Denali Northern Expenditure

May 2019 Plan Update

May was absolutely lovely. School got out and we took a week-long ferry down the Aleutian islands. (A whole post about that by request later this month.)

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO!

Investments have dropped slightly to $255,000 – but staying above a quarter of a million dollars, so overall still pleased. Still really haven’t saved much this month. We’ll have to really work hard to hit most of our goals this year!

2019 Financial Goals (REWORKED):

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500/$5,500) – Thanks to the totaling of the car, WE DID IT!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capitol360 account so we can use it for free ATMs while traveling (but the account only earns 1%), we lowered our emergency account goal from $5000 to $1200. Then we changed this goal:
  • Extra Investments ($300/$45,000) – Nothing new this month because we had to come up with the $2,500 to max out my 2018 Roth IRA. But we’ll catch up. $45k by the end of the year still seems like a big stretch. But you know, aim for the moon and you’ll fall among the stars or whatever. 

Notable Expenses This Month: The Story Our Money Tells:

These are expenses that tell an interesting story. A peek into our lives through our pocketbook (prepare to be judg-y this month!):

  • $451.44 – Hotel in Dutch Harbor/Unalaska for 2 nights.
  • $422.44 – Hotel in Kodiak for 2 nights.
  • $23 – Museum of the Aleutians – a tiny little museum in Dutch Harbor.
  • $92 – Train tickets for the 5 of us between Seattle and Portland for our upcoming trip. It’s a lovely ride if you’re trying to get between those two cities – much more pleasant than I-5.
  • $47+$55 – Two meals aboard the ferry restaurant. It’s only open for an hour per meal and you can’t tip the staff because they’re all public servants.
  • $27 – 1/2 pound of king crab in Dutch Harbor (where we saw some of the Deadliest Catch boats in the harbor) so everyone could try some (basically two bites each).
  • $20 – Kodiak museum tickets – housed in the oldest Russian-built structure in the United States – an old store during the Russian settlement days that also survived the 1964 tsunami following the great earthquake.

Financial Phrases:

These are things said by actual people that were either talking to me or near me enough that I could hear them:

  • “Working on this ferry is my second retirement.”
  • “I came up with a genius idea that is going to get me to retirement. Someone pursued a patent for it nearly a decade ago but abandoned it.”
  • My 60-year-old Neighbor: “Your new copy of Work Optional [(affiliate link)] just came. I’m going to keep the one you gave me. And I’m getting one for each of my kids. They’re at the perfect age to read this. I’ve kind of missed the boat on most of it.”

April 2019 Plan Update

Since it’s almost June, I figured I should back it up and talk about April before the month completely escapes me. April was a great month. Still spendy as we finished up our big purchasing, but we’re starting to get back on track. We also introduced our children to a rudimentary budget we attached to the fridge. After each shopping trip (or for each field trip cost, piano lessons check, etc), they had to write the amount in the category it fit into and then deduct that amount from the total we set for the month (you know, like balancing a checkbook! Imagine that!). It went well. They started realizing how much things cost and got a better sense of: If we do this, we can’t also do that. We’re continuing it for May.

In other news, we managed to max out my Roth IRA by the deadline despite our high spending! I also headed to the office for a week and, though it is lovely to interact with coworkers, I do not know how people go to offices every single day.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO!

Investments have moved to $262,900 (by the end of April). Again, cash hoarding now. But I’ll be adding our cash hoard to this stash as well. So “Investments” will basically mean all savings in all varieties. I’d love to hit $300k by the end of the year, markets willing. But LOOK! We now have a QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS saved! And are halfway to our original goal of $500k! So very, very exciting!

2019 Financial Goals (REWORKED):

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500/$5,500) – Thanks to the totaling of the car, WE DID IT!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capitol360 account so we can use it for free ATMs while traveling (but the account only earns 1%), we lowered our emergency account goal from $5000 to $1200. Then we changed this goal:
  • Extra Investments ($300/$45,000) – Nothing new this month because we had to come up with the $2,500 to max out my 2018 Roth IRA. But we’ll catch up. $45k by the end of the year still seems like a big stretch. But you know, aim for the moon and you’ll fall among the stars or whatever. 😉

Notable Expenses This Month: The Story Our Money Tells:

