Denali Northern Expenditure

Q3 2020 Plan Update

Since I started getting hassled from my IRL readers about not updating (hi dad!), I thought I should update the blog before we got too deep into Q4. When last we chatted, the world was burning around us and there was a worldwide pandemic in full swing. Turns out, 3 months later, not much has changed there.

A young caribou in Denali National Park

So, let’s focus on the good stuff from the last 3 months: In July and August, we got to visit two national parks here in Alaska: Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias (the largest national park in the US). Because of the lack of tourists, Denali, which is usually only accessible by bus, opened the road to 70 cars per day for a few weekends. The tickets were nearly impossible to get (first to click through wins), but we had 4 computers and 4 people clicking and Penny will be the first to brag that she scored us the tickets. It was an INCREDIBLE trip. We had bears, caribou, porcupines, hares, and ground squirrels all crossing the road right in front of us. It was magical.

Wrangell-St. Elias and the Kennicott Copper Mine town (header image) are accessible via a 60-mile railroad pass road which is rough and narrow. Once you get to the edge of the water, you camp there with your car and bike across the river bridge (not accessible to cars) to get to McCarthy and Kennicott. This was also a great trip. Visiting places in Alaska with all locals is so enjoyable!

The kids also started school, via Zoom. It’s going well, for the most part, but the tag-teaming parenting/full-time jobs/3 kids in school is still an exhausting daily effort. My job is still 100% COVID-19 research which comes with a healthy dose of existential angst and Alaska’s cases have never been higher, so that doesn’t help much. But, we have a nice pod so we’re not totally starved for socialization and we’re healthy and so very lucky to still be employed, so there’s not a ton to complain about here.

The Money Stuff

I will say what I said last quarter: This still feels like the least important conversation ever, at best, and unfair bragging at worst, but I committed to being transparent and that will continue. The most helpful thing to me on my journey was people sharing actual numbers. I hope ours can prove useful to someone else.

Still have a giant new (as of March) mortgage. $327,000. At 3% for 15 years, my goal is to not pay it down early, but save enough money to cover it before early retirement (an account just for paying down the mortgage each month).

Our investments are up over $50,000 in the past quarter which still completely blows my mind because there is something seriously wrong with this economy. I covered successful investing on the Twitter:

So easy. Well, our investments now sit at $371,000. If market returns continue like this and we don’t die, we’ll early retire in no time!

Work, for me, got weird this quarter. My boss of 10+ years was laid off leaving me in management limbo. Currently, the consensus is I’m valuable because I’m the “COVID girl” but we’ll see what happens. In this world, anything is possible.

2020 Goals

With Mr. T and I both working, I had said that my goal was to max out all the retirement accounts for the first time ever. I still go back and forth on whether we’ll actually do this. I want to hoard all the cash, but also know I want to invest a whole bunch too. #RichPeopleProblems

  • Max Out My 401k ($17,003/$19,500) – Fun fact: my company uses percentage of pay instead of actual dollar amounts, so I’m gonna have to play with that to get close.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($14,140/$19,500) – Another fun fact: Mr. T’s work uses an arbitrary slider for contributions. So, he can contribute something $784 or $832, but no number in between… so, we’ll have to play with that to get close this year as well.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2019 ($6000/$6000) – Done (thanks to the extended July 15 deadline).
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2019 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Same.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Figure out and Contribute to a SEP-IRA – Not yet, but for tax purposes, I’m def gonna need to figure this out.

I hope you are all well. Take care of yourself. Be kind to one another. The world is dark enough.

Dipnetting: 2020

As a reminder, dipnetting is how we get our salmon for the whole year here in Alaska. I’ve explained the dipnetting process here and even shared our salmon recipe if you want to know how we cook it weekly.

This year I needed this dipnetting trip more than ever. We went with a family that is also avoiding other humans, stayed two nights, and it was so much of what I needed: sunshine, beach time, socializing time, etc. So therapeutic!

Penny and Florin tried dipnetting this year for the first time as well and each of them caught their first even salmon this year, so that was very exciting!

