It has officially been six years since I started sharing our real family budget online. Every month for the past six years I’ve shared our income, spending, saving, and goals. The accountability that comes with this is HUGE. It really has kept us on track to pay off debt and reach our goals over the years.
Thank you to each of you who have been following and cheering us along over the years. Your support means so much to our family!
Even those of you who are following along quietly, never leaving a comment or sending an email– I see you and appreciate you too! I don’t know your names, but I see the pageviews and I know that there are real people behind each of those pageviews, many of whom are struggling on their own financial journey. If that is you, know that I am cheering you on and that I love supporting and encouraging you by sharing our journey and frugal living tips.
Hopefully it helps you to see a real example of how one regular family manages their money.
Of course your budget won’t look like ours and that is perfectly fine. Your budget shouldn’t look like ours! A budget is personal, so it should reflect your own income, priorities, needs, and goals. Your budget is your way to tell your money what you want it to do.
We budget using money we earned last month. If the concept of being a month ahead of your expenses is new to you, check out my recent YouTube video here or this blog post. We’ve been budgeting this way for years and absolutely love it!
If you would rather watch or listen to a walk-through of our budget than read all of the numbers, you can do that too!
Before I get into our numbers I want to remind you to report your September progress in our community Debt Smash-athon by October 10th! As soon as you finish reading here, go to the September Debt Smash-athon reporting form to let us know how you did. You’ll get entered for the monthly prize!
Remember, for the Debt Smash-athon we’re counting your debt paid, your contributions toward retirement, and/or your saving for a big goal! Please report even if you don’t feel like the month was a big financial success. It’s important to have a real reflection of both our good and our bad months, not just a summary of all the people who rocked it this month.
I’ll summarize our progress as a group and post it here when I get all of the submissions in. If you’re not already receiving Debt Smash-athon updates, sign up here.
—On to the numbers!—
Income Earned In September – $8,583
We live on last month’s income. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, check out the new video explaining how this changed our lives or the new post explaining how we got to that point. This post shows the money we earned in September, which has all been set aside to use in our October budget. The spending section below shows the money we earned in August and spent in September.
Attorney Income $6,080 – Mike works as an attorney for the state of California. This is his take-home pay after taxes, social security, health insurance premiums, union dues, and parking fees are taken out.
Blogging Income $1,239 – I’m thankful to be still making some money from my blog, even though it has been on the back burner for a long time. All that work that I put in back in the early years is still paying off. I still have no idea how I kept up with schedule of 3 posts per week for the first 3+ years of blogging, but those posts are still bringing me most of my visitors.
Airbnb Income $1,265 – Our Airbnb income was down this month because we had a week of vacant time while we were out of town at FinCon. If you’re thinking about renting out your space, check out Mike’s recent post about dealing with insurance for your Airbnb rental. You can also see an explanation of how we handle our Airbnb finances.
Spending in September
Each month we budget the previous month’s income down to zero. This is how we spent the money we earned in August.
Tithing – $979 We always pay a 10% tithe on our income. This tithing (like all of our September spending) comes from the money we earned in August. You can read about why we continued paying a 10% tithe even when we were in debt.
Fast Offering – $80 Each month we take one day to fast (go without food and drink) for two meals and make a donation to help the poor in our area.
Mortgage – $3,454 Our mortgage payment includes homeowners insurance, property taxes, and a small amount of PMI. We have a 15-year mortgage, but our big goal is to pay it off in five. We’re not quite on track right now, as you’ll see in the goal section down below. We’ll keep working on it. If you’re a numbers person, or are looking at mortgages yourself, Mike answers a series of questions about how and why we refinanced, including all the numbers involved in the decision.
Electricity – $400 This bill covered the electricity used in August. Our house and our rental share a meter and both are completely electric– no natural gas or propane. We’re careful with our electric use, but the rates are high here, especially during the summer, and with people in our Airbnb apartment almost every day, usage goes up a little too.
Car Insurance – $239 Our insurance is higher than normal because we still have three cars insured instead of two. We were hoping to be back down to two vehicles soon. It’s complicated. We have been so impressed with the service and coverage that USAA provides as both a bank and an insurance company. We’re able to join USAA because my father-in-law was in the service years ago. If you, your parent, or your spouse were/are in the military, you’re probably eligible for USAA too!
Internet – $65 We still remember what life was like when we moved into our new house and it took six months (and $5,000) to get internet access. We are so grateful to have an internet connection right here in the comfort of our home.
Water – $58 Our water bill comes every other month and varies, but we try to set aside half of what we expect the bill to be.
Trash – $37 Our garbage collection bill comes every other month, so we set aside half each month.
Cell Phone (Steph) – $22 Republic Wireless offers a unlimited calls and texts and 1 GB of cell data for $20/month with no contract. Mike and I each have a Republic Wireless phone, but his is a business expense, so never shows up here. The nice thing about Republic Wireless is that any time you’re in wifi range, the phone uses wifi for both calls and data, so we rarely get close to the 1GB data limit.
Another great option for affordable cell phones is Mint Mobile, especially if you want to bring your own phone. I’ve had readers rave about their great service. You can get data for a lot less than Republic Wireless. Because we have no cell signal at our home, we use Republic and its wifi calling, but Mint Mobile looks like it’s worth looking into if you want a cheaper cell phone bill and you have a good cell signal where you spend your time!
Home phone – $5 Since Mike works at home a day or two each week, we have a home phone for him to use. It’s through Ooma, which is internet-based, not a traditional land line. The monthly bill is a minimal $4.50 and the initial set-up (hardware, etc) was under $100. If you want to give Ooma a try, that link should also get you a $20 credit (let me know if it’s not working).