These are expenses that tell an interesting story. A peek into our lives through our pocketbook (prepare to be judg-y this month!):

  • $616.15 – My car needed new brake pads – bonus: They washed it!
  • $35 – My haircutter moved at the end of April, so I had to chop off all my hair before she was gone!
  • $699 – A new camera because ours stopped turning on.
  • $690 – A new mattress – Mr. T has been wanting one for awhile since ours was 13 years old and starting to hurt his back a bit. I wasn’t on board until this month. I spent an entire weekend in bed sick and my back was killing me by the end of it. We ordered a new mattress that night.
  • $69.85 – We took the kids to the local brew pub theater to eat pizza and watch the new Apollo 11 documentary. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we’re headed to see the command module in Seattle this summer.
  • $510 – The last of the ferry tickets needed for this summer’s adventures on the Alaska state ferry!
  • $749.20 – Plane tickets to San Francisco in August to take Mr. T to see Hamilton! (It will be lovely to have another trip with just the two of us.)

Financial Phrases:

These are things said by actual people that were either talking to me or near me enough that I could hear them:

  • “I just want a credit card with no limit and that I don’t have to pay. Obviously there wouldn’t be jobs. I would just travel with it.”
  • “I’m pretty behind on retirement after the attorney fees for my divorce.”
  • “I know a lady that has no idea if they even have retirement funds. I mean, she’s nearing sixty and has no idea how much is left on her mortgage or if they even have anything saved.”

March 2019 Plan Update

This month has been one of the warmest in the history of Alaska. We’re already starting to get buds on the trees and nearly all of the snow is completely gone. Luckily our community doesn’t depend on permafrost as much as many others… so we’ve been enjoying more afternoons outside!

From a financial perspective, March was another crazy month of spending (remember how I said I’d calm down from spending? I will. I will. I promise). But the crazy story goes: my husband’s car got totaled by an uninsured motorist. It would cost $2k to fix, the insurance deemed that totaled… which apparently means they give you more money…? So, they gave us $5,100 to keep the car, we took it to a different place to get it fixed, which charged $1500, we had to pick up a “reconstructed vehicle” title at the DMV, and just like that, we’re $3,600 richer! (Spoiler: $3k went into my Roth IRA for 2018 and Mr. T bought a nice telephoto lens with the rest. We’re a wild bunch!)

We haven’t entirely finished spending on travel for the year yet – a few loose ends for all of our trips need to be tied up, but after that, we’ll be good! In fact, in April, I’m going to get the kids involved in budgeting. We’re going to put a very simple budget up on the fridge and have them help us track everything we spend. My oldest heard the plan and whined: “But I already did that at school once!” I laughed in her face and told her money is kind of an every day kind of thing, not really a one-time school project. We’ll see how it goes.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO! However, having a zero mortgage (and the mishap of the almost-totaled car), we’ve completely changed our financial plans. Our family really has outgrown this house. We can stick it out for a few more years, but with Penny solidly in her tweens, sharing a tiny room has led to much angst. And with bigger kids, clothes and such get bigger. Also, the biggest problem: no place to hang with friends. The bedroom basically fits the bunkbeds and that’s it and the only communal room is our small living room, so we’re literally always going to be in the same room if friends come over. Also, our car has made it through much. It’s a 2005 and though we’re glad it made it through this accident, we can’t be guaranteed it will last forever. We need to be prepared to replace it. And so, with those decisions ahead of us, we’re now entering a cash-hoarding stage!

Investments have moved to $242,870. Again, cash hoarding now. But I’ll be adding our cash hoard to this stash as well. So “Investments” will basically mean all savings in all varieties. I’d love to hit $300k by the end of the year, markets willing.

