Denali Northern Expenditure

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Tricking Ourselves Into Learning

Tricking Ourselves Into Learning

Everything we do teaches us something. Life is all about tricking ourselves into learning.

Penny’s Big Invention

Penny had a big school project last year where they got to invent something. It sounded like an amazing idea and I was very excited to see what she would come up with. You know what she invented? A pencil box. Made out of paper. (So I’m not counting on her invention skills to get us to early retirement quite yet!) But instead of saying: “Hey Penny, see that plastic pencil box you’re using that actually holds the pens because it’s a durable material? It’s already been invented!”… I let it go to see what would happen. Surely the teacher would tell her it was a terrible idea and help her come up with a better one. But guess what? She did not.

Putting Process Over Product

I know, you educators are probably eons above me in this story and you can already see where it’s headed, but Penny’s teacher didn’t care about the product. Instead, she used the invention project to teach the kids through the process. Penny may not be winning any invention awards, but she learned the process of inventing. She had to make a working prototype. She had to work with a team. In order to do that, they had to learn Google Docs to share their notes. They learned how to put together a powerpoint presentation (filled with funny GIFs and cute kitty pictures). None of this felt like work to Penny because she was so excited about their amazing paper pencil box, she was excited to do what had to be done.

Tricking Ourselves Into Learning

As grown ups, these same situations often arise, but I feel like sometimes we ignore the lessons. If something’s hard, we want to forget it and move on instead of analyze what we’ve learned and move forward. Because we choose to ignore the lessons, we don’t emerge any different.

Though this applies to all circumstances, this is primarily a personal finance blog, so I think we should talk about money. I’ve witnessed tragic financial circumstances. When people hit rock bottom, they just want to start over. Everyone needs a fresh start sometime. But these people need help.

This is what I’ve learned from witnessing these situations. And I’m better for it. If we’re able to learn from the situations of others as well as our own, our education expands exponentially.

Get yourselves out into the world. Do good. Help others. When we get ourselves out there and interact with others, we are tricking ourselves into learning. But it’s up to us to apply the lessons.

What lessons have you learned from the situations of others?

How Money is like Toilet Paper

How Money is Like Toilet Paper

Money is like toilet paper. But, in all honesty, I wish it was a lot more like toilet paper! Let’s get rolling (pun intended):

Rockstar Finance #GivingCard: A Loved One

Rockstar Finance #GivingCard: A Loved One

Each month, the Rockstar Finance Giving Fund gives out 25 VISA cards loaded with $20 for people to go help make the world a better place. In February, I signed up for one of them. February’s assignment was to help a “loved one.”

The Privilege of Being Santa

The Privilege of Being Santa

Thanksgiving has been devoured and that is the official start of the Christmas season in the Banks house. My kids are dancing to Christmas music and throwing stuffed snowmen back and forth as I type this. And they look forward to the coming of Santa Claus, as most children do.

Santa is Magic

As an adult, I tear up a bit when I’m talking about Santa Claus. For me, Santa is the embodiment of what I wish the world could do all the time. Santa is a worldwide agreement that for one night, everyone will help make the world a magical, wonderful place. When my kids ask me if Santa is real, my response will be: “We have the power to create magic and Santa is the perfect example. The actual person named Santa does not exist, but he exists everywhere and now you get to be a part of the surprise and help create that magic for your younger siblings and for others!”

In Alaska, Santa is VERY REAL. We have been to his house in North Pole (a pretty elaborate gift shop).

Grateful Money Amounts

Grateful Money Amounts

I enjoyed the Halloween tweet-storm so much, I decided to do a Thanksgiving version. I asked people to give me one amount of money they are grateful for in 2016:

I thought about this a lot myself before tweeting it out and have an answer that fits in a variety of categories. For each category, I add my own answer and the Twitter responses I got that fit in that category as well.


My $276 amount to see the second ever showing of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would fit in this category. It was an amazing, historic experience.


On Kindness

Did you know that the incidence of psychopathy in CEOs is 4 times that of the general population? Apparently a lack of empathy and kindness is great material for climbing the ladder all the way to the top!

I’m a firm believer that your selfish vs. altruistic mindsets are firmly cemented the more actions you make. For example, if we spend all of our working years actively chasing early retirement and choosing not to give (after all, one donation could mean 2 weeks/months/years more work!), we’re not going to one day wake up and decide the time is right to start giving. On the flip side, if we get into the habit now of charitable giving, it will become a habit and doing good with money won’t be difficult later.

Just as I think giving money is a habit, kindness is also a habit. Kindness may not make you rich, but it will definitely enrich your journey. Today, I want to make a case for being kind. There is enough rhetoric in the world about how to be cut-throat, ruthless, step on the little guy to get a leg-up, and not looking down on your way to the top. The world doesn’t need more of that. And if that’s the requirement for being successful, I’m happy to be a failure.

non-financial goals

An Update on 2016 Goals

Usually people catch up with a mid-year review in June or July… you know, mid-year!? But here we are, mid-August, and I think it’s time for a check-in. School started Monday for the kiddos, so it feels like a good time to re-evaluate and figure out what needs to happen in the next 4 months.

As I’ve mentioned in the past two plan updates, the financial goals may come up a bit shy. I talk extensively about that monthly, so today’s focus is on the non-financial goals I set in January:

Peanut Butter Ball Inflation

With all the numbers we ran last week in the formulations of our new plans, I was reminded just how long is really left in our journey. I’m impatient by nature and would like to retire yesterday! As I made a batch of peanut butter balls, I realized the journey is worth it. The recipe for peanut butter balls comes from my great aunt, Joanie, who always knew that delicious candy could make the world a better place. These tiny bits of heaven are simple to make, but take quite a bit of time. After the peanut butter center is mixed, it has to be rolled into balls and chilled before dipping each one in chocolate. As I carefully rolled and dipped a batch recently, I started thinking about all the parallels to personal finance (geek alert!):

how much we spend

How Much We Spend

This week, we’re doing an in-depth look at numbers and we’re kicking it off by taking a good, hard look at how much we spend. Annual expenditures are really the magical number needed to retire. We’re getting real (with charts!) and taking a look at 2013, 2014, and 2015. First up, 2013:

2013 Expenses

Financial Ethics

Money is an interesting thing. While it is an amazing tool to help you reach your dreams, it is also the root of suicide, homicide, divorce, and family divisions. If you want to bring out the absolute worst in people, buy them a winning lottery ticket. It turns out winning the lottery is a horrible thing for most people. Money makes us crazy. 

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