How did we do? It was a slow year. We worked hard and stayed two nights, but again, it was just what I needed. Total count: 25 salmon. – This equals just over 58 lbs of edible meat. The fish were also pretty small this year. Our smallest fillet: 9 oz (we’re going to try our hand at home smoking the little ones this year!). Biggest fillet: 30 oz (42 oz is our record).


Every year I calculate all the expenses associated with dipnetting to see just how good of a deal we’re getting on our salmon.


  • $58 – Fishing licenses for Mr. T and I.
  • $21.59 – Ice to keep the fish cool after catching.
  • $22.63 – Gas for the car (at least this cost is lower than previous years!)
  • $70 – The cost to camp on the beach two nights and drop our stuff off.
  • $139.99 – We used to get our salmon professionally smoked, but they went out of business, so we bought ourselves a smoker this year and decided to give it a try (no idea how that will go yet).
  • $22.32 – Blizzards at Dairy Queen for the whole family on the way home.
  • $79.99 – Waders for the girls. Price of them catching their first salmon: PRICELESS. (you saw that one coming, didn’t you?)

Total Costs: $414.52

Total Cost Per Pound: $7.15

It was our lowest meat haul since starting the blog and our most expensive per pound costs ever, but again, I feel like the therapy of going and doing was worth it. We actually got a vacation in the time of COVID and relaxation therapy. And with the salmon running pretty slow, I’m pretty happy with our haul.

For the first time, we kept the salmon bellies and smoked them. We also saved the salmon bellies from the friends that fished with us. They added up to an extra ten pounds of salmon. If you include those, it helps!

Total Cost Per Pound (Including Bellies): $6.10

What does salmon cost per pound where you are?

Q2 2020 Plan Update

Well, the world continues to explode around us and here I am posting on a useless blog. Some days, I feel like I could do so much more to solve the problems of the pandemic, systemic racism, gender inequities, the wealth gap, and SO MUCH MORE. I have poured my energy the past few months into two things: work (full-time COVID research) and teaching my children to care (translates to: talks to my children maybe WAY TOO MUCH about the above problems. Their generation is our hope). I remember learning about a year ago that some people actually thought men had NO benefits over women in society, employment, safety. IT BLEW MY MIND. Now, you can imagine my COMPLETE SHOCK AND ANGER to find out that people have this same belief about RACE. I mean, THAT IS NUTS. We have a huge history of terrible laws and policies that have held Black people back (starting with SLAVERY – no one should ever get over that). It’s been a quarter. In case it isn’t clear to you, I am a white, cis-gender woman with SO MUCH PRIVILEGE. My journey is completely unfairly weighted in my favor. You need to know that. And hopefully, we can make this journey more equitable for all!

In our “free time,” we continue the house projects which will be never ending. Most days, I’m so grateful for my wonderful life, but full-time COVID research causes a certain amount of existential angst I’ve tried to combat by spending more time reading in the sunshine in my new backyard.

The Money Stuff

This still feels like the least important conversation ever, at best, and unfair bragging at worst, but I committed to being transparent and that will continue. The most helpful thing to me on my journey was people sharing actual numbers. I hope ours can prove useful to someone else.

Still have a giant new (as of March) mortgage. $335,000. We are locked into a 15-year at 3%, so all logic indicates we should let it ride the full 15 years, but we’ll see if I last doing so. At least for now, we’re actively saving for an addition we have planned next summer, so other than rounding my monthly payments up to make them even (which adds a whopping $20 of extra principle a month!), we’re paying no extra on this.

I’m actually both grateful and furious the market hasn’t tanked yet. On the one hand, this is the kind of thing that causes me existential angst because I feel like the market is only still up because THE RICH PEOPLE ARE OKAY. And it’s SO UNFAIR. So while I’m angry the rich are getting richer in the midst of all this (while definitely realizing I’m counted among them!), I’m also glad we haven’t (yet) jumped into a depression because that will ALSO negatively impact people in terrible ways (primarily the poor, again). That being said, our investments currently sit at $317,000.