2019 Financial Goals (REWORKED):

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($3,000/$5,500) – Thanks to the totaling of the car, I’ve added $3k for 2018! I’m determined to get the other $2.5k in there in the next two weeks, so stay tuned!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capitol360 account so we can use it for free ATMs while traveling (but the account only earns 1%), we lowered our emergency account goal from $5000 to $1200. Then we changed this goal:
  • Extra Investments ($300/$45,000) – Financial plans should by dynamic to meet your individual needs. Recap: Right now we feel like we should be cash hoarding. I’m pretty sure we will want a bigger home in a few years (the main thing we’re missing is a place the kids can hang with their friends as teenagers. We have one small living room and the girls share the bedroom). We want to be prepared with a large down payment in 2-3 years so we can either rent out this house (in case we want to return to the small house when the kids are gone) or apply the full sale amount of this house to the next house to get us mortgage-free again faster. Plus possible new car if ours dies. So, we’re no longer maxing out Mr. T’s 401k (don’t worry, he’s still contributing and getting matches). I will also be contributing enough to get the match in my 401k (which starts in April!), but nothing more. Instead, we will be saving money in a high-interest Ally savings account. We will be monitoring our income closely so that we don’t get killed on taxes with these adjustments. We’re using Ed’s super useful “free money” post to make sure we don’t go above the 12% tax bracket.
  • NOTE: $45k feels like a bonkers amount for us. It’s a stretch goal. It includes the state government deciding to stop capping the PFD and it includes our t-shirt business continuing to bring in money each month. But also, knowing that we spent $26,000 on our mortgage in 2018 (after factoring in still paying for taxes and insurance) that we won’t have to spend this year makes this seems a lot more doable (even after spending 3+ months spending like crazy people!).

Notable Expenses This Month: The Story Our Money Tells:

These are expenses that tell an interesting story. A peek into our lives through our pocketbook (prepare to be judg-y this month!):

  • $1500 – The whole car being totaled debacle.
  • $668 – Ferry tickets to get us from Haines back to Juneau on our second Alaska ferry trip this summer. (All the ferries!)
  • $897 – One-year YMCA membership. We’ve been talking about joining for awhile, but actually did it right before spring break so we could swim every day. We nearly did! Since then we’ve all been going as a family at least twice a week to different classes and we’re big fans.
  • $740 – Mr. T’s telephoto lens. (I’ll mention that he purchased the lens because it went on sale from it’s usual $1000 price tag. Our camera broke, so the replacement camera has yet to be purchased… expect to see that in April.)
  • $248.62 – With Payless Shoesource going out of business, we may have gone a little nuts. But, we don’t have tons of low price shoe options up here for the kids, so everyone is now set for all seasons for at least the next year or so.
  • $391.23 – While we were at it, we figured we should buy everyone’s school clothes for next year and all the summer clothes as well. So, now everyone should be set on everything! (Remember how I said we’re just in crazy buying mode? I wasn’t lying.)
  • $59 – Date night to an improv show and some dinner.

Financial Phrases:

These are things said by actual people that were either talking to me or near me enough that I could hear them:

  • “I don’t know what a SEP-IRA is. I’m not good with computers and tech stuff.”
  • “We thought we were pretty good with money but when we started tracking it, we realized we were not. We had no idea where our money was going.”
  • “We have more work than we know what to do with right now after the earthquake.”

February 2019 Plan Update

In February the light starts to return and by the end of February it’s finally light when I take the kids to school and when they return. We also celebrate two birthdays in February so it’s all chocolate and cake (even though we only sort of celebrate Valentine’s Day). It’s a good month. Though with last month’s mortgage pay-off, we may have gone a bit hog-wild and has a pretty spendy month. We’ll level out again, I promise. But for now… on to the deets.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Our mortgage is now at $ZERO! So far I’m keeping this in the monthly update because I’m so not over it. Still super thrilling. Read the story of our mortgage pay-off here. If you remember that I’ve been overpaying property taxes by nearly $900/year the update is that I can’t get any of that money back. Alas. I still have NO MORTGAGE. If I hadn’t paid it off early, I’m not sure when or if I would have noticed I was overpaying. So… #winning ?

Investments have moved to $234,209. Now that I’m actually starting to pay attention to this number, I’m actually starting to get a bit nervous that 75% of economists predict a recession by 2021.

2019 Financial Goals:

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA (0/$5,500) – I may have given up dreams of this goal when I bought tickets on the ferry to the end of the world. But it was a decision I made consciously. There is still a possibility I can put some money in here before April 15, but we’ll see.
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($800/$5,000) – The only goal I made any headway on.
  • Extra Investments ($0/$10,000) – I haven’t figured out what this will look like yet (ie: brokerage, self-employment account etc.) because our income sources and amounts will impact that, but the goal is to invest another $10k.

