Denali Northern Expenditure

Category: Plan Updates Page 1 of 7

We Bought a House! (And a New Plan)

Just call me Maggie Jones. Get it? Because I’m keeping up with the Joneses? We had warned you that we might buy a house and we did. Surprise! Truth be told, we had outgrown our 1200 square foot condo. We had gotten very good at inventing storage solutions and getting rid of tons of stuff, but Florin sleeps in a very Harry Potter-like nook under Penny’s loft bed and Penny is entering her teenage years and there’s no place to hang out with teenage friends except in her tiny shared room or in our only shared living space (and Mr. T and I really didn’t want to spend the kids’ teenage years hanging out in our bedroom to give the teenagers “space” or hanging out with a bunch of teenagers all the time). Luckily, Mr. T and I have the exact same taste, so when a house came on the market that we loved, we bought it.

Considering the Family

While MY ideal future may involve gallivanting around the world with our children for years at a time, I am alone in this. My family also loves traveling, but my children have expressed the desire to lead “normal” adolescent lives during the school year. They are, however, amenible to traveling during school breaks and potentially taking longer 1-2 month trips during summertimes (like we did two years ago to Europe). They also expressed wanting a stable place to have friends come hang out.

Mr. T wants to feel more “settled” before we pull the trigger on moving to self-employment and has always wanted a home where the grandkids could come visit (and if we’re maxed out in our condo with the five of us, there would be NO comfortable space if we added spouses and children to that mix in the future).

Mr. T and I also really enjoy home projects. We refinished literally every surface in our current condo and because it’s a condo, there’s no capability for exterior additions. The home we bought is in pretty good shape, but we have an addition planned and several other projects that excite us! And with a big yard, we have limitless potential (want to get into gardening? We can do that! Need to build a shop out back to run our future million-dollar business? We can do that too!).

NOT Reasons We Bought a House:

  • As an investment: This choice was based entirely on the conversations we had about how we wanted our lives to look both now and in the future. It was not a financial choice. The numbers, obviously, would be in favor of staying in our paid-off condo forever.
  • Because of Pressures: Our rule has always been we would only buy a house if we were financially ready to do so and if we found one that we both liked better than our current condo (which we LOVE). We did not plan to buy a house solely for the sake of more room. There have always been plenty of houses bigger available but we always hated all of them. We also in no way did this to meet anyone else’s expectations (and I still find myself offended when we explain we bought a house and the reaction is: “I was wondering when you’d move past that condo”).
  • Because it’s cheaper than renting: Honestly, I don’t care at all about this argument. I know that’s a selling point for many people–not having to do repairs, etc–but that’s part of the fun of it for us. We love home improvement projects and we love making it our own.

Introducing: The NEW Plan

With my recent switch to full-time and our recent home purchase, we can finally recalculate again. Living in the condo has been a very much “will they won’t they” story the past five years for us where we just didn’t know if we’d be comfortable staying here forever. Now that we have a house we never intend to leave, we can add it to the calculations and more concretely visualize what we want that future to look like. So, here’s the rough plan:

  • 2020 – Finish up some work on the new place before moving in and then slow-move in. The benefit of having a paid-off house is that we can live here as long as we want while we do some of the things we want to do at the new place. Then we can take our sweet time going through all the stuff and moving over. We plan to wood plank some ceilings, install some hard-wood flooring, and replace the carpet before moving over. Also, hopefully, by the end of this year, we will have a renter in the condo.
  • 2021 – Build the planned addition on the house: a master suite on the main (so that even when we’re old and can’t do stairs, we can live here. We’re planning WAY ahead). The main reason we’re doing this is so that no one will have to share a room. And we can still have a “party room” for teenagers with an eventual ping pong table. Big dreams, amiright?
  • 2022 – Hit our original goal of $500k in investments. Can’t give the goal up now!
  • 2025 – This is the last year Penny will be in high school. Summer of 2025 will be her summer to direct our travels. She can choose any place in the world (within reason) and we’ll take a big trip based on where she wants to go. The goals by summer of 2025 would be to:
    • hit coast FI with our 401ks so that those will cover us until the end of time from age 60 until death.
    • have a business that is covering at least 50% of our annual living expenses
    • have enough money in non-retirement accounts to cover our other expenses from 2025-2043 when Mr. T turns 60.

A transition in 2025 to self-employment with a large safety net seems like a very exciting move for all of us! One of the big WHAT IFs is healthcare. We have great insurance right now through Mr. T’s work and the single Obamacare plan in Alaska is real spendy. I’m hoping the US figures that crap out by 2025. Good grief!

So that’s it, folks! BIG CHANGES around here and we’re excited about ALL OF THEM! It’s going to be an expensive couple of years, but since we just about doubled our income recently, we’ll all still be able to save more. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted along the way. As always, thanks for being along for the ride.

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.”

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:

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’?”

