Tagged: student debt

Feb 24

Design 365 Challenge – Design a t-shirt a day to pay the student loans away!

I have been selling “print on demand” (POD) t-shirts at Cafepress.com and Zazzle.com for several years now with the goal to use the extra money to pay down my student loans faster. Up until this last year, it hasn’t been a very focused endeavor. I’d create few designs each month and post them with no clear strategy. Just doing it for fun really. To convince myself to do better this year, I developed the Design 365 Challenge and created printables that you can download. The goal is to make a new design every single day. Or at least have 365 new designs by the end of the year. Join the fun and play along at home and increase your own sales!

Design 365 Challenge

I started with Cafepress.com in 2005 to sell t-shirt and coffee mugs. I’d sell a few designs now and again, but not a lot. Then last year, I decided to really up my game and spent a great deal of time developing new designs and learning how to market them. All that time and hard work paid off! In fact, I made enough money last year from selling at these two places that I will actually have to pay taxes on the royalties. Um, Yay?

No, really it’s good, it’s progress. I have enough business-related deductions that it should offset things so the hit shouldn’t be too bad. (I like good roads and schools, so taxes are ok, too) Maybe future posts will be about taxes (I’m not an accountant but a procrastinating entrepreneur) and more about the business end of well, business. But today I wanted to talk more about something exciting that I am doing this year… the Design 365 Challenge.

Design 365 Challenge

In December I took a few weeks off to burn down comp time I had accumulated at work. I had a lot of free time to think about how to grow my t-shirt shops. One of the things I was working on was developing a set of planner pages to help organize the business side of things. And I came up with the Design 365 Challenge to keep myself honest and to help track where and when I post. I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my designs, keywords, and descriptions. But I hadn’t come up with a good way to track product development and social media posts.

Each Planner page has a free notes space at the top, a monthly calendar with places to show where I create products to sell and where I post to social media. It is has been very helpful to keep the design mojo flowing and it certainly has helped me to get higher on the search index of both Cafepress and Zazzle.

I use HootSuite to schedule social media posts and that has been a life saver. I can plan a whole week’s worth of posts before my husband even wakes up on Saturday morning. Woot!

Check out my other article on how I am using my t-shirt design business to pay down my student loan!

Get the Design 365 Challenge Printables! (Free.pdf files)



May 21

12 Great Summer Reads and the Bags to carry them in

12 Summer Reads

And along comes summer with all the lazy days spent in pursuits to refresh the soul. The tradition of summer reading is long and for good reason. We spend our days rushing about tending to the need for food and shelter. Summer is time to take a breath, see the sky, and open the mind.
This post is all about summer reading, lounging on the beach, and finding just the right bag to tote those books around in. So toss in your sunscreen, big floppy hat and head into richly textured world of other worlds and lives…


1. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

“Diana Gabaldon’s century-spanning Outlander series deserves its avid fanbase. It’s making the leap to TV on Starz this summer, so now’s the time to devour the whole steamy series–including book 8, out in June.” –Mari Malcolm


OK, Who out there ISN’T excited about the Outlander series coming to the teevee? Get your Diana Gabaldon fix right here!

And the perfect compliment for all that glorious Scottish scenery (wink wink, nudge nudge) is the Celtic Triskele in highland perfect  greens and purples.


Celtic Triskele

Celtic Triskele


2. Half a King by Joe Abercrombie


“Half a King has young adults in mind, but doesn’t leave adults behind. In this coming-of-age fantasy tale we follow a reluctant new king through betrayal, hardship, adventure, self-discovery, and some excellent twists.” –Robin Rothman



The perfect accompaniment to a summer romp through history, the “Chivalry isn’t dead” design.


_Pinterest Summer Reads Blog Chivalry

Chivalry isn’t dead… you can find it were you offer it.


3. The Lincoln Myth: A Novel by Steve Berry


New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry returns with his latest thriller, a Cotton Malone adventure involving a flaw in the United States Constitution, a mystery about Abraham Lincoln, and a political issue that’s as explosive as it is timely—not only in Malone’s world, but in ours.



And speaking of myths and Lincoln, don’t you just love a good internet meme? I mean, just take the one about Lincoln quotes on the internet …


The thing about quotes on the Internet is that you can not confirm their validity -- Abraham Lincoln

The thing about quotes on the Internet is that you can not confirm their validity — Abraham Lincoln


4. Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth


I can hardly keep up with the teen sci-fi drama that moves from book to screen. But this series looks to be a universe that will keep us entertained until the next sexy dystopia comes along.



Science fiction, at least good science fiction, alway tells us more about being human. It informs us and asks many hard questions. The very best science fiction, also gives us the ability to laugh at our own foibles.


Diagonally parked in a parallel universe....

Diagonally parked in a parallel universe….