Notable Expenses This Month: The Story Our Money Tells:

These are expenses that tell an interesting story. A peek into our lives through our pocketbook:

  • $6 – Sound transit tickets from Seatac airport to downtown Seattle to see Dear Evan Hansen with a friend of mine for her 40th birthday. I paid for the hotel and plane with points. We split food but I bought discounted gift cards last month for a few places, so for February, this trip cost me $6.
  • $41 – Tickets to see Lego Movie 2: The Second Part for the president’s holiday.
  • $320 – Our cable cutting technique requires a computer hooked up to the TV. Ours just died after 9 years, so I bought a slim tower on clearance at Office Depot.
  • $75 – Ice skate sharpening punch card (so we can keep enjoying family skate nights at the school, etc.)
  • $1794 – Tickets for our family to take the “ferry to the end of the world” which is a ferry that goes all the day down the Aleutian chain to Dutch Harbor. With the current proposed state budget, ferries would shut down by October. I’m sure something will change to keep running some ferries, but this route has been on the chopping block for YEARS since it loses millions of dollars each year. Read about this reporter’s journey in 2015. I know I would regret not taking this if it gets cut and I had the chance so I jumped on reservations when they announced the ferries were no longer taking reservations past September until the budget gets finalized.

Financial Phrases:

These are things said by actual people that were either talking to me or near me enough that I could hear them:

  • “We were kicked out of a restaurant once in rural Alaska because we were camping. It was in the middle of nowhere but it was the kind of place they flew people in to go to.”
  • “Our whole tax refund was taken out from under us because I messed up our 2016 taxes.”
  • “We never use checks. We are a cash only family.”

January 2019 Plan Update

I CANNOT BELIEVE WE’VE PAID OFF THE MORTGAGE! Nothing else major is happening in January. It’s been a good month.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Our mortgage is now at $ZERO! I haven’t yet decided if I am going to include this in every single plan update from now until the end of time or if you will all get annoyed by that. 🙂 NO MORTGAGE BABY. NONE. ZERO. Read the story of our mortgage pay-off here.

Investments have moved to $222,960. To be honest, I haven’t really been tracking this for the past year. I mean, I’ve been updating the numbers correctly and adding them here, but I haven’t really cared. Now that the mortgage is gone, I feel so free with so many possibilities. I have already upped Mr. T’s 401k contributions to the maximum he can get with work rules ($18,600) and I’ve upped my 401k contributions to the maximum of 50% of my pay (which will only end up being like $10,000). And without a mortgage, there’s STILL money left to save! I can’t wait to see this investments number rise this year even if the market tanks.

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – DONE! Please eat chocolate in my honor.
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) – WE DID IT!!!
  • Max out Mr. T’s 401k – We got to $18,000 – His work has weird administrative rules, so we were only able to get $18,000 in there last year and we’ll hit $18,600 in 2019.
  • Stretch Goal: Put $5500 into My Roth IRA – NOPE. But there’s still time for 2018’s contributions!
  • Market-Based Goal: $250,000 in investments by the end of 2018 – Nopety nope. But as we know, market-based goals are always just for fun. We have no control over the market.

INTRODUCING: 2019 Financial Goals!

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500) – I didn’t manage to put a penny into my account in 2018, but I still have until April 15th to make up for it! $5,500 by April 15th with no mortgage seems totally doable. ANYTHING seems doable these days!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA ($6,000) – Self-explanatory.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA ($6,000) – Self-explanatory.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($5,000) – I’ve depleted all cash resources around here because when the mortgage got low enough that being mortgage-free was in our sights, I lost all sense of reason and sanity and started throwing everything at it possible. I’m coming clean that I don’t have an emergency fund anymore and I plan to remedy that in 2019.
  • Extra Investments ($10,000) – I haven’t figured out what this will look like yet (ie: brokerage, self-employment account etc.) because our income sources and amounts will impact that, but the goal is to invest another $10k.

If we manage to hit ALL of our goals this year, in addition to the 401k savings, we’ll be saving a total of $61,100! That’s NUTS! Fingers crossed!

