The Great Banks Merch Challenge January Update

The Great Banks Merch Challenge January Update

As a reminder, we’re attempting to pay for our 27-day Europe trip and all the extra payments toward our mortgage until it is gone with nothing but selling shirts on Merch by Amazon.

First off, this trip is not cheap. We’re not trying to do it all that cheaply. We’re taking our kids to some of the most expensive countries (we’ll reserve our next international trip for Cambodia!). But we also really wanted to stretch ourselves this year with our t-shirt sales, so we decided to add in our mortgage to really make things interesting. Also remember that most t-shirt sales come in October-December, so it’s going to look pretty bad here at the beginning of the year as we keep spending, but don’t make as much. But hopefully, by December, everything will come together in magical ways and we’ll pay for our whole trip plus our mortgage with just t-shirt sales! Wish us luck!

I’ll be providing quarterly updates. This one is 2017 Q4 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 AirBNB so far (all but 6 nights have been booked!) – this amount includes:
    • 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: $971.42 – All of the other experiences, tickets, and stuff we’ve purchased for the trip:
    • Passport fees for the 3 kids – $315
    • 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


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)


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
  • TOTAL: $7,291.84

minus our total mortgage payments and total trip costs of $9,984.40

Merch Challenge Totals: -$2,692.56


December 2017 Plan Update (and 2018 Financial Goals!)


2018 Non-Financial Goals (and 2017 recap)


  1. Ebene

    Totally amazing with Amazon. I am going to sign up right now. Do you have a link? Do you earn anything for getting people to sign up?
    How much time do you put into it each month?

    I would love to hear more about your travel hacking. How many miles did you need for Alaska and AA? What cards did you get to get them?

    • MaggieBanks – There’s no affiliate link. And the wait has been long. We have been putting in A LOT Of time lately because we have big goals with it. We have nearly 1500 listings up on Amazon. As for travel hacking, we needed 150,000 AA miles to get from New York to London because we were picky about schedules. We’ve been collected those through AA credit cards for the past 2 years. And another 150,000 from Anchorage to New York I think (we earn those by flying almost exclusively on Alaska airlines as a family and by getting Alaska airlines cards)

  2. Beth

    Way to go on the Amazon Merch! That is incredible. I am heading to Iceland in 2.5 months. Looking forward to seeing the Golden Circle and hopefully the Northern Lights.

    • MaggieBanks

      We’re spending most of our time on the Golden Circle as well (but no Northern Lights in the summer… it’s amazing how many people come up to Alaska in the summer hoping to see them).

  3. Nearly 1500 listings on Merch? That’s amazing, Maggie!

    This trip is a huge undertaking. Do you start with flights and then accommodations, and do you keep your dates flexible based on what you find?

    We’ve never even done any travel hacking except for using rewards miles the airlines give you for flying with them. Is there an expiration on when you can use those AA miles you’ve gathered over the 2 years?

    • MaggieBanks

      We’re really trying to hit shirts hard to hit these goals (thus less blog posts). January is not going well. Turns out no one shops in January. 🙂 We’re only at $500 for the month so far.

      As for miles, each mileage program is different. Most programs require some activity on the account within 12 months or 24 months. Activity means any miles going in or out. So, if you have a credit card that gives you that type of mileage, it’ll stay open. We aren’t very efficient hackers since we spent tons of miles to get good schedules, but it still saved us money on the flights. We book flights first and then book everything else.

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