Denali Northern Expenditure

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June 2018 Plan Update

June 2018 Plan Update

Since I don’t want to inundate you with pictures or info about our trip, I’ll just give a quick run-down here in the June 2018 Plan Update (since our June was almost entirely overseas!).

We started the trip with an amazing two days in NYC. I was able to see Hamilton with a friend of mine. She paid for the tickets and wouldn’t tell me how much they cost. Mr.T, in his infinite wisdom, told me that I should respond in-kind instead of attempting to pay her back monetarily, so I’m coming up with an equally-stunning excursion for the two of us, my treat (perhaps a weekend to Seattle to see Dear Evan Hansen?).

On the flight to London, I left my phone on the airplane. Oh well. It did mean we had to drive to the airport after staying in London for a few days to pick up the phone. Could have been much worse. In London, we took the kids to see Matilda and they loved it. We also got to enjoy the amazing kid activities at the Tower of London, go on the London eye, have ice cream cones with Flakes, see the amazing museums, explore the Harry Potter Studios, and watch my kids become expert London tube travelers.

Lui on the London Eye

This is how Lui enjoyed the London Eye

Tower Bridge Rainy Selfie

An attempted family selfie in the rain at Tower Bridge

We then drove to Stonehenge and Avebury and then explored a whole bunch of castles all through Wales for 3 days (our favorites were Raglan, Caerphilly and Caernarfon, for the record). Each castle had an amazing “Castle Quest” for kids. Wales and castles = my favorite! Then we spent a night with some friends in Chorley, England and then drove to stay with my parents for a week in Leeds. They treated us to my kids’ first afternoon tea at Betty’s, Harry Potter broom flying lessons where they filmed it at Alnwick, and exploring in the Yorkshire Dales. Brimham Rocks is still a favorite and my kids agree! I also managed to find some clothes I like while out shopping with my mum! Yay!

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey, a ruined monastery in South Wales

Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks is an unexpected find in Yorkshire and turns out to be one of our favorite places in England

From there, we flew to Bergen, Norway where we took the funicular up the mountain and played on one of the greatest playgrounds of all time in the troll forest.

Troll Forest Playground

We loved this playground in the Troll Forest on Mt. Fløyen

We were also able to meet up with some relatives of Mr. T who cooked us a delicious Norwegian feast and let us go paddle-boating out in the Norwegian fjords by their home. (The header for this post is the view from our hotel room in Bergen.) We drove from Bergen to Oslo, stopping to see the Borgund Stave Church, fjords, waterfalls, and then driving through the longest road tunnel in the world. In Oslo, we saw all the boat museums, the Nobel Peace Center, and ate the most delicious waffles (a Scandinavian heart-shaped waffle iron will probably show up as one of our expenses in the next few months!).

Borgund Stave Church

The Borgund Stave Church is a remarkable feat of wooden architecture from the 12th century.

From Oslo, we flew to Iceland where we were part of an Icelandic National Day parade, saw a million amazing waterfalls, ate amazing rye bread that was cooked in the ground geothermally, and stayed in an amazing cabin with a geothermal hot tub.

Iceland's National Day

We unexpectedly became part of a parade for Iceland’s National Day

Iceland Waterfall

Between the weather and the waterfalls we got plenty of use out of our raincoats in Iceland!

Overall, for a month-long trip, it was near perfection! All of our preparation with the kids really paid off as they were completely engaged in everything we were doing and seeing and never complained at all (minus poor Lui, who after about two weeks, just wanted to have a day where he didn’t have to walk anywhere!). I can’t wait for the next trip!

Reynisfjara Beach

Despite the crowd, we loved climbing the basalt columns, also known as trap rocks, at Reynisfjara Beach

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 $22,000. No extra paid this month, but next month, I really hope to start killing this thing with extra payments!

Investments are now at $206,200. Have I mentioned that since moving from a contractor to an actual employee, I now I have my OWN 401k? It’s very exciting, I know! I’m up to a whole $220! Interestingly, they only allow percentage amounts to be put in a 401k and those max out at 50%. Since I only make around $20,000/year, I can’t actually ever max mine out. But, next year, after the mortgage is paid off, you bet I’m bumping right up to 50%! I also won’t start seeing employee matches until next May since I wasn’t officially an employee before and new employees have to wait a year to have the company match anything. Boo. Oh well.