Notable Expenses This Month: The Story Our Money Tells:

These are expenses that tell an interesting story. A peek into our lives through our pocketbook:

  • $367.20 – I signed Lui up for preschool Parkour classes. It lets him run around in a safe space for an hour a week and he loves it. It’s HILARIOUS to watch. He basically just slams him body against the walls and flails around. Classic.
  • $35.90 – Mr. T and I were FINALLY able to see Crimes of Grindlewald. We had tickets for the day after the earthquake and the movie theater was closed because of damages. So, we finally saw it this week and the local brewpub theater. Yummy pizza and root beer. So good.
  • $35 – Took the whole family to see the new Mary Poppins. I enjoyed it greatly.
  • $8.23 – I had to order my parents gifts from Amazon FOUR TIMES. They kept refunding me and then I’d have to reorder. With credits and refunds, I think I had to repay this much this month. Good news is they finally got them the third week of January. Sheesh.
  • $1,199 – Plane tickets to family in the Northwest and explore some Alaskan islands this summer.

Financial Phrases:

These are things said by actual people that were either talking to me or near me enough that I could hear them:

  • “We moved into an apartment so my husband could change jobs and put our house up for rent.”
  • “I think the pressure to buy his wife expensive gifts really motivated his career.”
  • “I went through Hell to pay off my student loans. They better not forgive everyone’s loans now!” Though I prefer Matt Lane’s (over at Optimize Your Life) response:

The Mortgage is DEAD!

8 days ago we paid off the mortgage. The moment itself was completely anticlimactic. I had anticipated paying it off Friday afternoon after receiving my paycheck and when I had my family around me. I would get off the phone, pop the Martinelli’s and we’d party. Instead, on Thursday, I called the bank to verify the amount due, noticed I had enough in my Escrow account to cover the last of the mortgage, and asked about it. He said: “Oh yeah. We can use that. Do you want me take care of that right now?” And just like that, the mortgage was paid off. And I was alone in the house on the Thursday. I message Mr. T at work. I called my sister. I called my parents. And my family popped the Martinelli’s while I was at a meeting that night. Yawn.

As soon as he “took care of it” and paid my mortgage, the banker, in the very same breath, offered me a home equity loan. I’ve never flipped anyone off in my entire life. But at that moment, that felt like the very best reaction. Because I was on the phone, I did not actually flip him off. I politely declined like a good citizen, but it really ruined the moment.

I’ve had all the feels in the past week. I had to figure out how to move my taxes and insurance into my name. In the process, I discovered that for the past ten years, we haven’t had the residential exemption applied to our property tax bill which means we’ve been overpaying our property taxes by a third for 9 years! ANGER. I think I solved that for 2019 anyway. Hilariously, I’m so happy that the house is totally paid off that I can’t even be that mad about this. I’m trying. But the house is MINE. We are DEBT FREE!

It has felt so. dang. good. Also, I’m totally counting that we paid it off in December 2018 because I didn’t actually pay a dime toward it this month. WINNING! In the past 8 days, I have had so much fun figuring out where to send all of our money. An advance copy of Tanja’s new book, Work Optional, came this week as well (perfect timing). I’m still neck deep in new spreadsheets, calculations, and possibilities. It. is. glorious.

Does is Make Sense to Pay off the Mortgage Early?

There are fairly sound economic arguments that say no. However, I work in behavioral economics which takes into account that people are irrational beings. We aren’t good with following strict economic principles because FEELS. Ultimately, the answer of whether or not to pay it off early is entirely based on your own emotions. If your mortgage doesn’t bother you at all and you’ve locked in a good interest rate, don’t even worry about.

Here are the 3 things that have changed the most for me with the mortgage payoff:

  1. My Savings: It’s been 8 whole days and already my savings rate is up (I immediately changed my 401k contributions to 50% of my pay). I learned a couple of years ago that I am a terrible financial multi-tasker. If I wanted to accomplish more than the average, I had to go all in. So I decided to kill the mortgage. Now that we’ve done that, it’s time to go all in on savings!
  2. My Peace of Mind: At least a couple times every single day since paying off the mortgage, I take a deep breath and think: it’s mine. No more payments to any bank. My money is MINE.
  3. My Risk Tolerance: With that peace of mind comes possibilities. As I mentioned in my 2018 recap post, I hired a couple of designers last year. When one of them offered to design for me nearly full time for $200/month, I immediately jumped on it. If I still had a mortgage to pay off, I’m not sure I would have risked it. Who knows if we’re able to turn that $200/month into way more profit, but if it doesn’t work out, a whole year of hiring her was the equivalent risk of less than one mortgage payment! In those terms, it was totally worth the risk! Especially since growing our business is something we’re actively trying to do in 2019.