Also happy to report I finally updated to the widgets to the right. It’s been awhile. And I raised the $500,000 to $1,000,000 because even though we’re not there (or close), it feels possible now.

2020 Goals

With Mr. T and I both working, I had said that my goal was to max out all the retirement accounts for the first time ever. With the current climate, I’m not sure I’m going to do this. I currently plan to max out both of our 401ks and our 2019 Roth IRAs (this week!), but am unsure on 2020 Roths or a SEP-IRA. Mainly because I like cash hoarding and we also have an addition planned next summer… I might feel more comfortable now with more cash.

  • Max Out My 401k ($11,200/$19,500) – Fun fact: my company uses percentage of pay instead of actual dollar amounts, so I’m gonna have to play with that to get close.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($7,700/$19,500) – Another fun fact: Mr. T’s work uses an arbitrary slider for contributions. So, he can contribute something $784 or $832, but no number in between… so, we’ll have to play with that to get close this year as well.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2019 ($0/$6000) – with the extended July 15th deadline for this, we’ll maybe be able to do it!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2019 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Figure out and Contribute to a SEP-IRA

Take Care of Yourselves

I ended our Q1 update this way, but I think it’s still important. Please take care of yourselves. If you live in the US, we’re in for a really bumpy ride. As of today, we’ve broken the 50,000 cases/day record and both case counts and hospitalizations are up or flat in every quadrant of the country. PLEASE avoid the 3 C’s: close contact, crowded places, and closed places. AND PLEASE WEAR A MASK IN PUBLIC.

Q1 2020 Plan Update: COVID edition

The world is weird now, right? All of a sudden it’s the middle of May but March was like ten years long. Let me first say that we’re incredibly lucky at this time in so many ways and we know that everyone is struggling, so please understand that what you’re feeling right now is okay to feel. If you need help, reach out for help. Mr. T and I both still have jobs. His is more secure than mine, but mine has turned into full-time COVID-19 research, so I will probably keep it for the near future anyway. We’re also trying to balance working on the new house, moving over there before our renters move into our condo on June 1, school schedules for our 3 kids, etc etc. It’s a lot.

March 2020

March was a strange month. We started the month in California for Spring Break. We went to Legoland and Universal Studios and everything seemed fairly normal. We then went to LA one day in the pouring down rain and got stuck in horrible traffic on the way back and during the HOURS we were stuck in the rain on the freeway in a standstill, the world changed. As we listened to the radio on the way home, Disneyland closed, sports were canceled, everything started happening at once. We had 3 days until we were supposed to return to Alaska. We got news the kids wouldn’t be going back to school upon return as school had been canceled. Quarantines hadn’t been initiated for all state returnees yet, but the trip home was scary and I kept worrying the 6-year old would cough or something and we’d get kicked off the plane. We made it home without incident and self-isolated for 2 weeks (and then much much longer because we’re still basically in isolation). Mr. T started working from home, my job got really intense with COVID-related stuff, and we started a big family calendar full of work meetings and school Zoom meetings so none of us would get in each other’s way.

The Money Stuff

It feels weird that I’m still talking about this stuff with all that’s going on. And the market not reflecting the real crisis of so many losing work is frustrating. It seems such an example to me of how this is impacting lower-income families so much more. It’s unfair and devastating.

At the end of March, we had scored ourselves a brand new mortgage so we found ourselves with a new mortgage balance of $336,000, but at 3% interest on a 15-year mortgage, we’re not planning to pay it off faster than 10 years (and I am trying to pledge to put no significant amount towards principal unless we’ve maxed out all the retirement things possible for that year). Our investments were at $276,600. Boy we went backwards didn’t we?