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $22,000! Now that the trip is behind us, this is HAPPENING!
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$1,630.14 – Earned: $14,182.72, Spent: $15,812.86 (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) – Details on most of these numbers can be found in our Great Merch Challenge Q1 update with another one coming Friday! – So many details coming!
  • 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.
May 2018

May 2018 Plan Update (Delayed!)

I cannot express to you how fantastic our trip was. It was absolutely tremendous. However, since I got sick on the way home and am now bed-ridden with bronchitis, prepare yourself for all the updates. First off, today’s May 2018 Plan Update, next Monday will be the June 2018 plan update (pared down a bit because…), then next Friday will be all of our trip costs coming at you next week in our Great Banks Merch Challenge Q2 Update. What an exciting week on the blog!

The whole trip really solidified to me how many doors open up when money isn’t a priority. Since I knew we’d be okay financially for the month I was gone, I didn’t worry about how to pay for things. I just lived. THIS IS THE GOAL. We can argue all day about terminology: early retirement, financial independence, entrepreneurship, digital nomads – the point is that WE save money so we can do WHATEVER WE WANT!

It was so freeing to just spend the money when we wanted to spend it and not have to live around working. We’ve already developed habits of money spending that enable us to not want to go crazy when we can. We’re still conscious about spending money on things that are important, but we also don’t want to feel like we’re giving too much up doing so. But the things we don’t care about, we don’t spend money on.

I did do some work while I was on the trip – not much, but some. And being on vacation with my family really helped me identify what I actually WANTED to do and what I didn’t. I enjoy some aspects of work. I’m going to focus on those. If I lose my job in the meantime, so be it. I also discovered that I actually still love this whole designing and selling shirts thing. It’s fun. I enjoy it. I’m not just doing it for the money.

I just calculated all of our costs and I don’t regret any of them. We were really good at aligning our money with our values and I committed to keep spending money on travel with the family. It’s absolutely our first priority for spending our money.

Sometimes a one-month “trial run” of financial freedom is just what is needed!

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 $23,100. With the trip behind us, we have 6 months to kill this. If we pay no extra on our mortgage, we’ll end the year with an $18,000 mortgage balance. That means we just have to come up with $18,000 before the end of the year! I’m hopeful. Especially since we’ve got $7000 of the PFD going toward it in October. That means just $11,000 extra to add!

Investments are now at $205,580 (as of June 1). I was right! We went back to hitting another big number while we were on vacation! If you’ll recall when we hit $100,000 Mr. T and I were in the UK as well (and I got obsessed with the idea of hitting money milestones while on vacation)! It’s only right that we hit the second $100,000 while back in the UK with the family (we’ve hit it before, but it went back down and now back up)!

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $23,100 to go! We’ve learned that I’m a terrible multi-tasker when it comes to financial goals. With the trip behind us now, I’m putting my head down and working hard to get there!
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$1,630.14 – Earned: $14,182.72, Spent: $15,812.86 (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) – Details on most of these numbers can be found in our Great Merch Challenge Q1 update with another one coming next Friday! – Back in the negatives, but I think we’ll be able to do it!
  • 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.
April 2018 Plan Update

April 2018 Plan Update

It’s MAY, glorious MAY, wonderful MAY!

School gets out in two weeks and we jetset shortly thereafter (woo hoo!). The kids recently finished their historic timeline on our hallway walls, so we’re officially ready (minus all the actual stuff we need to do to get ready!).

I should also tell you that I did a thing! Erik from The Mastermind Within was kind enough to have me on his podcast, so if you want to hear my voice and hear more of the details about what we’re up to (instead of hanging out here as often as we once did), have a listen.

Other than that, we’re just hammering away at shirts so we can try to keep sales going while we’re on our big trip. BIG GOALS, remember?

Also, June’s plan update will probably be delayed. You know, out of the country and all…

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 $24,300. Paying no extra still. But chipping away. Q4 of t-shirt sales will determine whether we’re able to kill it before the end of the year as hoped!

Investments are now at $198,080. Almost back up to $200,000. I’m expected to hit it next month since I was in the UK when we hit $100,000. It’s only right that we hit the second $100,000 while back in the UK with the family!

