This is the forty-ninth in a series of interviews with fellow personal finance bloggers. Today’s guest is Maggie Banks from Northern Expenditure.
Who is Maggie Banks?
Maggie: Hello! That’s me! I’m a mom of three young kids living in Alaska with my husband. I write over at Northern Expenditure about our journey to early retirement on 1.25 smallish incomes. I also write about living in Alaska where we catch our own salmon, brake for moose on the highway, and get paid to live here.
Why did you start your blog?
Maggie: I have been an avid reader of personal finance blogs for over a year. I devour them. This past summer, my husband’s job threatened layoffs and we actually had to have a real conversation about what we would do if he lost his job. Since we spent some time unemployed during 2009, we didn’t want to face the possibility of that ever happening again. When we had to get real about the possibility this past summer, Mr. T declared that he never wanted to apply for another job again. When his job was secured, we set up a plan to leave the workforce. I had seen so many other people (including Brian!) have so much success with accountability on their financial plans by starting a blog. I wanted that. I wanted it to be real. So, in June, the day after we drafted a plan, I started Northern Expenditure.
Maggie and her daughter clapping for the mushers as they start out on the Iditarod trail!
What are your favorite Blogs?
Maggie: At the beginning of my personal finance blog consumption, I was obsessed with people that had a lot of debt and were killing it quickly. While we didn’t have any debt other than our mortgage, we also weren’t great at saving more than average amounts. I really wanted to apply the passion people like Brian, Cait Flanders, and Anna Newell Jones had toward my own goals. For general money motivation, I read Budgets Are Sexy. Once I realized retiring early was actually feasible, I also started avidly consuming blogs like 1500 Days, Think Save Retire, and Our Next Life. Since starting my own blog, I have discovered that there are so many wonderful blogs out there. I discover a new one nearly daily that I enjoy!
When did you first become financially literate?
Maggie: Thanks to our upbringing, Mr. T and I were raised fairly financially literate. We were both children of successful small business owners that taught us the value of work, frugality, and not going into debt. But just this year, I have learned so much more about the possibilities available with money. Before, I followed the basic plan, but this year, we actually drafted our own plan and the details behind how to achieve it. I found that the key element we were missing before was personalization. The reason people are so passionate about killing debt is because it’s holding them back and it’s their debt. They own it. The reason we weren’t great at saving was because we hadn’t figured out what we were saving for. Now that we’ve got our own dreams and we own those dreams, the motivation is there!
What was the last item you regretted purchasing?
Maggie: On a recent trip, we went a bit overboard on a meal at a restaurant because the prices were so cheap compared to Alaska! But I also regret purchasing black hair dye for my kids for Halloween (they wore it for 20 minutes and I spent more time scrubbing the bathtub than we did trick-or-treating). My best/worst purchase was the doll that proved to be a bit homicidal. It was a good lesson to learn at a young age. I’ve been wary of purchasing stuff I “need” since then.
If you died today, would your family be okay from a financial stand point?
Maggie: Since I am primarily a stay-at-home mom, my death would not jeopardize the financials of the family significantly. I work 10-15 hours from home, which helps with the goals, but it is not money we rely on to live. We’re trying to get to the point where we have saved enough money that even if my husband died, I wouldn’t have to work full time if I didn’t want to. We both have good life insurance policies which would provide enough funding to last for a few years without having to work, but we’re not where we want to be yet. We want to get to the point where money is no longer a worry but allows us to lead the family-centered life we seek.
What are you teaching (or will you teach) your kids about money?
Maggie: My kids are still pretty young, but we’re very open about teaching them how things work. They know we choose not to spend money on a lot of things and that we think carefully about things we buy. We are sure to correct them when they say things like “we don’t have enough money for that” by reminding them that we are blessed and lucky to have enough money for a lot of things. We don’t worry about eating, clothing ourselves, or staying warm in the winter. We just make choices as to where our money goes. We choose the things we think are most important and put our money there. We also don’t give our kids an allowance because we don’t want them to think they deserve money just by being alive. They each have a list of jobs they are expected to do throughout the week without pay as a contribution to the family and the household. On Saturdays, if they want to earn money, we have a sort of job interview/review with them of the week’s work. If they whined and cried about expected jobs or had to be reminded too many times or didn’t do them well, we don’t hire them on Saturdays for other jobs. It’s worked out well in allowing them to figure out for themselves when they are ready to earn money, and this opportunity has allowed them to come up with their own financial goals to work toward (my oldest wants a waterproof camera!).
What’s your dream job?
Maggie: My husband and I are creators. Though it is always awkward to sell your own stuff, I think it would be awesome to create something every single day. We don’t like how work has become detached from the product. It feels good to create something with your own hands. It feels even better when someone else thinks that creation is worthy enough of their monetary support.
What do you plan to do when you reach early retirement? (write in question)
Maggie: Other than spending a great deal of our time creating… I plan to show our children the world. I want them to experience things that are different and learn from people from all over. I want them to see that there isn’t just one possibility in life. We also have a passion for Cambodia and have a lot of philanthropic ideas there. We would love to have the time and resources to put the ideas to work!