Denali Northern Expenditure

Month: January 2019

2018: Year in Review


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.



  • 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).


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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)


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!”

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