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $24,200 to go! Once we get this trip out of the way, we’ll be able to start chipping at this again.
  • 27-Day Europe Trip –  $467.22 – Earned: $12,495.88, Spent: $12,028.66 (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 most of these numbers can be found in our Great Merch Challenge Q1 update – We’re in the black again, though I anticipate that to go back to negative next month as our spending will outpace our earnings next month most likely.
  • 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:

  • $10 – To get a notary to fill out my I9 for my company changeover.
  • $22 – A yearbook for my daughter’s school
  • $601.20 – Flight for a big road trip in the fall to see Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and everything in between (because one big vacation this year just isn’t enough!).
  • $174.62 – Enough grains for oatmeal for the rest of the year.
  • $19.19 – The charge to pay my taxes with a credit card – but it helped me earn 80,000 Ultimate Reward points, so it was worth it.
  • $1,026 – Taxes. Blech.

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “My company’s ____ (couldn’t hear) process is so complicated. I spent all last week just trying to get in to do the things they want me to do. I spent hours on the phone with I.T. – now multiply that by the entire company and think how much this inefficiency is costing!”
  • I was told Discovery Channel will pay you $30,000 per episode for your idea for a reality TV show.
Great Banks Merch Challenge Q1 2018 Update

Great Banks Merch Challenge Q1 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 Q1 update:

The Current Merch Challenge Numbers

Current Trip Costs:

  • 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: $2,518.53 – All lodging (except 2 hotel nights in Norway we’re still travel hack):
    • 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
  • Transportation: $658.97 – (we’ve reserved our rental car for Iceland, but won’t pay for that until the trip):
    • Norway Car Rental: $294.26
    • UK Car Rental: $364.71
  • Other Stuff: $1,217.78 – All of the other experiences, tickets, and stuff we’ve purchased for the trip:
    • 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 (to be legal in Europe) – $103.97
    • Travel Backpacks for the girls (Lui will use his small school backpack) – $204.30
    • 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

TOTAL SPENT SO FAR: $6,430.76

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!

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: $1837.50
  • December: $2627.96
  • January: $1076.85
  • February: $695.83
  • TOTAL: $11,692.48

minus our total mortgage payments and total trip costs of $11,830.76

Merch Challenge Totals: -$138.28

Verdict so far: We’re pretty darn close to breaking even on this thing, but that doesn’t mean much right now since we still have over $25,000 left on the mortgage and we still have tons to pay for on the trip (most of our experiences, castle passes, food, a few hotels, one rental car, etc.). Sales have also been pretty dismal. We now have 2000 listings on Amazon filled and we hope sales pick up for the summertime. We’re hoping to have 4000 filled at the start of Q4.  Do you think we can do it?

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!”
Maggie's a Working Woman

Maggie’s a Working Woman

Another reason things have been more silent here on Northern Expenditure is that I’ve thrown myself into my job more than I had been. I am a researcher in the field of behavioral economics and work between 10-20 hours/week. Here’s a bit of a work history for you:

2010: I was hired by my company as a contracted researcher. I started right off working 10-20 hours a week and have done that ever since. When they hired me, they knew I would be working from home on my own hours as a stay at home mom.

Mid-2016: The company which had less than 30 employees now had over 200 in 3 offices. Restructuring began in earnest in an attempt to add a hierarchy where there previously had not been.

January 2017: I tried to quit. Restructuring meant that people had spent the past 6 months trying to figure out where they fit in the hierarchy in relation to me. They mostly determined I was under them, so they started acting differently (not positively). HR was also under new pressures and managed to forget to pay me 3 pay periods in a row. My boss told me to hang on.

January/Febuary 2017: My boss (I think literally) walked around the office yelling at everyone. My missed paychecks were overnighted to me, I received apologies from people who had been jerks, I got a new title that put me fairly high up on the meaningless org chart (no raise or change in responsibilities), I started getting invited to the important meetings (this is both a pro and a con), and I finally got back to doing what I loved to do—the research!

November 2017: I ended up in one of those “important meetings” with the 8 people who run the company and me. At the end of the meeting, each of those people was told to hire someone to help them write 40-page papers directing the investments of the company. “Until you are able to hire someone, Maggie is here to help you.” Uh, excuse me?! What was that?! – I spent the rest of the week hiding in a cubicle hoping no one would remember I worked there.

December 2017: I was taken away from working directly for my boss and put under a different manager to manage me working for all of those 8 people. I helped on several projects for several different people. A paycheck is wrong.

January 2018: Our company was bought out by a large company. Now all the restructuring makes sense. Everything was preparing for a buyout. The new hires start to come on board. I’m reassigned back to just my boss (phew!). My 1099 was off by $3000.

