10 Questions with Maggie Banks from Northern Expenditure

Today is the 34th edition of our periodic guest post series called 10 Questions. We have a list of 17 questions we pose to fellow financial bloggers, and they are free to pick and choose 10 or answer all of them. Let us know if you would like to be featured in a future edition of 10 Questions.

This week’s answers come from Maggie at Northern Expenditure. Maggie’s full-time gig is stay-at-home momming her three children, Penny (I see what you did there), Florin (I get that one, too), and Lui (I had to look that one up). Unsurprisingly, she also part-times as a behavioral economics researcher.

Northern Expenditure

Tell me about your blog and why it’s great.
Hello! I’m Maggie Banks and I run Northern Expenditure. This blog is great because it tells the suspenseful story of a family of five living in the crazy state of Alaska (North to the Future!) navigating their way to early retirement on 1.25 smallish incomes. Alaska is amazing and wonderful with the Northern Lights, the belugas migrating through, the moose crossing the highway, and the glaciers, mountains, snow, and wetlands. But it’s also expensive (and the earthquakes!). There are financial perks to living here though. We catch our own salmon and the state pays us to live here. Because of where we live, our story is unique. A visitor told us once that everyone in Alaska is always 30% camping… which I think is a great description. 

Tell me how you’re going to change the world with your blog (dream big or don’t dream at all!).
As well as telling our own personal story, our blog also highlights research to help people make better financial choices. I work part-time as a researcher in the field of behavioral economics, so I am knee-deep in financial lit most days of the week. I’ve learned a lot from what I’ve read and hope to share what I’ve learned so readers can as well. A few things I’ve learned and shared so far are: understanding temporal discountinghow to experience less regret, and how to start a new habit. People will come for the salmon, but leave better, richer, and more wise. (Also, Alaska may see a sharp influx of people in direct correlation with my blog’s readership.)

What goals do you have for your blog, short and long term?
Like many others in the personal finance blogging world, we started our blog to hold ourselves accountable for paying off our mortgage and retiring early. While the blog remains focused on those goals, it has become a space to examine our habits, our spending, and our lives. We hope to document our journey to early retirement, but we also hope to be examples of people that left the herd and showed our three children the world. We hope to do things on our terms, explore the possibility of creating every day, and help our children make friends in many countries. The blog will become a documented journey of our departures and our successes.

What post are you most proud of and why?
I had the most fun re-writing Mr.T’s retirement newsletter to be a bit more exciting (retiring early?), but I’m most proud of the post where I explored how society decided working was bad and created the phrase “That looks like a lot of work” as well as the post where Mr.T and I had a financial date night and got real about our dreams.

Do you enjoy writing?
I love writing. Any class that didn’t make me write a paper was dead to me through all of school. Words are magic. Even if you don’t put them together properly, they become something that is a part of you, but no longer you. They represent you. We’re all obsessed with great quotes because we understand that magic of the perfectly phrased idea and how motivating and real it can become. I love that.

1500 Days is about early retirement. Do you have early retirement dreams? At what age do you think you will retire?
Our goal is “early retirement.” Mr. T is an artist of sorts and chooses to create in his free time. He wants to be able to do that for all of his time, but he doesn’t want it to become a job for him. He’s open to making money on his creations, but it’s always awkward selling your own stuff and he doesn’t want it to become a source of stress. We also want to live in other countries and give our kids the experience of thinking, learning, and living differently. We hope to start these adventures when Mr. T is 38 and I’m 36. Though our current plan involves testing the waters on living abroad before then.

If blogging isn’t your full time gig, what is?
My full time gig is my three young kiddos… and boy, they are a giggle of a gig (see what I did there?). I do work about 10-15 hours a week from home as a researcher in behavioral economics.Mr. T works full time a software developer.

When you are 90 and look back on your life, what do you hope you have accomplished?
First off, I hope to be dead at 90. I really don’t want to live past 85! Ultimately, I hope that I can say that I did all I could to help my children become compassionate, interesting people. And that I had gained the experiences the world had to offer me. Being tied to one job and one location limits the experiences from which we can learn. It’s not important to be important. But I hope that I helped shine light in my little corner of life.

What is the best money management or investment tool you have come across?
Excel. Old school. Rockin’ it.

How do you handle people with different views on money, ie spendy people?
I don’t care what people do with their money. It only gets frustrating when they complain about it, but won’t make the choices to change. It’s the same way with people and weight. I HATE it when people talk about how fat they are, how much they weigh, or how they need to lose weight in front of my kids. I am trying to teach my kids that if you eat right and exercise, you’ll know when you feel good. It’s as simple as that. The same goes for finances.

There isn’t a “right” number that works for everyone. And there isn’t one way to get there or one way to spend your money. If you spend less than you earn and save money, you’ll know when you hit the number that works for your family. You want to get to the point where money=freedom rather than lack of money=stress and worry. If you don’t take the basic steps to get there, no one can do it for you. There’s no magic pill. When I meet people that complain, I don’t rant quite as much as I just did, but I do set up basic principles. “There’s a PFD coming up. Why don’t you put that money in savings? That would help tremendously!” Maybe it will be the first time they’ve heard such a great idea!

Did you grow up with money? How did your money situation growing up influence you? Did your parents teach you about money as a kid? How so?
Mr. T and I won the lottery of financially sound parenting. We were both raised by successful small business owners that taught us the basics about saving, tracking, and not getting into debt. I lived in a really wealthy town growing up where all the high schoolers drove super fancy cars, actually HAD cell phones, and all their families had vacation houses.

I drove my dad’s old Toyota pickup, didn’t have a cell phone, and we didn’t have a vacation home. But we were able to travel a lot as a family. We were taught to be frugal and spend money on experiences rather than things. And that had the most profound impact.

I didn’t find out how much my dad made until I was in college. He was loaded! But to his credit, I had no idea. We learned to work for what we wanted, spend thoughtfully, and save money wherever possible. We didn’t worry about having enough money as a kid, but we also knew that there was a trade-off. If we wanted to go to Europe, we had to save money elsewhere. Those upbringings are exactly what allowed Mr. T and I to be without debt today and on the path to FREEDOM! I hope to do the same for our kids.

We notice a lot of frugal people are into board games – what is your favorite?
Hilariously, I hope to actually invent a board game one day! Keep an eye out! But I do love word games like Boggle (the only one I can beat Mr.T at every single time) and Bananagrams.

What do you do for exercise?
Mr. T bike commutes 2-3 times a week and I do Zumba in my living room. I try to keep the blinds closed… but the kids like to open them to show the neighbors. Don’t worry… I’m sure I look awesome!

A million thanks to Maggie for taking the time to answer our questions. Keep tabs on her latest adventures through her site, NorthernExpenditure.com, or on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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18 Responses to 10 Questions with Maggie Banks from Northern Expenditure

  1. So glad to add another wonderful blog to my feedly!
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted…New Couch PurchaseMy Profile

  2. Mortimer says:

    Awesome to hear more of your background, Maggie! And definitely not surprised of your position in behavioral economics research. (I’m also curious how you are able to do this part time.) What are you favorite books on the subject?

    Looking forward to reading more of your nuanced insights into financial planning, and cheering you into early retirement!
    Mortimer recently posted…Grow Happiness with a Fill-the-Bucket ListMy Profile

    • Thanks, Mortimer! I work for a consulting firm in a different state and do my research remotely. I go into the office a few times a year, but technology is great! It’s a great gig and I love it. As far as the literature goes, Dan Ariely is awesome, but I am usually more involved in the actual studies (which is why I like Ariely – he mainly talks about his own research in the field in an entertaining way).
      Maggie @ Northern Expenditure recently posted…The Bell on the Fishing Pole: Living in the PresentMy Profile

  3. Fun to read more of your story, Maggie. I have mad respect for parents like your dad who keep their kids grounded in reality even if they’re making a lot of money. Before I was in high school, I grew up in an extremely affluent area (the kind of place where kids get new Corvettes for their 16th birthdays), and I give my parents a ton of credit for somehow managing to instill a distaste for that kind of flaunted opulence.
    Matt @ The Resume Gap recently posted…Current MoodMy Profile

    • Yes, my parents were/are awesome! They really helped us understand choices. Us kids were always saying things like “Why don’t WE have a vacation house?! Why can’t I get a new car?!” And they would have a thoughtful conversation about whether we would like to go to the same house every free week we had or whether we would like to go explore the world, because we can’t do both. And even shopping with my dad now, he still spends a good couple of minutes figuring out which dishwashing soap is the cheapest because he taught me if we save where it doesn’t matter, we can spend that money somewhere it does matter.
      Maggie @ Northern Expenditure recently posted…The Bell on the Fishing Pole: Living in the PresentMy Profile

  4. Tawcan says:

    Great interview! I’m with you on old style Excel as well. Love the northern view of your blog.
    Tawcan recently posted…Recent buys – RY & NAMy Profile

  5. “It’s not important to be important.” I love that. I wish the managers at my employer would realize that! I’ve always heard that Alaskans get paid to live there. How much are we talking? Does it vary per person? I would love to take a trip up there some day. It sounds absolutely beautiful.
    Frugal Turtle recently posted…When Can I Retire?My Profile

  6. Always great to get to know our fellow bloggers a bit better! Rockin excel too!
    Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…Interview Series: COL Carlos Perez, Jr., USA, Ret.My Profile

  7. jlcollinsnh says:

    So, Mr. 1500, you “got” Penny, Florin and Lui but missed “Maggie Banks” of Northern Expenditure?


    You have my favorite fin-blog name of all! 🙂
    jlcollinsnh recently posted…Chautauqua 2015 Reviews, 2016 registration openMy Profile

  8. I’m so glad Maggie was featured on your ten questions, I love her style of writing and reading about life in Alaska (Quite different to things here in NZ!). Maggie I was wondering why you don’t smoke your own salmon? Is it just with the large amount its easier to outsource to a professional?
    Quit Work For Life recently posted…January 2016 Expenses and InvestmentsMy Profile

  9. Love this interview, Maggie! Many good laughs. 🙂 I think it’s awesome how you’re raising your kids to be financially wise, AND teaching them the value of travel and learning about other cultures — those things do not always go together!
    Our Next Life recently posted…Our Next Life Turns 1 // Our First Blogiversary!My Profile

  10. Pingback: The Bell on the Fishing Pole: Living in the Present - Northern Expenditure

  11. Maggie, I loved your interview here! Your Dad is my hero. I love that he taught you financial responsibility (even though he was loaded)… what a fantastic gift and example.

    BTW, I’m so jealous that you get to catch your own fresh salmon. Sounds delicious. I definitely need to get up to Alaska for some fishing someday…. it’s on the bucket list. Cheers!
    Michael @ Financially Alert recently posted…A Random Act of Financial KindnessMy Profile

  12. TheMoneyMine says:

    Maggie – this was a really cool interview, loved it!
    You like writing and we like reading, this was a lot of fun to read. I almost spit my coffee out in laughter when I read that your answer on what you’d think about when you’ll be 90. Hilarious. Morbid, but hilarious!
    Take care!
    TheMoneyMine recently posted…How To Cool Down Markets with 78,960,000 Gallons of Oil (Per Day)My Profile

  13. Britt says:

    I’m a long time reader, Mr 1500, and LOVE this series! Almost all my favorite blogs have been discovered through these, and I am excited to add Maggie to the list!

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