Denali Northern Expenditure

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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.”

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!

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!”
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!”
Following the Money: In Practice

Following the Money: In Practice

One of the big entrepreneurial concepts is following the money. If you haven’t figured out how to get paid or you’re not chasing the pipeline that is actually paying you, you’re doing it all wrong.

Following the Money

As you know, our current most lucrative side hustle is selling shirts. When we realized the potential of selling shirts, we had to hit it hard (getting 1500 listings on Amazon takes real work!).

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December 2018 Plan Update

December was a great month. Though we still had our fair share of aftershocks, we got to enjoy a tremendously snowy Christmas full of sledding, ice skating, hot cocoa, friends and fun. I also got to FINALLY open the Lego Hogwarts Lego sets I bought “for the kids” in August. They’re amazing (I got the 2 sets, not the one giant $400 one) and I love them so much. The girls have been playing Hogwarts everyday since Christmas and Lui got to put together Aragog’s lair and now he’s pretty thrilled with “being Aragog” when he decides he wants to play along with them. Mr. T build a pretty epic luge track that uses our snow pile as usual but goes down the backside and winds around behind the house.

This month I will also be publishing a Merch Challenge 2018 Q4 Update (after December sales numbers post mid-month), a more in-depth 2018 recap, and introduce new goals for 2019. I love a New 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.)

Mortgage is now at $1,900! That means NO MORE EXTRA PAYMENTS are required! We will pay it off with our usual mortgage payment next month and BE DONE!!!!! So we’re a month late. I’m counting it as a win.

Investments have tumbled considerably to $204,539. I heard the market was falling, but I was too busy to actually look at my numbers until this update and was quite surprised to see how much we lost in a month! At least we’re ending the year above $200,000. And hopefully money can start being shoveled toward this next month!

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $1,900 – I’m counting it as a WIN because we won’t have to put any more extra money toward this and we’ll only have to make one more regular payment. Then it is DEAD!
  • 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 – So it looks bad now, but since this includes all of the “spend” and we still have December’s shirt payment coming in January, this might still happen!
  • 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 – Nopety nope.
  • 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:

  • $1.08 – Two ice creams for the girls after using the rest of a McDonald’s gift card. I took them to ice cream and told them about Santa. I was sure to tell them that magic is created and they are now part of Santa’s team. It ended up being adorable. They came home and helped Lui write a letter to Santa and they were the most enthusiastic Santa trackers on Christmas Eve!
  • $16.85 – We were able to find the two books Florin wanted for Christmas at the best little book shop in town and I was so excited to support local.
  • $103.95 – Tire changeover for Mr. T’s car. He did it before we got our big snow dump, luckily. Yay for winter tires!
  • $209.11 – Medical bill for some tests they ran when I had bronchitis back in the summer. The insurance finally paid some and they finally sent me the final bill. Why is healthcare so expensive?! 

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!”
  • Spoken on the Saturday before Christmas by a friend: “This afternoon, my husband is taking the kids and I get to go shopping.” My reaction: “NOOOOOOO!!!!”
  • “I think the pressure of getting his wife amazing gifts motivated his career.”

September 2017 Plan Update

September 2017 Plan Update

Ahhh fall. Crisp air. Fall leaves everywhere. Colds from school. The whole gambit. We’re living all of it here in September.

Along with fall came an onslaught of money spending! We continued booking next year’s big Europe trip. We also spent the beginning-of-the-year fees for lessons/classes for the kiddos. Details in our spending section.

Also, Mr. T and I just got approved for Global Entry. So we’re ballers now. At least when traveling. And I started a weight training class at the University (paid for by my company so I can maintain access to the University library for my research work). I’m the oldest, weakest among those college younguns, but I’m having a great 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.)

Read More

August 2017 Plan Update

August 2017 Plan Update

Hello, dear readers! Welcome back to our regularly scheduled blogging program!

This summer has been glorious. And August was no exception. We started the month in Disneyland with the family and then headed to the Seattle area for a week where we spent 3 entire days swimming, kayaking, and paddle-boarding in lakes. It was amazing. The month ended with all 3 kids in school.

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Calculating Good and Bad Financial Scenarios

Calculating Good and Bad Financial Scenarios

I haven’t done many calculations around here lately and since we both know I am number-crunching incessently, I thought it was about time to do a number crunching exercise here on the blog with our numbers. Today, we’re going to look at 3 scenarios into the future: a terrible one, a low-return one, and a good return one. Let’s see how the numbers play out:

Where we Stand

These calculations are based on our portfolio’s current $150,000 value (a nice even number to work with, which is part of why we’re running the simulations now!). The monthly savings for the first year assume $2500 – the $1500 to max out Mr. T’s 401k (automatic) and a mix of employer contributions and my savings for another $1000/month. This is our current savings rate. Then, after the first year, those monthly savings amount skyrocket to $4500 because in 2019, we will start the year with a paid off house and we can throw our mortgage payment directly into savings! To make these calculations, I use my very favorite compound interest calculator to plug in the numbers.

The Recession Starts Tomorrow!

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