5. Hard Choices. by Hillary Rodham Clinton


Our next President has written a book. It seems to be the Thing to Do. Perhaps we should check it out and see what she has been up to.



Of course, we can expect that there will be some folks in the good ole U.S. of A. that will continue with the major freak out that has been going on since Barak Obama as first conceived…. as a viable candidate for President. At least she’s white, even if she does have lady-parts. She maybe she will only be half as irrationally hated.
So hat tip to all my feminist friends out there…


This is what a feminist looks like!

This is what a feminist looks like!


6. Euphoria by Lily King


“This historical novel–based on the life of Margaret Mead–is brainy, but sexier and more fun than you might think a book about an anthropologist might be.” –Sara Nelson

I have a soft spot in my heart for sexy anthropologists, although Margaret Mead isn’t usually the one that comes to mind. But she did have some very interesting things to say about sex.



The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. — Dorothy Parker


The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -- Dorothy Parker

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. — Dorothy Parker


7. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu


“What happens when an ugly rumor takes on a life of its own? Multiple narrators expose how far people will go to be liked and how little the truth seems to matter.” –Seira Wilson



We’ve all been there. Rumors and gossip taking the joy out of the day. Well, let the chaos monkeys fly. Get out there and be yourself!


Sing like no is watching

Sing like no is watching


8. The Heist by Daniel Silva


“I’ve developed a man-crush on Silva’s brainy, brutal artist/assassin/spy, Gabriel Allon, who in The Heist is on the hunt for a stolen Caravaggio masterpiece.” –Neal Thompson



This is the token MAN book. So this calls for MAN food. BACON! Bacon! Bacon! Gimmee salty fatty pig parts and gimme now! I want Bacon!


Bacon will save the World. I don't know how. But trust me. It will.

Bacon will save the World. I don’t know how. But trust me. It will.


9. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.



Sometimes reading a good book is the best reward. So we are shopping for a house now, and while $650,000 for a domicile is a wee bit out of our league, it did have a formal library. Want! I figure that if I sell about 1.5 million t-shirts, coffee mugs or tote bags, then I can buy that formal library. So get to it! Buy something! 😀


All I want is Peace, Love, Understanding, and a Library as big as the Grand Canyon.

All I want is Peace, Love, Understanding, and a Library as big as the Grand Canyon.


10. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I like stories where the Princess does her own damn rescuing. Prince Charming is nice and all, but a girl has gotta do what a girl has gotta do.



With all the stories in the news that has our elder sisters and mothers wondering why we continue to still fight the battle for equal rights , it is important to keep moving forward. Be strong, be powerful, be AMAZING!


Princess be doing her own rescuing

Princess be doing her own rescuing


11. Top Secret – Twenty One by Janet Evonovich


Ok, let me just say this….. SQUEE! I love the Stephanie Plum stories. I loved the movie, One for the Money
and want MOAR! This series (along with the Discworld series) are the go-to books on tape that we listen to on long road trips.



I think I need to make Stephanie her own cupcake tote bag, but until then, here, have a lemon drop!


When Life gives you lemons, add vodka.

When Life gives you lemons, add vodka.


12. Raising Steam by Sir Terry Pratchett


I am saving the best for last. I am a late comer to the Discworld series and regret every moment I missed knowing about the awesomeness of Sir Terry Pratchett. His books are funny, insightful, compelling, farcical and deeply moving. My personal favorite is Thud! .



The quote that Pratchett “borrows” from Juvenal is just as apt today as it was in the days of Rome’s glory. Who watches the watcher? Indeed. Who?


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


If you want to check out all of the bag and totes at Malarkey Pie, go here.

And before you rush out to get your books and tote bags, I want to let you in on the back story here. You may have heard of the student debt crisis that is facing the U.S. right now. Millions of students, eager to improve their lot in life, face the reality that unless your last name is Trump, you will likely graduate from college with sizable student debt. I am no exception

I finished graduate school in 2010 and have since then been working for the State of Oregon in a job that I love. I don’t really love the mounds of student debt that is keeping me from saving for retirement or saving to buy a home. So I started selling t-shirts and other gift items to pay down my loans faster. So when you purchase either on of these books from Amazon or tote bags from Cafepress, you are helping out.

If these designs aren’t your thing, check out these other posts…


Mar 21

Which part of the American dream won’t I have?

I have student loan debt which means that I will probably never own my own home. I will not be able to help my kids with their college expenses. I won’t be able to save for retirement. I will not be able to travel to the European museums like I want to do.


This is what I signed on to when I decided to pursue my doctoral degree. I knew it was expensive and I knew that it would alter my personal and professional landscape for the rest of my life. And I knew that it would be (mostly) worth it. The job track I currently am on fills my heart and soul with meaning and purpose. The doctoral degree made this possible. I love my job, and the people I work with, and the people I serve.