Food – $426 We actually budgeted $450 to food this month, so I’m super happy with where we ended up, especially considering that about $100 of this was food just for Mike and I from our trip to Washington DC! You can see our monthly grocery haul here.
Fuel – $447 Our gas spending was pretty typical, even though Mike wasn’t commuting for the week we were at FinCon.
Houshold Misc – $200 A good portion of this was hobby spending for me. That makes it sound like “spending” is my hobby. 🙂 Actually it’s quilting! You wouldn’t have guessed that, would you?! I am in a quilting group and it’s my turn to be in charge of the quilt for Oct/Nov. That means I choose the design and buy most of the fabric. It will be a California King size quilt for our bed, so it’s huge. I also had a reader generously offer me her stash of cloth diapers that she had only used on one baby, so I paid for shipping them. Other than that, we replaced a shower head, picked up some regular toiletries, and some dollar tree “surprises” for our kids while we were out of town. What I’m really proud of is that I had budgeted $250 here and for the last week of the month purposefully resisted spending that last $50 of it! At the end of the month we rolled the excess from this (and other categories) to our extra mortgage payment!
Clothing – $26 I picked up a few things that the kids needed and also found a couple of end-of-season clearance deals that will fit the kids in the future.
Animals – $63 We bought three bags of chicken feed and 1 bag of cat food.
Kids’ Activities/School – $245 We knew this category would be way higher than normal because we had school sports to pay for three of our kids, so we planned for it.
Allowances – $60 We give our kids “practice money” as a weekly allowance. You can read all about why we decided to pay our kids allowance that’s NOT tied to chores, as well as all the details of when and how much in this recent blog post.
Fun – $66 Mike and I flew out a couple of days early for FinCon in Washington DC so we could do some sightseeing. This “fun” spending includes metro bus passes, postcards to send the kids at home, and souvenir T-shirts we got for our kids. Thankfully all of the Smithsonian museums and other sites were absolutely free, so the sightseeing portion of our trip was super economical. Plus, we had some Airbnb credit, so we didn’t have to pay out of pocket for our accommodations.
For most of our budget categories, we zero out what is left at the end of the month and send it to our mortgage payoff goal, but in our sinking funds we set aside money each month for future expenses and let it build up until we need it.
The amount in bold is the amount we added to the fund this month. Any spending is noted in the comments along with the current balance of each fund.
We do not have separate bank accounts for these funds. All of the money lives in our checking account. I’m not worried about getting the money mixed up because we spend according to our budget category balances, not our checking account balance. We seriously never even look at our checking balance unless we’re reconciling the account. We track our budget categories and spending in YNAB.
Medical/Dental – $400 We had to pay $150 for the nitrous oxide for two of our kids to have some dental work. We also paid some medical bills that came. In total we spent $424 this month. Current category balance is $3,287.
Car Maintenance – $300 We spent $869 on maintenance and repairs for our Honda Odyssey. Current category balance is $1,786.
Christmas – $100 We didn’t do any Christmas spending. Current category balance is $610.
Life Insurance – $75 Our premiums aren’t due until November, but if we put aside $75 each month we should cover them. Current category balance is $805.
Birthdays & Gifts – $40 We spent $28 from our gift fund this month. Current category balance is $224.
Car Registration & Smog – $40 We didn’t spend anything. Current category balance is $383.
Home Projects – $0 We aren’t actively putting money toward any home projects, but we did use some of this fund to buy an angle grinder and some supplies for our new clothesline. We spent $105. Current category balance is $311.
Family Fun Fund – $93 We spent $8 for fishing lures for a little Saturday morning fishing adventure the boys went on. The money added to this fund is from the OhmConnect program where you earn money for reducing your electricity during designated hours a few times a week. I have a blog post and a YouTube video that explain how it works if you’re in California or Texas and are interested in earning some easy money. Current category balance is $532.
Kids’ 529s – $125 I know that $25 per kid per month invested for college looks piddly, but we’re not as concerned about college costs as a lot of people. Scholarships, grants, loans, and jobs during school worked for us. We may accelerate this savings later, but it’s not our highest priority. You can read about our decision to start saving a little for college in this post.
IRA (Steph) – $500 $500 monthly will max out my $6,000 IRA contribution for 2019. Mike has about $700 each month deducted directly from his paycheck into a pension fund.
Mortgage Payoff Goal Progress
If you’re new here, our big goal right now is paying off our mortgage. We want to pay it off in 5 years, even though on paper right now it looks impossible. You can see all the numbers and details about our big goal here.
Our normal September mortgage payment of $3,454 includes principal, interest, property tax, homeowner’s insurance and PMI. Of that, $1,706 went to principal. In addition to the normal payment, we paid an additional $1,171 of principal.
That brings our totals to:
Current balance (after September 2019 payments): $321,972
Original balance of 15-year mortgage: $372,700
Balance at start of 5-year goal (Nov 2018): $363,171
Percent of 5-year goal reached: 11.34%
Percent of 5-year time elapsed: 18.33%. The elapsed number is bigger. We have some catching up to do.
You can get this hand-drawn brick house printable progress chart here. I love that it has LOTS of spaces (365 in total) so that we can color it in often and celebrate our progress! It would work great for paying off your mortgage OR saving for a down payment.
Whew! That was a lot of numbers. Thanks for reading our personal finances made public!
If you haven’t already done so, take a sec and report your Debt Smashing progress for August! 🙂
How About You?
- How did your budget and/or debt repayment go in September?
- Any big plans for October?
- Is anyone else a secret quilter?
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