Denali Northern Expenditure

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The Fill-the-Bucket List

I turned 30 this past year and it wasn’t life-changing. Here’s why:

For the few years leading up to my 30th birthday, I watched several friends hit 30 first. A surprising amount of them wrote up a whole bucket list of things they wanted to accomplish before the big birthday. For most of them, the 29th year meant racing to finish a made-up list by an arbitrary deadline: the 30th birthday. I watched one friend successfully finish all 30 things on her list (which involved a lot of frantic racing the few weeks leading up to her birthday and a few all-nighters). Another friend even started a blog about the 30 things she planned to accomplish before she turned 30. I think she blogged twice that whole year. On her 30th birthday, she wrote about how she remembered how much she hated doing new things. When she turned 30, she felt bad about not hitting her goals for about ten minutes, and then she realized that was dumb. Being 30 meant she was free from the “decade of decision” and she could own who she was. Her goal after that was to have no adventures and fully enjoy what she actually likes to do.

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Merry Christmas from the Banks

We’re spending the Christmas holiday in Hawaii, so we will be taking a virtual break until the New Year when we will return on Monday, January 4 with a December plan update. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends and spend time on what is the most important. Also, I had another post planned about some little-known facts about reindeer, but Mental Floss beat me to it, so I recommend checking that out. Also, we were interviewed over at Even Steven Money so go check us out there! 

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How Much Do Groceries Cost in Alaska?

The Average Cost of Food in Alaska

To determine the average price of groceries in Alaska and the U.S. as a whole, we’ll turn to data from the USDA. Each month, the USDA publishes a national “Cost of Food Report” for the month prior to publication. September 2015’s Cost of Food Report showed that for a family of 4 with two kids ages 6-8 and 9-11, the “liberal food plan” was $1294.40 a month. The “thrifty plan” was half that at $651.90/month. (For a family of two ages 19-50, the “thrifty plan” is $389.60/month and the “liberal plan” is $776/month.)

Alaska and Hawaii warrant an entirely separate report that is published semi-annually, and only the “thrifty plan” is calculated. The most recent report showed that for that same family of four, the thrifty meal plan in Alaska costs $772.90/month. (Hawaii was $1125.70/month! Ouch! Maybe I shouldn’t complain so much…)

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Scarcity Spending

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!

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Shipping to Alaska (or Hawaii)

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):

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How to Save Money on Groceries (even in Alaska!)

Alaska is not a cheap place to live. It is also really hard to determine a “price point” for any item here because they can fluctuate greatly based on barges, etc. And Alaska doesn’t follow the usual, consistent grocery cycle budget-conscious shoppers in the lower 48 count on. With that in mind, there are ways to cut down the costs significantly on groceries in Alaska. Here’s how we do it:

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Fireweed Finance: A Seasonal Check-up

I’ve mentioned before that life in Alaska is very seasonal. The fireweed is the perfect example. In the summertime, Alaska turns purple as the fields of fireweed all over begin to bloom. The fireweed is so ubiquitous, it’s part of the culture. It’s the name of roads and businesses and used in lotions, candles, and jellies. I’ve even eaten fireweed ice cream! The flower begins to blossom at the bottom. As the summer progresses, the blossoms move up the flower until the flowers are just at the top. When all the blossoms have bloomed, the flower goes to seed in a white flurry that looks like smoke. The progress of the fireweed is closely monitored as our cultural indicator of summer. It is said that when the fireweed “burns out,” or goes to seed, summer is over.

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EARTHQUAKE! Life can change so quickly.

We live in Alaska where there are a lot of earthquakes. According to the Alaska Earthquake Center, we’ve had 404 in the past three days! And we’re due for “The Big One” as they’ve been saying for years. The 9.2-magnitude quake that hit Alaska in 1964 was highly destructive and the local fear is a repeat of those events.

On Tuesday, we had a 6.4 earthquake. Again, we’re used to earthquakes around here. We feel them frequently. But this one started small and rolling so we were deceived into thinking it wasn’t a big deal. Florin stood there and said “this isn’t a REAL earthquake!” Then it got bigger. She immediately stood paralyzed, screaming, and we had to coax her under the table. Penny was calm and collected and popped right under the table and covered her neck. Lui just sat there and laughed.

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The Best, Easy Salmon Recipe

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….

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Dipnetting: How do you get your salmon?

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.

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