Denali Northern Expenditure

Month: April 2018

Great Banks Merch Challenge Q1 2018 Update

Great Banks Merch Challenge Q1 2018 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.

I’ll be providing quarterly updates. This one is 2018 Q1 update:

The Current Merch Challenge Numbers

Current Trip Costs:

  • Flights: $2,035.48 – This amount includes :
    • Flight from Anchorage to NYC for a day before flying to England (we used Alaska miles for this leg + $28 in fees)
    • Flight from NYC to London (we used AA miles for this leg + $28 in fees)
    • Flight from England to Norway (paid Cash, SAS airlines – $355.63 for all 5 tickets)
    • Flight from Norway to Iceland (free layover for 4 days) to Alaska (paid cash – $2,123.85 for all 5 tickets)
    • – $500 – from our sign-up bonus on the Barclay Arrival+ card. Yay for a $500 discount!
  • Lodging: $2,518.53 – All lodging (except 2 hotel nights in Norway we’re still travel hack):
    • 3 nights in London, England – $677.01
    • 1 night just outside Reykjavik, Iceland – $250.49
    • 3 nights on the Golden Circle in Iceland – $681.03
    • $1000 worth of discounted AirBNB gift cards we’ve used to purchase lodging in England and Norway – $910
  • Transportation: $658.97 – (we’ve reserved our rental car for Iceland, but won’t pay for that until the trip):
    • Norway Car Rental: $294.26
    • UK Car Rental: $364.71
  • Other Stuff: $1,217.78 – All of the other experiences, tickets, and stuff we’ve purchased for the trip:
    • Passport fees for the 3 kids – $315
    • Global Entry for all of us – Free (thanks Amex Platinum card!)
    • Travelable booster seats for all 3 kids (to be legal in Europe) – $103.97
    • Travel Backpacks for the girls (Lui will use his small school backpack) – $204.30
    • Tickets to see Matilda the musical in London – $348.15
    • Tickets to the Harry Potter Film Studio outside London – $183.73
    • Westminster Abbey Tickets – $62.63


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) – hopefully sales will pick up again soon so we can start shoveling money toward the mortgage!


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: $1837.50
  • December: $2627.96
  • January: $1076.85
  • February: $695.83
  • TOTAL: $11,692.48

minus our total mortgage payments and total trip costs of $11,830.76

Merch Challenge Totals: -$138.28

Verdict so far: We’re pretty darn close to breaking even on this thing, but that doesn’t mean much right now since we still have over $25,000 left on the mortgage and we still have tons to pay for on the trip (most of our experiences, castle passes, food, a few hotels, one rental car, etc.). Sales have also been pretty dismal. We now have 2000 listings on Amazon filled and we hope sales pick up for the summertime. We’re hoping to have 4000 filled at the start of Q4.  Do you think we can do it?

March 2018 Plan Update

March 2018 Plan Update

Ever have months where you step back and go: I think I’m crazy?! No? Only me? Alrighty then…

I’m starting to think we’re crazy for trying to pay off our mortgage AND take a family of five to 3 of the most expensive countries in Europe for a month. Do I think we’ll be alright financially? Yes. We are very privileged that we make right around $100,000 combined which is very high compared to many, many people. Can we reach all of our goals? TBD.

March is the month where winter turns to spring in Alaska. It starts with the Iditarod and ends with full on break up season. (April is where the grass turns green and the leaves start growing on the trees.) We stayed home for spring break but did some fun things around town (as you’ll see below in our expenses).

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 $25,400. We’re still not really putting much extra toward the mortgage because of the impending trip (in 2 months!). I’m really hoping t-shirt sales will pick up in the summer so we can easily pay for everything for our trip and then start shoveling money into the mortgage fire!

Investments are now at $194,436. Another increase in net worth month. I’m telling you that this whole market is bonkers. It’s not going super high up right now, but it’s still flat enough that if we invest, our net worth goes up. No complaints here.

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $25,400 to go! If this was the only thing we were doing this year, I would feel super confident, but this big trip AND paying off the mortgage… it feels like a stretch! If we nail both of these goals this year, I will be ECSTATIC!
  • 27-Day Europe Trip –  -$138.28 – Earned: $11,692.48, Spent: $11,830.76 (with “earned” meaning the money we’ve made from selling shirts on Amazon and “spent” meaning all of the costs for the trip as well as any extra payments toward our mortgage) – Details on these numbers in our Great Merch Challenge Q1 update next week!
  • 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. We’ll probably make a contribution toward the end of the year to top it off.
  • Stretch Goal: Put $5500 into My Roth IRA – Not yet.
  • Market-Based Goal: $250,000 in investments by the end of 2018 – Not yet.

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:

  • $60.75 – A Wrinkle in Time for Penny’s birthday – we brought her friend along. They really loved it. Fun time had by all.
  • $48 – Moose’s Tooth pizza (if you come to Anchorage, you HAVE to go here) for Penny’s birthday before the movie.
  • $20 – Spring Break swimming at the local high school pool with a slide and diving board.
  • $84 – Spring Break brunch
  • $183.73 – Tickets to the Warner Brother’s Studio to see the Harry Potter sets outside London with the kids.
  • $62.63 – Westminster Abbey tickets (we wished we had purchased them ahead of time when we went two years ago, so we purchased them before we forgot about that).

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 always have to pick a couple of stocks because it feels like gambling. Plus Amazon’s been good to me.”
  • An administrator at an elementary school: “I go into Costco weekly for work and I was talking to a lady that works there who’s been there forever. She was talking about how much she made. It was more than I do! I picked the wrong career!”
  • “I went to the store yesterday for hamburger, pickles, and OJ, and I walked out with 4 or 5 bags. Because things look good!”

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