What Happens Now?

Full disclaimer: we may have another mortgage sometime in the future. This house is fabulous and we absolutely love it, but it really isn’t conducive to teenagers. There’s no place for teens to hang out without us more than 5 feet away. And even if we’re there, we can only fit like 2 other teens comfortably. Our housing future is entirely uncertain. It could go either way: stay here forever or buy a different house (I vacillate daily).

What we do know: we are going to enjoy no mortgage payments for awhile and take advantage of that time to increase our savings significantly. I don’t regret paying it off early at all. It still feels so good!

2018: Year in Review

January:

  • I am put in charge of the welfare program for our church congregation. This mainly means I help people with their finances and help get food to those that need it.
  • All the kids start swimming twice a week.
  • My company is acquired by a BIG company.
  • Amazon significantly cuts royalties for shirt sales.

February-March:

  • More swimming. Lui decides he forgets everything and can no longer even do a back float. We quit swimming at the end of March.
  • I try to figure out how to balance church stuff and working for this giant company. In these months, it meant working a lot more than usual.

April:

  • I am hired as an hourly employee instead of a contractor.
  • We try to catch up on loading shirts that “fell off” Amazon before our big trip. (If they don’t sell in 90 days, Amazon deletes them. Luckily, in June, they extended this to 180 days.) We don’t make any new designs.

May-June:

  • We get those kids through those last few weeks of school.
  • We go on a 28-day amazing vacation through the UK, Norway, and Iceland without family and think how great it would be to be able to do that every single year.
  • I get bronchitis on the flight home and spend two weeks in bed.

July:

August:

  • My sister and her family come to visit from Texas. We see tons of whales, hike a glacier, camp in a cabin, and have a great time.
  • Amazon opens UK and Germany shirt markets. We decide to try to actually sell shirts again. (Up to this point we’ve mostly been putting old designs back up and that’s about it.)
  • Kids start school (Lui preschool).

September:

  • I hire two graphic designers on a per-design basis to help with new shirt designs. It’s scary and way out of my comfort zone. Before finding two that work great, I have to tell someone it’s not going to work. Even scarier.
  • I attend a t-shirt selling conference in Seattle with a whole bunch of people that sell tens of thousands of shirts a year.

October:

  • The PFD helps us cut our mortgage in half.
  • We take an epic road trip as a family from Yellowstone to Minneapolis seeing many National parks.
  • I spend a few days at the new office of Big Company.
  • We hit shirts hard. Sales start coming for Q4.

November:

  • We keep designing, loading, and editing designs from our designers onto t-shirt.
  • I start experimenting with publishing books on Amazon.
  • I’m now friends with the people with the top selling shirts on Amazon for Thanksgiving.
  • I learn to only compete against myself because my journey is very different than theirs (and I ignored the side hustle for most of the year).
  • Sales keep coming, but with the royalty cut in January, income is lower than last year.
  • EARTHQUAKE

December:

  • With the earthquake and the holidays, most of our December is spent cleaning up and settling down.
  • We make our last extra mortgage payment on the house (paid it off yesterday!).
  • We gather data from our shirt sales and make plans for an epic 2020 (with 2019 as a building year).
  • I hire one of my designers to start full-time in February. Another scary move. It’s accidental, but her monthly fee seemed too good to not try.

2019 is set up to be an interesting year. No mortgage (more on that later). A full time designer. Balancing church and work and side hustle. It’s a good year to build. No massive trips planned (though I’m sure we’ll travel). In September, I’ll have all my kids in school full time. Seems like a year to take risks and see what’s possible. I’m excited!

Merch Challenge Q4 FINAL Update

As a reminder, we’re trying to pay off our mortgage and take our family on a 27-day Europe trip with just t-shirt sales in what we call the Great Banks Merch Challenge.

This update is the 2018 Q4 FINAL update:

The FINAL Merch Challenge Numbers

Final Trip Costs: Reminder that this was a 4-week, 27-night trip through NYC (2 nights), England and Wales (16 nights), Norway (5 nights) and Iceland (4 nights) for 5 humans! It was absolutely spectacular and the best use of money ever.

