Denali Northern Expenditure

Month: October 2018

Merch Challenge Q3 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 Q3 update:

The Current 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)


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
  • TOTAL: $16,141.73

minus our trip costs of $10,412.86: $5,729.73

then we subtract our extra mortgage payments of $6,700 to get our

Merch Challenge Total: -$970.27

Verdict so far: Still possible, but looking unlikely.

I’m thrilled that the entire trip has been covered with just t-shirt sales! How exciting is that?!

Although Q4 will be a bigger hitter with income, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to match last year’s Q4 sales numbers despite having nearly 10x the listings on Amazon that we did last year. There are several reasons for this. Since the beginning of the year, the competition has increased exponentially. The t-shirt selling business isn’t quite the gravy train it once was (though there’s still money to be had). Amazon has also decreased royalty payments per shirt and sellers are now on the hook for returns which get deducted from our totals.

Our mortgage is currently at $9,480, but with regular mortgage payments, we just need $6,300 extra to pay it off by the end of the year. That means, with our current challenge numbers of $-970.20, we need to earn a total of $7,270.27 by the end of the year to complete our challenge.

Again, it’s possible we hit some amazing trend by the end of the year and knock it out of the park, but based on current trends, it isn’t looking likely. BUT, I haven’t given up hope. And I’m already impressed on how much progress we’ve made on this crazy challenge!

Your Thoughts: Do you think we can do it?

September 2018 Plan Update

September 2018 Plan Update

So I’m actually late for a reason this time. You see, I waited until our PFD hit to pay our mortgage for September. We have a ten-day grace period before a late fee hits… just enough time to wait for the PFD and get the sucker down! More on that later.

Life is grand. Instead of attending FinCon this year, I attended a t-shirt sellers conference in Seattle. It was fantastic meeting other sellers and it turns out sales have been pretty flat for everyone this year. That’s good to hear that it isn’t just me. But the question is whether that will bet better or if the days of organic sales are over. 2019 may be brand-building for us. We shall see.

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 $9,480 – This is BONKERS! We’re below 10K – PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY. So dang exciting! Thanks to our PFD, we were able to get this below 10k.

The PFD is an oil kickback given to all Alaskans. In previous years, it was calculated based on a complicated algorithm of investment returns. In recent years, they’ve capped it. This year should have been nearly $3000 but was capped at $1600 per person. That means our family received $8000.

I may have thrown too much money at the mortgage this month, however, because I almost overdrew the account the next morning. Luckily, my paycheck hit at the exact same time and saved the day! I think finding balance is getting especially hard for me now that this is so close to being DEAD. I’ve turned us into a living paycheck-to-paycheck family. It’s not a great feeling. But look at that mortgage balance! It is relieving to know that this will be gone by the end of July 2019 if we pay not a penny extra. Maybe that means I can chill out about it and give up on the end of 2018 goal? Or maybe I’ll just have to be insane for another three months? Hard to say where I stand right now. 🙂  I did, however, save nearly $30 in overall interest by waiting to pay the September payment after the PFD hit! (spreadsheets to the rescue!).

Investments are now at $228,700. Still ticking up. It’s been especially interesting these past few years of market steam watching our Roth IRAs tick up even without added investments. I’m watching the power of the market! Someday, it will end. I realize. But overall, we trust the market to keep going up long-term and our plan is based entirely on that.

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $9,480! Can you believe we’re under $10k! 4 digits, baby! I’m over the moon about this. I’m still not sure if we can kill it entirely by the end of the year… it’s starting to look less and less likely, but my fingers are still crossed tightly!
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$1,483.98 – Earned: $15,628.88, Spent: $17,112.86 (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) – August was another below $500 month for shirt sales. This Q4 doesn’t look like it will be anything as great as last year’s even though we have nearly 10x the amount of products listed. A full Q3 update will be coming next week! Buckle up!
  • 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:

  • $75 – Lui’s preschool.
  • $170 – A month of piano lessons for the girls.
  • $123.25 – Dental visit for girls – sealants are only partially covered by insurance.
  • $46 – School pictures for all 3 kids (we get the smallest possible package to send one to the grandparents).
  • $22.80 – Mr. T and I went to see AntMan for my birthday at the beginning of the month,
  • $36 – then we went out to lunch while the kids were in school.
  • $25 – Donorschoose donation to one of my kids’ classrooms.
  • $4.99 – The button on my jeans snapped as soon as I made it through security in Anchorage to head to my conference. I had to buy a sewing kit for the tiny safety pin to keep my pants up until I got to my hotel in Seattle. Talk about a story the money tells. 🙂

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “This expense might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for them.”
  • “We just bought a root canal for $100 at an auction, so I feel like we’re winning. My husband had to get two in the spring and we’re still paying those off.”
  • “I really don’t want to go back to being house poor.”

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