February/March 2018: The first draft of my boss’s giant paper was due at the end of the month. Now we’re getting it polished plus getting a presentation ready on a totally different topic for a meeting with the Big Company CEO in April (luckily I was not invited to that meeting). 2 more paychecks are missed. I finally get a call from the new manager and ask if I’ve been having problems with HR (ha! Have I!) and would I want to be hired as a part time employee? This will hopefully solve several issues:

  • no more self employment tax! Hooray! (I’ll still have to pay it on our online shirt sales, but no more on my roughly $20k research income!)
  • employees can have direct deposit and are more “in the system” with less chance of user error on the paychecks.
  • I have been onboarded to the small company as an official employee before all of us are merged over to Big Company in the next couple of months. This is a relief as I was concerned Big Company would notice the “random contractor in Alaska” (ie: Me) and cut me off. Less chance now that I’m official!

The past two years have been a whirlwind with my employment. As part of an effort to follow the money, I have been trying to be more involved at work this past 6 months. When things got *too* involved, I was good about standing up for doing what I wanted to do and not working more than I feel comfortable doing (Lui is only in preschool). So far, it has all shaken out nicely. We’ll see what the next year brings with the official transition over to Big Company, but right now I’m back in the sweet spot of doing what I enjoy doing (with my awesome boss) and when I want to do it (instead of when they want me to do it). If too much of that changes, I have no qualms walking away. I’m all about following the money, but only until that ruins the things I love about our current life. I’m only following the enjoyable money. 🙂

Tricking Ourselves Into Learning

Tricking Ourselves Into Learning

Everything we do teaches us something. Life is all about tricking ourselves into learning.

Penny’s Big Invention

Penny had a big school project last year where they got to invent something. It sounded like an amazing idea and I was very excited to see what she would come up with. You know what she invented? A pencil box. Made out of paper. (So I’m not counting on her invention skills to get us to early retirement quite yet!) But instead of saying: “Hey Penny, see that plastic pencil box you’re using that actually holds the pens because it’s a durable material? It’s already been invented!”… I let it go to see what would happen. Surely the teacher would tell her it was a terrible idea and help her come up with a better one. But guess what? She did not.

Putting Process Over Product

I know, you educators are probably eons above me in this story and you can already see where it’s headed, but Penny’s teacher didn’t care about the product. Instead, she used the invention project to teach the kids through the process. Penny may not be winning any invention awards, but she learned the process of inventing. She had to make a working prototype. She had to work with a team. In order to do that, they had to learn Google Docs to share their notes. They learned how to put together a powerpoint presentation (filled with funny GIFs and cute kitty pictures). None of this felt like work to Penny because she was so excited about their amazing paper pencil box, she was excited to do what had to be done.

Tricking Ourselves Into Learning

As grown ups, these same situations often arise, but I feel like sometimes we ignore the lessons. If something’s hard, we want to forget it and move on instead of analyze what we’ve learned and move forward. Because we choose to ignore the lessons, we don’t emerge any different.

Though this applies to all circumstances, this is primarily a personal finance blog, so I think we should talk about money. I’ve witnessed tragic financial circumstances. When people hit rock bottom, they just want to start over. Everyone needs a fresh start sometime. But these people need help.

This is what I’ve learned from witnessing these situations. And I’m better for it. If we’re able to learn from the situations of others as well as our own, our education expands exponentially.

Get yourselves out into the world. Do good. Help others. When we get ourselves out there and interact with others, we are tricking ourselves into learning. But it’s up to us to apply the lessons.

What lessons have you learned from the situations of others?

February 2018 Plan Update

February 2018 Plan Update

I keep feeling like I need to apologize for not filling this space as often as I used to. But then I remember you guys are my friends and the whole point of not filling this space as often is because I’m practicing what I’m preaching. I’m following the money while trying not to lose sight of what’s important (like my children, for example). So, here I am with another plan update.

February was crazy busy for all of us. We got the science fair project for Penny started (rock candy with every kind of sugar available currently growing on my counter). We spent many days reshaping our snow pile into sledding tracks, watching the Olympics, taking the kids to swimming, etc. Life is glorious, isn’t it?

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 $26,700. We weren’t able to put any extra towards the mortgage this month because we owe just over $1,000 for taxes. Blech.

Investments are now at $186,840. I told you we’d be back below $200,000 this month, but it was fun to hit another nice round number first!