October 2018 Plan Update

Better late than never, amiright? This October 2018 plan update is a couple of weeks late, but that is because we decided to take another epic family trip. As if a month-long European adventure wasn’t enough, we also decided that we would pack in a good old fashioned American road trip. So, in mid-October we flew to Bozeman, MT and drove from Yellowstone to Minneapolis seeing: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Black Hills, Devil’s Tower, Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave, Badlands, and, of course, the corn palace. 🙂 We had a fabulous time, saw amazing things, had beautiful fall weather, and arrived home in time for the first real snow of the year.

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 $8,000! It’s so close! Maybe not end-of-year close, but very, very close!

Now for the investments: Since starting this blog in June 2015, our net worth has only dropped 5 total months. October 2018 is one of those months. When your investments aren’t bonkers high, the downswings aren’t has dramatic. All in all, month over month, our investments are only down about $16,000. Our investments now total $212,800. Are we worried? Nope. Why not? This is precisely what we planned for. Markets go up. Markets go down. We’re in no need of the money anytime soon. We’re going to let it ride.

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $8,000 – 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!
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$1,483.98 – Earned: $16,141.73, 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) – For the most up-to-date, detailed information, check out our Merch Challenge Q3 Update.
  • 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:

  • $13.80 – I also headed to the office this month. My manager paid for my lunch, but I bought my coworkers some dessert to share.
  • $131.55 – Our annual IKEA shopping trip we do when we go out of town. New washcloths, a drying rack, couch pillows, etc.
  • $39.20 – Our annual Trader Joe’s run. Mostly pumpkin butter and truffle brownies. I’ll be honest.
  • $62 – Delicious Indian food in Minneapolis. So. Yum.
  • $41 – Roadtrip DQ dinner and blizzards.

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 really want to be home with my kids but I can’t because we’ve got some pretty lofty financial goals right now.”
  • “When my kids go back to school, I probably start up a craft business again. It’s always in the back of my mind.”
  • “The drunk driver program seems unfair. If you have to call in at 8am every day and attend classes most evenings after work, what happens if you don’t have a job, a phone, or a car?”

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)

TOTAL EXTRA PUT TOWARD MORTGAGE: $6,700

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
  • 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.”
August 2018 Plan Update

August 2018 Plan Update

So I’m a few days behind, but I’ve gotten really good at living life these days, which is something I’m proud of. I’m currently balancing my part-time job and building our t-shirt business. Over the next few months, we’ll see how all that plays out. It will be an interesting ride when the buyers start coming!

August was an amazing month in the Banks house. It began with my sister’s family visiting from Texas and we were able to show them Alaska, which is one of my favorite things to do. We did all the usual Alaska things we enjoy: saw humpback whales from a boat, hiked on a glacier, went on a bike ride, and ate lots of yummy food (including several forms of salmon). And the month ended with the kids back in school and all of us figuring out schedules again, which is another form of joy. It’s been a fabulous summer, but it’s also always nice to get back into a routine.

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 $18,400. Not much to add here this month. Just LOVE watching it drop. Can’t wait to celebrate getting it below $10,000!

Investments are now at $224,870. It’s been an amazing market run. It’s actually making me a bit nervous how high things have gotten. But I’m also loving how close we are to a quarter of a million dollars (and halfway to our original goal of $500k by 2022!)

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $18,400! Oh my goodness. So excited about it dropping and dropping! The PFD is coming at the beginning of October, so by November, this should be almost half of what it is now!
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$1,924.92 – Earned: $15,187.94, 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) – Remember how I said June was our most depressing month of sales? Ha! July and August are worse. But, fingers crossed for September to be better. And a Merch Challenge Q3 Update is coming in a month! So get excited for detailed numbers!
  • 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:

  • $120 – Breakfast for all of 10 of us with my sister’s family here.
  • $70 – The cost to hike the glacier with my family.
  • $10.08 – Frozen Yogurt to celebrate the first day of school.
  • $499 – The ticket for me to go to a t-shirt-selling conference in September! I’m very excited (but sad I’ll be missing FinCon this year).
  • $29.85 – 3 National Park Passports for my kids. Getting ready for the fall road trip!
  • $85 – My family admission to the the wildlife conservation center. We got to see the cute little baby bear climb a tree! (And got to see some idiot try to pet the bear through the fence. This is when I tell my kids: “Adults can be idiots too. Don’t be an idiot.”)

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “All of my money from my new job is going toward our mortgage!”
  • “Employees who are just trying to pay their mortgage put their heads down and don’t cause waves.”
July 2018 Plan Update

July 2018 Plan Update

July in Alaska is so wonderful and we enjoyed our time at parks, on bike rides, and going fishing! We’ve been running around like crazy people this whole summer and it doesn’t look like that will end for a few more weeks when school starts again.

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 $19,980. EVERYONE DANCE! WE’RE BELOW $20,000! I threw enough extra toward this to get it below $20,000 and now I’m working like crazy to make up for doing so. 🙂

Investments are now at $217,000. This includes my $385 401k I just got from work. My newly-acquired company is terrible. I hate work so much. It’s so terrible. The company has moved from a small start-up full of entrepreneurs to giant conglomerate big business almost overnight and it’s completely depressing. However, I’m committed to keeping my job until the mortgage is paid off. So, I’ve trained Mr. T, whenever I say: “ugh, I want to quit my job” to respond with: “Just remember your 401k!” – it’s somewhat motivating. Hopefully work will improve but at this rate, I’m not all that hopeful.