So we returned from an expensive vacation into a worldwide pandemic with a brand new mortgage. Of course I freaked out a little! I ran so many numbers and now have a WORST CASE SCENARIO PLAN. Right now, we have renters under contract for a year starting June 1. Because the condo is paid off, that money can pay half the mortgage of the new house. If Mr. T and I lose our jobs in the next year, we’ll live off of the cash we’ve been hoarding to build the addition we had planned to add onto the house next summer (and obviously forgo said addition). After the year is up on the condo renters, if they choose to move, we can sell that and live off that money for a bit. I digress…

Right now, we’re doing well. We both still have jobs. Our online sales are down 90%, so our side income is unremarkable (and may continue for some time since people aren’t feeling very confident shopping for stuff they don’t need right now). But, it feels better to know that even if we both lose our jobs, we’ll be okay.

The House

We spent March and April doing so much work on the house late at night, on weekends, etc. We removed the popcorn ceilings, patched the drywall, textured, and painted. We had the carpet replaced (we hired that one out). We installed hardwood flooring in the living room so the whole main floor has hardwood. We sanded down the existing hardwood and then stained and finished the whole thing so they matched. We drywalled a storage area into a little playroom for the kids. We exposed a structural beam that was hidden under drywall and finished it. We’ve painted. We’ve patched. The most frustrating part of all of it is that we have all been on top of each other during this whole thing when we have another big house just down the road that we could have been using but still needed so much work. Now the main stuff is done and we can finally move in starting this week! Remember how I said we enjoyed house projects? No one warned me about popcorn ceilings. Do. Not. Like. And I’m glad we’re done with some big projects, because it’s been pretty exhausting.

2020 Goals

With Mr. T and I both working, I had said that my goal was to max out all the retirement accounts for the first time ever. It seems weird making financial goals right now, but since that was the goal I made in January, we’ll go with it and give ourselves grace if we don’t succeed (like basically every year. ha ha). I’m channeling the person on Amazon that bought one of my 2020 planners this week. (Like, you’re actually doing PLANNING for 2020?! Who IS this person!?) Here goes:

  • Max Out My 401k ($2,880/$19,500) – Fun fact: I found out THIS WEEK that the maximum was $19,500 for 2020 and not $19,000 like last year. I’m totally nailing this PF blogger thing. Seriously. I’m the greatest. Also fun fact: my company uses percentage of pay instead of actual dollar amounts, so I’m gonna have to play with that to get close.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($5,100/$19,500) – Another fun fact: Mr. T’s work uses an arbitrary slider for contributions. So, he can contribute something $784 or $832, but no number in between… so, we’ll have to play with that to get close this year as well.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2019 ($0/$6000) – with the extended July 15th deadline for this, we’ll maybe be able to do it!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2019 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Figure out and Contribute to a SEP-IRA – Because our online sales for December were over $10k that month (then crashed pretty shortly thereafter), but we get paid in January on that money, our 2020 sales money is already over $10k. I need to figure out what “max out” means for how much we end up making in 2020 and do that.

Take Care of Yourselves

As I said at the beginning, this is a weird time for everyone and we’re all realizing stuff about ourselves that we didn’t know and we’re all feeling all the things. Please take care of yourselves. Check in with friends. This thing isn’t over yet and it could get worse before it gets better, so everything is up in the air for 2020. I’ll still do quarterly updates (though maybe continue the trend of being 6-weeks late on them) just to keep up momentum, but they seem silly since so much is uncertain. Hang in there, friends. I send you a virtual, social-distanced hug.

We Bought a House! (And a New Plan)

Just call me Maggie Jones. Get it? Because I’m keeping up with the Joneses? We had warned you that we might buy a house and we did. Surprise! Truth be told, we had outgrown our 1200 square foot condo. We had gotten very good at inventing storage solutions and getting rid of tons of stuff, but Florin sleeps in a very Harry Potter-like nook under Penny’s loft bed and Penny is entering her teenage years and there’s no place to hang out with teenage friends except in her tiny shared room or in our only shared living space (and Mr. T and I really didn’t want to spend the kids’ teenage years hanging out in our bedroom to give the teenagers “space” or hanging out with a bunch of teenagers all the time). Luckily, Mr. T and I have the exact same taste, so when a house came on the market that we loved, we bought it.