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $26,700 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 –   -$487.75 – Earned: $10,996.65, Spent: $11,484.40 (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) – We didn’t put any extra toward our mortgage and didn’t pay for any trip costs this month. Sales are low this time of year and next month is going to look worse than this one!
  • 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:

  • $24.26 – Batting to finish a quilt I got in the mail from someone who made the top for my wedding 12 years ago and then never got around to finishing the quilt. Now I need to figure out how to finish it! LOL!
  • $9.99 – This is a monthly fee, but I’ll only include it once. Mr. T has photoshop on his computer, but I wanted to get more into photoshop myself, so I signed up!
  • $8.97 – Carl’s Jr. dinner for my children for Lui’s birthday.
  • $15 – The cost to pull the police report to file to insurance to replace our neighborhood mailbox that got plowed over by a car in December.
  • $15 – Taking a friend out to peanut butter pie for her birthday.
  • $77 – Mr. T and I went out to a semi-fancy restaurant with friends on a double date. It’s fun to do this on occasion.

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “$7,000 isn’t a lot a lot, but I could have stretched it pretty far.”
  • “When you have a mortgage, three car payments, student loan debt, and credit card debt, a $5,000 tax bill is enough to crush you.”
  • “I decided I’m going to use my birthday money to buy an ukulele.” – This is Penny. And don’t worry… you’ll probably see an Ukulele in our expenses for next month. (shhh. Don’t tell.)

Mosaic Thoughts After a School Shooting

“Mosaic thoughts” means these thoughts are all over the place and the only connector is the most recent school shooting:

Life is Heavy Sometimes

The weight of this school shooting really hit me the next day after I dropped Lui off at preschool. I returned home to an empty house and instead of getting anything done at all, I just wept. For a really long time. I cried again later that day when I heard Pink’s song on the radio: “What about us? What about all the times you said you had the answers?” – We’re failing our children. And it hurts.

The weight really made me ask myself a few questions this week:

  • If any of my family members died today, would they die knowing I love them? What was the last thing I said to them and how did I say it?
  • If I knew any of my children had just one year left to live, what would I change about this next year?
  • With so much darkness in the world, how can I bring light?

Light up YOUR world

I can’t solve the world’s problems. I can’t change the hate that gets thrown around on a daily basis. But I CAN brighten my world. I focused more on that this week. I spent time in my son’s preschool class. I collected clothes for twin baby boys that were born in Anchorage from the bush so they could go home equipped. I brought dinner to another new mom. I snuggled with my kids.

Each day I need to focus on lighting up some part of my world. And if you do the same, eventually, the world will be a better place. I truly believe that.

Fighting is Better than Hiding

Our school district recently moved over from lock down drills to ALICE training. The big difference is that the kids used to hide behind coats and be really quiet and basically wait to die. Now, they actively barricade, run, zig zag, throw things, etc. I MUCH prefer this for two main reasons:

  1. Empowerment – The demeanor of my kids explaining ALICE drills is TOTALLY different than how they used to explain lock down drills. After hiding in coats and trying not to breathe, they were so scared. Now, they have an active plan. They’re excited they get to take control. They no longer have to wait to see if they’ll be the one to die. They’ll ACT. When we have a plan for things, we don’t feel as scared about them. Instead, we’ll be prepared to jump into action because…
  2. Statistics – The chance my kids will be involved in a school shooting is still statistically very low. I absolutely think they should prepare kids for that event even if the chances are slim, but the trauma of pretending to wait to die is so much worse than giving them tools to fight back and succeed. The drills are hard no matter what. You’re telling kids that a bad guy may enter your safe space and kill you. That’s never easy. But it’s the truth. And if we have the truth AND tools, we can move past the fear of that event happening.

Some Things are More Important

Six weeks into each year, I realize I’ve set my goals too big. I take too much on. This year is no different. And this event happened at the exact same time. It really shook me out of thinking: “You’re failing at everything you set out to do” and instead got me thinking: “You’re failing those things because you’ve been focusing on what’s important.” It’s hard to remember that playing with your kids instead of writing a blog post is the right choice. When you’re constantly reading about personal finance and entrepreneurship, it’s hard to remember that spending time watching the olympics with your family instead of throwing yourself neck-deep into work is the right choice. But those are the choices I’ve been choosing.

So I’m not failing at all.

January 2018 Plan Update

January 2018 Plan Update

January was a crazy month for the Banks family. The kids started swim after school twice a week which has been quite an adjustment for all of us. On top of that, we’ve had some big responsibilities at Church. We’ve also been trying to get our Merch shirts organized so it’s easier to relist them if they don’t sell and Amazon takes them down. So lots of awesome, productive things going on, but really busy.

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.)

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