world where you can be making six figures and still need help paying your rent!”

    (Um, I live there? And I get paid a measly grad student stipend? I feel like if you’re making six figures and can’t afford your rent, the solution is probably to move, not to ask for help with your rent.)

    Ok, questions for Penny!
    – What are you hoping to get a photograph of with the waterproof camera?
    – What’s a good book that you’ve read recently?
    – I’m from New Hampshire and we have moose, but they usually only come out at dusk. Is that true about Alaskan moose too?

    • MaggieBanks

      Solutions to financial problems are always so hard to see. I loved hearing this whole six-figure income thing because I was thinking “hello. I have a family of five and we don’t have a six-figure income and we’re doing fine… thankyouverymuch! In fact, we’re heading toward early retirement!” And thanks for the Penny questions. We’ll probably start that up in January with enough response.

  9. Wow its crazy what and how people think about finances. Those comments shine the light and I would say the majority of the people think like that.

    Conrgats on your raise. That is a huge increase!

    • MaggieBanks

      People are crazy. I love overhearing the crazy! And thanks for the props on the raise. It wasn’t all the premeditated, but throwing out a really big number seems to have worked in my favor!

  10. I love those comments, it sounds like a lot of people I work with. Our November money stories were filled with woe, home, repairs, and general overspending. 🙂
    If only we made more we could afford it! Kidding…. I work with people that make 2 six figure salaries, have no mortgage (paid off by parents) and still live paycheck to paycheck and complain about money not going far these days… They count on bonuses to cover property taxes for goodness sakes! I literally smile and shake my head and ask, What do you mean? when the complaints start, because their answer is always something entertaining.

    My questions for Penny would be:
    “What is your favorite thing to do outside?”
    “Do you like to help in the kitchen – If so, doing what, and what is your favorite thing to cook/help with?”
    “If you could live anywhere besides Alaska where would you choose and why?”

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh my goodness! Parents paid the mortgage? No wonder they never figured out how to deal with real money. Oh dear. I worry about people every time I hear them say such sad financial phrases.

      Excellent questions for Penny. Thanks!

  11. Kim from Philadelphia

    That’s an awesome pie header!!

    I think you really illustrate that it’s not necessarily how much you make but what you do with the money you earn. I know many people who make upwards of $150k a year but are in debt up to their eyeballs.
    An awesome milestone for you guys when investments top your mortgage balance- soon it will happen!!

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Kim! I’m definitely excited for that milestone! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well.

  12. Oh, I think I’ll be contributing a few of those co-worker comments to the blogosphere soon. My personal *facepalm* moment was with the first about Ulta. Wow.

    Questions for the kiddos:

    1. What is your favorite color?
    2. What do you like to do for fun?
    3. What is your favorite thing to do in Alaska?
    4. Are you a Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin?

    And you ARE financially audacious! Keep up the amazing progress!

    • MaggieBanks

      Yes, I tried not to facepalm in front of that person when we had this conversation. Oi. And thanks for the questions. She’s just starting Harry Potter, so that’s a good one. 🙂

  13. Hi Maggie. November expenses were low for me due to traveling for work, and visiting the girlfriend (we do cheap things together and try to cook a bunch). December will uptick a bit as I might book a vacation for February time frame and wrap up (start) my Christmas shopping. Take care.

    • MaggieBanks

      Booking vacations are always exciting upticks in spending. But I do love how fresh January feels in all aspects. Whether you set resolutions or not, a fresh start in life and in finances is always exciting with a resolve to do better!

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