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!).

Life doesn’t stop when you decide to follow the money and time doesn’t increase (we all have the same 24 hours in the day). I still have 3 children (one still at home with me full time) and all of their needs. I have large volunteer responsibilities at Church that take up a lot of time. That work is important and fulfilling, so I don’t want to give that up. Also, I don’t like giving up sleep (for the sake of my family – what’s the tired version of HANGRY?).

What Are We Giving Up?

First off, the most noticeable change is here on Northern Expenditure. I’ve managed to post once a week lately. I will try to keep that up. I’ve still got things to say and updates to give (I haven’t yet shared our spending breakdown of 2017! And the January plan update is coming next week!). I love this corner of the internet and my interactions with all of you. But I have had to limit my time in the personal finance realm online. I still check in on a few blogs periodically, but I have not been keeping up consistently with any of my favorite blogs. I realized that spending so much time reading about money was keeping me from actually making it! 

I also haven’t given up TV entirely as you’ll hear the best of entrepreneurs say. We still watch our favorite shows, but TV is not a default, it’s a reward. We can only watch TV if we’ve made significant progress on shirts stuff together after the kids go to bed.

Every Business Has the Boring Bits

Something we are coming to terms with is that even the fun businesses like selling t-shirts online come with a ton of boring work. Coming up with ideas and designing the shirts is the fun part. But most of our time is spent uploading those designs and writing the listing information for them. This is dull. It’s easy to fantasize about leaving work to do something fun like design shirts all day, but the truth is: even the fun stuff is loaded with the boring bits. 

In the retail business, there is also this very frustrating calendar of buying and then not buying. Our numbers look really good right now because Q4 is where most of the money comes in from people buying. January has been super frustrating because everyone is spending time digging out of their Q4 spending sprees. (Our January numbers were less than 1/3 of December’s.)

On the plus side, Mr. T and I have really been enjoying spending time on this. We work together which is enjoyable. We’ve also been able to fulfill one of our big financial goals for our family: hire our children! Both of our fathers were able to do this for us growing up and we hope to be able to consistently do it for our children. Because we worked for our dads, we never had to worry about getting time off for family vacations or not being able to get work in around our schedule of extra-curricular activities. We still learned about earning money, work ethic, doing hard things, and money management, but we were able to learn those things on the terms and timing that worked best for our family.

Practicing What We Preach

I feel like I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t jump all in to take full advantage of the opportunity we’ve been given to earn money making shirts because it fits all of the requirements we are looking for in our ideal employment:

  • we work together
  • we can set our own hours
  • Mr. T gets to be creative
  • I get to use research (and also be creative when I feel like it)
  • we get to hire our children

This is why we created the Merch Challenge – to set a big public goal that forces us to throw ourselves all in to this opportunity so you can continue to follow along with our journey.

How does “Following the Money” look in your situation? Focusing on your main job? Exploring new opportunities? Or digging in to one that’s working?


2018 Non-Financial Goals (and 2017 recap)


January 2018 Plan Update


  1. Furytigue? That’s what I get.

    I thought you’d been absent a lot more, you were missed! But there ARE only so many hours in the day.

    Primarily we focus on our W-2 jobs which bring in so much of our income it’s not even funny. We only make a tiny percentage of our incomes in side money. And now we are pacing ourselves with side money opportunities: selling off things we mistakenly bought for the reno, things we don’t need that are in good shape, chasing some blog-related income. Even though it’s not much relatively speaking, it all still adds up to a real number so it’s worth doing.

    • I had to come back to ‘fess up that even though I SHOULD be happy at my regular W-2 job, I’m restless. I still want more. I want to be doing more of something else, I think, to bring in the money except I don’t know what that is, yet. It’s weird, I haven’t had this feeling since I first started in the workplace.

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