For a complete break-down of each of these categories, check out our Merch Challenge Q2 Update.

  • Flights: $2,035.48
  • Lodging: $2,859.50 
  • Transportation: $1,712.29
  • Stuff: $1,487.17 (The Gear + Souvenirs)
  • Experiences: $1,468.95
  • Food: $849.47

TOTAL SPENT: $10,412.86

Verdict: DONE! Paid for with our first 8 months of t-shirt sales. How amazing is that?!

Mortgage Costs: 

For Merch to cover the rest of our mortgage, we’re including any payments we make above our minimum monthly payments. So, these costs are the extra payments we made starting with the November mortgage payment:

  • $2,100 (November)
  • $1,700 (December)
  • $1,500 (January)
  • $0 (February)
  • $100 (March)
  • $0 (April)
  • $0 (May)
  • $0 (June)
  • $0 (July) – Man, the trip really stunted our mortgage payments! No regrets, but we better hit it hard in the fall!
  • $900 (August)
  • $400 (September)
  • $0 (October – we actually put $8000 extra toward it, but that was PFD money, so we’re not counting it as part of the challenge)
  • $1600 (November)
  • $2400 (December)

TOTAL EXTRA PUT TOWARD MORTGAGE: $10,700

Current Merch Earnings (earnings are 2 months behind as that’s when we get and report the money):

  • June: $7.07
  • July: $218.24
  • August: $810.78
  • September: $1,065.67
  • October: $3,352.58
  • November: $1,837.50
  • December: $2,627.96
  • January: $1,076.85
  • February: $695.83
  • March: $783.40
  • April: $852.67
  • May: $854.17
  • June: $474.21
  • July: $531.01
  • August: $440.94
  • September: $512.85
  • October: $1,575.31
  • November: $1,499.42
  • December: $1,945.40
  • TOTAL: $21,161.86

minus our trip costs of $10,412.86: $10,749

then we subtract our extra mortgage payments of $10,700 to get our

Merch Challenge Total: $49

Verdict: WE DID IT!!!!

We haven’t entirely paid off our mortgage yet, but in the next two weeks, with our regular mortgage payment, the mortgage will be gone. Can you believe that we managed to make all the remaining mortgage payments with JUST t-shirt sales?! AND take a month-long trip through Europe?! Squeaking by with $49 extra dollars!!!! My mind is BLOWN. It will definitely take me a long time to internalize all this! When I started this challenge I thought there was no possible way it could happen, but it would be fun to track anyway! AND LOOK AT AS BEING AMAZING!!!! I’m so excited to see what’s possible in 2019 with a paid off mortgage and the possibility of growing our side business and saving the money! Thanks for being along for the ride!

December 2018 Plan Update

December has come and gone and it was glorious. We ice skated, we went sledding, we built a luge track behind the house, and we ate so much delicious food. We’re good at hygge up here in Alaska. Candles. Heated blankets. Family time.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Our mortgage is now at $1,900! This is BIG NEWS. That means 2 things: 1) we have made our last EXTRA payment toward this mortgage EVER and 2) the house will be paid off with our regular mortgage payment next month.

Investments have fallen to $204,000. At least we managed to keep it above $200k for the year. And, not that we’re trying to time the market, but I don’t regret our extra mortgage payments this year one bit! 2019 is when we’ll be able to start upping our investments. We’re the best market timers ever. 🙂

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $1,900 – Okay, we’ll be one month late, but we made ALL THE EXTRA payments in 2018 so this is a pretty big win anyway!
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$1896.40 – Earned (with just shirt sales online): $19,216.46, Spent: $10,412.86 (Europe Trip) + $10,700 extra mortgage payments. It doesn’t look good, but consider we’re done with all the “spending” and now just have the earnings left. So, after the December payments come in January, we’ll be doing a Q4 recap… the moment of truth. Think we’ll make it?
  • Max out Mr. T’s 401k – We got to $18,000 – I’m counting it because I never got around to changing it (and I don’t think he knows how). I’ll change it in January now that the limits rose again to $19,000/year.
  • Stretch Goal: Put $5500 into My Roth IRA – Nopety-nope.
  • Market-Based Goal: $250,000 in investments by the end of 2018 – Nopety nope.