I just wish my country valued education like it should. If Congress upholds it’s side of the bargain, after working in state government for 10 years, the balance of my federal loans will be written off. This is thanks to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. (http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/charts/public-service)

Learn more about how I am selling t-shirts and coffee mugs to pay off my student loans faster. You can find geeky snarky t-shirts at my Cafepress shop, Malarkey Pie.


Feb 14

Confessions of a student loan statistic

Student is debt slavery

Crush student debt before it crushes us!


I admit it, I am a statistic. A student-debt-up-to-my-eyeballs-in-debt statistic. In 2010, I completed my seven year journey to obtain a doctoral degree and since I was a single mom and not really rolling in the dough, I acquired what is euphemistically called “student debt.” I don’t regret getting the degree as it has opened whole worlds to me, but it would have been dandy if it didn’t leave me a financial cripple for the rest of my days.

My monthly student debt bill is $1095, which amounts to $13,140 per year. Add in a car payment (my trusty Blueberry died after 13 years of excellent service), insurance, and a small bit of credit card debt left over from my grad school days, and … yeah. Not much left over to help with the kid’s college savings or to save for a rainy day or to buy house or to contribute to retirement fund. My total debt after paying for three years, and paying off several smaller loans, is still over $140,000. How does that even happen? Obviously, my degree is not in finance. I work in state government, so if Congress holds up its end of the bargain, then about half of that (the federal loan half) will be expunged after 2019.

What would be helpful is if I could deduct the entire amount I pay, not just the interest up to $2,500 from my income when paying taxes. I know that my name is not Exxon Mobil or Goldman Sachs, but
surely we little people deserve that much.

People like me work hard at jobs we love. I really really love my job which I would not have if I didn’t have my degree.

Of course, if anyone has a spare $140,000 laying around, I wouldn’t be too proud to have some sugar daddy pay it off.


Feb 07

Snow Day!!!!

Today is a snow day! I have my coffee and there will be scones later. Oh yes, there WILL BE SCONES! And maybe a pot roast if I feel like braving the walk down to the market to pick up a cut of beef. I have some carrots and onions that are on their last legs and need to be cooked to yumminess soon.

The goal for today will be to get the taxes in order. This year is probably the last year it will be fairly simple. Next year I will have business expenses to fold in to the fun and games with the IRS. Which reminds me, the library book on home business tax deduction that I checked out is due soon. I need to finish it this weekend to help me to get my book keeping house in order. Maybe I’ll post something about some of the best tips that I find.

Speaking of planning ahead…. A future post will be a soul-baring outline of my student loan debt. Get ready for some scary stuff! I have been a bit of a coward and not really faced exactly how much student debt I really have. But I will start a series of posts here with quarterly check-ins to see how much (or how little … EEK!) debt I have managed to pay off. Check back often! I should try to find one of them thermometer thingys to make it very visual. Or do an infographic, since that seems to be all the rage these days.

So, I’m off to get a start on the day….


Nov 22

10 Best-selling t-shirt designs at Malarkey Pie

Bold (and often snarky) graphic designs for geeks and science-y types abound at Malarkey Pie, but some designs rise to the top and become best-sellers. Here is a review of the designs that have been purchased recently! Every single item that I sell helps me to pay down my student loan even faster!

1. Apparently, fiber geeks also like coffee (or tea! or hot cocoa!)

I am not easily distracted... oh look, Yarn!

I am not easily distracted… oh look, Yarn!









2. Do you love that science fiction television show with the LSD dropping mad scientest, the peacoat wearing prodigal son, the sensible show wearing FBI agent, and a Holstein cow named Jean? Yeah, I loved FRINGE, too! Because, really, every laboratory needs a cow!

Every science lab needs a cow like Jean!

Every science lab needs a cow like Jean!









3. Even feminists love a  comfy t-shirt, and they really seemed to love this fiery feminist symbol. This seemed to pop up on jewelry a lot.

Where there is smoke there is a fiery feminist heart

Where there is smoke there is a fiery feminist heart








4. Edgar Allen Poe himself  would probably drink absinthe wearing this t-shirt.

I'm just  Poe boy from a Poe family!

I’m just Poe boy from a Poe family!









5. If you are looking for geekwear for your favorite geek to wear while watching Star Wars for the thirty thousandth time, then this is just the thing.

Come to the dork side! We have pie!

Come to the dork side! We have pie!









6. Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem, the Divine Comedy, this design  showcases beautiful calligraphy.

Inspired by Dante Alighieri's 14th-century poem, the Divine Comedy.

Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem, the Divine Comedy.










7. The great state of Oregon is represented here. Pentagon, Octagon, Oregon!

Pentagon! Octagon! Oregon!

Pentagon! Octagon! Oregon!