Considering the Family

While MY ideal future may involve gallivanting around the world with our children for years at a time, I am alone in this. My family also loves traveling, but my children have expressed the desire to lead “normal” adolescent lives during the school year. They are, however, amenible to traveling during school breaks and potentially taking longer 1-2 month trips during summertimes (like we did two years ago to Europe). They also expressed wanting a stable place to have friends come hang out.

Mr. T wants to feel more “settled” before we pull the trigger on moving to self-employment and has always wanted a home where the grandkids could come visit (and if we’re maxed out in our condo with the five of us, there would be NO comfortable space if we added spouses and children to that mix in the future).

Mr. T and I also really enjoy home projects. We refinished literally every surface in our current condo and because it’s a condo, there’s no capability for exterior additions. The home we bought is in pretty good shape, but we have an addition planned and several other projects that excite us! And with a big yard, we have limitless potential (want to get into gardening? We can do that! Need to build a shop out back to run our future million-dollar business? We can do that too!).

NOT Reasons We Bought a House:

  • As an investment: This choice was based entirely on the conversations we had about how we wanted our lives to look both now and in the future. It was not a financial choice. The numbers, obviously, would be in favor of staying in our paid-off condo forever.
  • Because of Pressures: Our rule has always been we would only buy a house if we were financially ready to do so and if we found one that we both liked better than our current condo (which we LOVE). We did not plan to buy a house solely for the sake of more room. There have always been plenty of houses bigger available but we always hated all of them. We also in no way did this to meet anyone else’s expectations (and I still find myself offended when we explain we bought a house and the reaction is: “I was wondering when you’d move past that condo”).
  • Because it’s cheaper than renting: Honestly, I don’t care at all about this argument. I know that’s a selling point for many people–not having to do repairs, etc–but that’s part of the fun of it for us. We love home improvement projects and we love making it our own.

Introducing: The NEW Plan

With my recent switch to full-time and our recent home purchase, we can finally recalculate again. Living in the condo has been a very much “will they won’t they” story the past five years for us where we just didn’t know if we’d be comfortable staying here forever. Now that we have a house we never intend to leave, we can add it to the calculations and more concretely visualize what we want that future to look like. So, here’s the rough plan:

  • 2020 – Finish up some work on the new place before moving in and then slow-move in. The benefit of having a paid-off house is that we can live here as long as we want while we do some of the things we want to do at the new place. Then we can take our sweet time going through all the stuff and moving over. We plan to wood plank some ceilings, install some hard-wood flooring, and replace the carpet before moving over. Also, hopefully, by the end of this year, we will have a renter in the condo.
  • 2021 – Build the planned addition on the house: a master suite on the main (so that even when we’re old and can’t do stairs, we can live here. We’re planning WAY ahead). The main reason we’re doing this is so that no one will have to share a room. And we can still have a “party room” for teenagers with an eventual ping pong table. Big dreams, amiright?
  • 2022 – Hit our original goal of $500k in investments. Can’t give the goal up now!
  • 2025 – This is the last year Penny will be in high school. Summer of 2025 will be her summer to direct our travels. She can choose any place in the world (within reason) and we’ll take a big trip based on where she wants to go. The goals by summer of 2025 would be to:
    • hit coast FI with our 401ks so that those will cover us until the end of time from age 60 until death.
    • have a business that is covering at least 50% of our annual living expenses
    • have enough money in non-retirement accounts to cover our other expenses from 2025-2043 when Mr. T turns 60.

A transition in 2025 to self-employment with a large safety net seems like a very exciting move for all of us! One of the big WHAT IFs is healthcare. We have great insurance right now through Mr. T’s work and the single Obamacare plan in Alaska is real spendy. I’m hoping the US figures that crap out by 2025. Good grief!

So that’s it, folks! BIG CHANGES around here and we’re excited about ALL OF THEM! It’s going to be an expensive couple of years, but since we just about doubled our income recently, we’ll all still be able to save more. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted along the way. As always, thanks for being along for the ride.