Notable Expenses This Month: The Story Our Money Tells:

These are expenses that tell an interesting story. A peek into our lives through our pocketbook:

  • $16.85 – We were able to get the two books Florin wanted for Christmas at the cute local bookstore. Yay for supporting local!
  • $209.11 – My part of the health bill for some tests back in the summer when I had bronchitis. Finally came through. Finally had to pay it.
  • $20.49 – More of that above healthcare bill. This part from a lab. Healthcare is confusing.
  • $1.08 – Price of two sundaes at McDonald’s (after using the last of a gift card) to tell my girls about Santa. I told them about how magic is created and they’re part of Team Santa now. It ended up being really cute because they came home and helped Lui write his letter to Santa.

Financial Phrases:

These are things said by actual people that were either talking to me or near me enough that I could hear them:

  • “I have a secret shopping problem.”
  • “I think the pressure to buy his wife expensive gifts really motivated his career.”
  • “We finally got our retirement stuff set up and the company started doing profit sharing. It’s nice!”

November 2018 Plan Update

Well November was uneventful for the Banks family until the very last day when we were hit with a 7.0 earthquake. We have lots of quakes here, but that was by far the biggest one we’ve felt as the epicenter was pretty close and it wasn’t very deep. It was a solid minute of shaking both side to side and up and down. We had tons of stuff fall down in our house, but miraculously, nothing broke. We’re all safe. The kids are just headed back to school today after a week off for the district to clean up the schools. Now, 10 days later, we are still having nearly 1-2 aftershocks of 4-5 magnitude every day and hundreds that are less than that. This interesting video shows all the aftershocks we experienced just in the first 48 hours. Needless to say, we did not sleep well for a couple nights.

So, now that the kids are back in school and we’ve gotten cleaned up here at home, we’re finally getting back in to the swing of things around here. Thank you to those that reached out to make sure we were safe. It felt good to be checked on.

The Numbers:

Want to know how easy it is for us to write these every month? I literally just log into my Personal Capital and revel in all the numbers being in one place. Do you like checking numbers? Do you like graphics? Do you like playing with calculators like retirement calculators and how much your fees are costing you? Then, you should obviously use my affiliate link to Sign up here to help yours truly speed toward financial independence! (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

First the exciting news: our mortgage is now at $5,500! This amount is killing me. Like, shouldn’t I be able to just come up with that and pay it off immediately?! So. Close.

Keep in mind this was at the beginning of the month, but at that point, our investments totaled $221,700. With so much focus on paying off the mortgage and living my life, I’ve hardly been paying attention to this number at all. (If it falls below $200k, I’ll certainly notice though!)

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $5,500 – We’re working our tails off to try to get this killed before the end of the year, but even if we fail this goal, we’ll be able to kill it in the first couple months of 2019, so I still feel okay about it. But, I haven’t given up total hope yet. It’s still possible! (okay, less possible, but a miracle could happen.)
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$996 – Earned (with just shirt sales online): $17,717.04, Spent: $10,412.86 (Europe Trip) + $8300 extra mortgage payments – Details can be found in the Merch Challenge Q3 Update with another one coming out in January.
  • Max out Mr. T’s 401k – Automatic – however, limits rose to $18,500/year which makes it messy if you get 24 paychecks a year. But, we’ll hit $18,000 anyway, so pretty close.
  • Stretch Goal: Put $5500 into My Roth IRA – Not yet.
  • Market-Based Goal: $250,000 in investments by the end of 2018 – Markets down. Not looking possible this year. Oh well.

Notable Expenses This Month: The Story Our Money Tells:

These are expenses that tell an interesting story. A peek into our lives through our pocketbook:

  • $32.50 – Tickets to Ralph Breaks the Internet with the family. We all enjoyed it!
  • $93.05 – Black Friday at Fred Meyer. I head there around 2pm and buy my half-price socks and underwear for the family for the year. And I bought myself some leggings.
  • $221 – Podiatrist payment for Mr. T.

Financial Phrases:

These are things said by actual people that were either talking to me or near me enough that I could hear them:

  • “Earthquake insurance is expensive and not even worth it because the deductible is like 10-20%.”
  • “The house basically fell off the foundation. We helped them clean up a little bit, but they don’t have earthquake insurance, so what do you say? ‘Good luck’?”

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