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $19,980! I am SO EXCITED we got this below $20,000! This means with $7,000 of our PFD this year and our regular mortgage payments, we only have to find an extra $8500 to kill this thing by the end of the year!
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$2,055.93 – Earned: $14,656.93, Spent: $16,712.86 (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) – June was our most depressing month of t-shirt sales for a long time. We made less than $500. We haven’t really had time this summer to hit it hard again, but we’re hoping next month we can really get going because we need our sales to dramatically improve!
  • 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:

  • $44.99 – That heart-shaped Waffle iron I warned you about
  • $439.63 – Dipnetting Costs
  • $33.27 – Batting and backing material for a denim quilt Florin and I have been working on for her.
  • $66.98 – School clothes for the girls.
  • $77.60 – Eye exam for one of the kids.
  • $12.99 – Haircut for Mr.T
  • $30 – My haircut. I didn’t make Mr. T do it this time. He’s grateful.

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 pay some debt off every month. I don’t have enough to pay all of the bills, but I rotate so that no bill goes longer than a few months without being paid.”
  • “I feel like we’ve saved a lot at this point, but while I’m hesitant to start spending it I also don’t want to put fun vacations off til we’re older either. It’s a struggle.”
4 Week Europe Trip Costs + Merch Challenge Q2 2018 Update

4 Week Europe Trip Costs + Merch Challenge Q2 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 Q2 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.

  • 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: $2,859.50 – All lodging:
    • 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
    • 2 nights in Bergen, Norway – $340.97
  • Transportation: $1,712.29
    • Norway Car Rental: $294.26
    • UK Car Rental: $364.71
    • Iceland Car Rental: $307.35
    • Airport Shuttle from Newark – $48
    • Airport Shuttle to Bergen – $26.35
    • Bergen Funicular – $36.39
    • Public Transportation Costs – $229.18
    • All petrol – $359.72
    • All parking – $46.33
  • Stuff: $1,487.17 – The gear (which we won’t have to purchase again for the next big trip!) plus the souvenirs:
    • 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 (their normal ones are way too bulky to travel with but we wanted to be safe/legal) – $103.97
    • Travel Backpacks for the girls (Lui will use his small school backpack) – $204.30
    • GPS with all Europe maps (which we will use for all future Europe trips) – $149.90
    • Souvenirs (including an Icelandic sweater for me, a sweater for Mr. T and a jacket for me from the Dale of Norway factory store, a few Christmas gifts, a retro Iceland winter hat for Mr. T, a few new outfits for me and the kids from England, and the kids’ souvenirs) – $714
  • Experiences: $1,468.95
    • Empire State Building – $70
    • 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
    • UK Family National Trust 14-day Touring Pass – $104.79
    • London Eye – $160.72
    • Tower of London – $99.95
    • Wales Castle Explorer Family Pass – $60.07
    • York Minster – $29.64
    • Borgund Stave Church, Norway – $34.99
    • Oslo Passes – $260.18
    • Kerið Crater Entrance – $7.30
    • Geothermal Rye Bread Experience – $41.28
    • Public Toilets in Iceland – $5.52
  • Food: $849.47 – We bought mostly groceries, but did eat out occasionally. We were also spoiled by my parents for a week when we stayed with them (thanks mum and dad!).
    • New York: $171.25
    • UK: $390.98
    • Norway: $96.58
    • Iceland: $152.65
    • IcelandAir Airplane food: $38.01

TOTAL SPENT: $10,412.86

Thoughts: We went to 3 of the most expensive countries in Europe and stayed there a month! We weren’t attempting to be super frugal about this trip, but we cut costs where we could and really enjoyed it. I felt like I was living my best life traveling and teaching my kids during this past month. It was absolutely amazing.

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!
  • $0 (April)
  • $0 (May)
  • $0 (June)

TOTAL EXTRA PUT TOWARD MORTGAGE: $5,400

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
  • TOTAL: $14,182.72

minus our total mortgage payments and total trip costs of $15,812.86

Merch Challenge Totals: -$1,630.14

Verdict so far: Still Positive

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

Now, we’ve got 6 months left of t-shirt sales to cover about $23,600 of the mortgage (about $22,000 left on it plus another $1,630.14 that we’ve already paid toward the mortgage listed above). We may or may not be able to earn $23,600 in 6 months with t-shirts alone (last year, we earned about $9,900 in the same 6 months).

However, we are getting a little help from the state of Alaska. Our PFD amount has been decided for 2019 and we’ll each be getting $1,600 (a total of $8,000). Now, we tithe our PFDs as we do with all our income, so after tithing, we’ll conservatively say we can put $7,000 of the PFD toward our mortgage. $23,600-$7,000=$16,600.

AND keep in mind that our regular mortgage payments alone will bring our mortgage balance down to about $18,000 by the end of the year. $18,000+$1,630-$7,000=$12,630! TOTALLY DOABLE (maybe. i start second guessing every time i declare something like that!) Do you think we can do it?

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