8. The Ride of the Valkyries is not just an awesome song by Wagner used in a quirky slapstick comedy called Apocalypse Now. No, these awesome female riders carry the heroic Viking fallen warriors to Valhalla.

Ride of the Valkyries

Ride of the Valkyries






9. The real Seven Deadly Sins ….

The seven deadly sins ...

The seven deadly sins …









10. Not all who wander are lost. Tolkien’s words are so right on today.

Not all who wander are lost....

Not all who wander are lost….










Check back for more best-selling t-shirts and gifts for geeks and scientists!


Jun 12

Recent grad races Congress to retire student debt before rates rise

Going back to graduate school when I was 41 years old and a single mom was not an easy decision to make. But I was in a dead-end (but well paying) job and needed to look to the future. So I looked at the nearby state school, Oregon State University, and hopped right in. I knew there would have to be student loans as being a single mom meant I couldn’t do the “stuff-a-handful-of-grad-students-in-a-loft” cheap route. Having kids also impacted my studying routine as I rarely got to hit my own books until after 9PM once the kids were put to bed and the house cleaned (well, somewhat cleaned).

Just like many other graduate students leaving graduate school with a useful degree and a pile of debt, I think it was very worth it. I love my current job and I would never have landed here without my doctoral degree. I mean really do love my job, deeply and passionately. That huge pile of debt? Not so much. I work in public service for the state of Oregon, so the theory goes that after 2019, the balance of my federal loans will be retired, but I’m not holding my breath that Congress actually authorizes that particular budget item.

Having over $100,000 in debt means that my economic life is stunted at the barely pubescent stage of economic life. My monthly student loan payments, both federal and private, are nearly $1,400. Luckily, I don’t have much personal debt, just a small amount left over from grad school that I have been paying down. The upshot of having this huge amount of student debt means that I don’t have a lot in savings. Actually I don’t have any savings at all, if you don’t count that jar of coins in the back of the closet.

Not having a savings account built up nice and fat means that when something happens like say, your old car throws a rod, your clothes dryer motor seizes up, and your daughter breaks her thumb all within a few days, you don’t have the resiliency to recover quickly,  if at all. And being an emergency management professional who travels around the state trying to convince families and communities to be more resilient, it was both embarrassing and ironic.

If you add my monthly totals to the fact that Congress is going to double my interest rates in a scant few weeks (unless it gets off its frakking collectively gridlocked ass), then you come to the conclusion that something needs to be done to crush my student debt before it finally crushes me. So, I spent an angst-filled weekend kind of freaking out at how my student debt was impacting my ability to quickly recover from a few days of bad luck.

On the other hand, I like to think of myself as resourceful. For the last few years, I have been selling t-shirts and other apparel and gift items on Cafepress.com. This has been a slowly growing endeavor, providing a bit of pin money each month, but never really breaking into the realm of real money. My background in graphic design and my intensely snarky sense of humor combine to create fun and irreverent designs to paste across your chest.

I also like to think of myself as optimistic. So, I thought that I could bump up my t-shirt sales and pay down my student debt even faster. Then I thought, hey, go big or go home! If I sold a LOT of t-shirts, I could really make a dent on my student debt and create some financial breathing room in the family finances. I will have two kids in college in two years, so I really need to get this cleaned up so that I can be the whole parent and help my kids in their own endeavors.

After spending some time on the webs, brushing up on some of the latest thoughts on marketing and using social media, I put together a game plan and launched this current effort to Crush the Debt in a Race with Congress. Will I be able to retire more student debt before rates rise in July? I need to sell about 50,000 t-shirts or coffee mugs or messenger bags to pay off a huge bulge of my debt and to pay the taxes on that income (or you can hit the donate button on the side over there and I won’t have to pay taxes on that. See? I can be bipartisan!).

So, how about it? Want to buy a t-shirt? Don’t think of it as giving me a handout, think of it as getting an awesome t-shirt! Please help spread the word! Share this on your Facebook page, Twitter (#tees4debt, #crushthedebt), Digg, Tumblr, or whatever social media you crazy kids are using these days. My brief research into social media marketing tells me that getting “bloggers of authority” and “thought leaders” to talk about something on their websites is a great way to make things go viral. So feel free to contact me to arrange for an interview. Yes, I know this kinda like begging, but I’m racing Congress. Who doesn’t want me to beat Congress at their own game, rigged as it is? I think getting rid of my student debt can be done. (See above about being an optimist!)

So here is the Plan ™. I want to sell 50,000 t-shirts, coffee mugs, messenger bags or other whatzits on my Cafepress.com/malarkeypie website. I need 50,000 amazing people to step forward and help a girl out. That is 0.014285714285714287% of the U.S. population. But even Canadians and Australians can play along.

So just buy a damn t-shirt!