Q4 2019 Plan Update

About a year ago, I had a dream that I had to write a post on this blog that said: “This blog was about our journey to early retirement. Unfortunately, I have to shut the blog down because I became a successful stand-up comedian and Netflix has given us a large advance for my comedy specials that we’ve reached our goals.” Unfortunately (for both Netflix and myself), that dream didn’t come true. However, our situation is changing dramatically, and thus, so is our journey.

When we first started our journey, I was a stay-at-home mom working less than ten hours a week. We were entrepreneurial wannabes but had no actual success. We made significantly less than $100k combined. This was an interesting place to be in and ultimately, why we started the blog. I read about a lot of people waiting to have kids until they were early retired or being able to retire early when the kids were still young. We already had two kids when we discovered the FIRE movement so too late on that front. AND, there was no way we would be able to retire anytime soon with our numbers. I chose to stay home with the kids to frontload my time with them. We knew the financial risks of doing so and ultimately, I still decided that’s what I wanted. We wanted that voice in the community, too.

Our original goal was $500k by 2022 because it seemed impossible. Everytime I would try to calculate real numbers, they wouldn’t work. I still argue that early in the journey, the numbers don’t matter. Do what you can and pick-ax up that financial cliff. Every step forward matters.

Why We Got Lucky

Having a stay-at-home parent stunts a career projection. We knew that. However, I lucked out having a part-time job I could work hourly around my schedule for the past nine years. This fall, Lui started school and my full-time momming years were at an end. I expressed interest in going full time and (after three months of absolute drama with the HR department), I’m happy to report they gave me an offer. AND it was higher than what Mr. T was currently making. (When I asked him if his masculinity was questioned as apparently happens when the wife makes more than 40% of the household income, his answer was: “More money for the household? Isn’t that a good thing? Also, I have no idea how much I make…”. Ironically, he got a promotion the next week which put his salary back over mine. The Patriarchy!!!) Anyway, this is not the norm for most stay-at-home-parents. So I am incredibly lucky. Now we haven’t gotten any of our new paychecks, so we don’t know exactly how much we’re dealing with here, but combined, we’re now around the $150k range pre-tax (and pre-benefits) with our two salaries combined.

This, I realize, makes us and our journey no longer relateable to many of you. This is often a point of contention in the Personal Finance community. When people focus on increasing income, their stories change and they are no longer relateable to so many. I, however, have been assured that until we reach $198k, we’re on the border. 😉

The Side Hustle

The reason we have the opportunity to get into that unrelateable category is because our entrepreneurial efforts have actually started paying off. I gave an update in Q3 on those efforts and am happy to report that this month, we surpassed $10k in sales in one month! This is HUGE for us (since our previous record was $3200 in October 2017 and we haven’t been able to get close to $3k again since then). The full-time designer we had left this month so we’ll have less outgoing money and we’ve pivoted the business toward things Mr. T and I enjoy doing ourselves. We’re working on building these things up in 2020 and we’re excited about the potential.

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.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO! Again, we’re cash hoarding for a potential home purchase this year. Again, only if the market drops a bit and we find a house we like.

As of this random Monday in December (ha ha, can’t be bothered to wait until New Year’s to update the numbers) our investments and savings are at $324,000. The bonkers double digit markets have been good to us.

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) – Still cash hoarding. We’ll see come the end of March if we want to do it this year.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Ditto here.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capital360 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 ($22,700/$45,000) – We still have a couple paychecks coming at the end of this month, so we’ll end the year with just under $25k here and another $7k in our business account (we don’t get paid for December’s sales until February). Not bad. Not great considering our goals, but not bad.

In 2019, we really focused on increasing income. We spent a lot of money a long the way and didn’t really keep track well (we trusted ourselves on autopilot). In 2020, now that we’ve set up some pretty good incomes, we’re going to focus on saving more of that money and grow our businesses. We’re also building a new plan that we’ll let you in on the details of in early 2020.

Meanwhile, as always, we’re grateful to have you along for the ride. And to celebrate the holidays, we’ll remind you that Mr. T and I put together a few holiday classics (the song-owners added the ads, not us, FYI):

Happy Holidays! Love, the Banks Family

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

Page 2 of 37

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén