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.
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 discounting, how 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!
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