It’s months like this that I’m really glad we budget the way that we do. As you’ll see below, we made some big purchases (we finally got a new bed!) and if we didn’t budget, we would probably unknowingly (or knowingly) overspend. Keeping track of everything makes it easy to know when we’re going to exceed our budget in a category (before it happens!) so we can move things around to make it work.
Knowing that our big purchases would make things tight, I cut down our grocery budget as well as some of our sinking fund categories. I didn’t make a big monthly shopping trip, just a couple of small ones, and we did just fine. In fact, I’m planning to eat from the pantry again next month to keep October’s grocery budget down too.
For those of you who don’t get my emails or follow me on Instagram, you probably didn’t hear the news… It’s a BOY! Our little one was born at the beginning of September. You probably guessed that though, since I’ve been a little absent around here lately.
Adjusting to having a fifth child is a lot easier than adjusting to one, or two, or three, so life hasn’t been too crazy. Having older kids to help really is a game changer. My big kids are 9, 8, and almost 6 and they have been super helpful with the younger two.
Even though we’ve been taking it easy, we still keep up with our budget. It’s the only way we’re able to stick to our goals and honestly, it’s such an ingrained habit now that I can’t imagine not budgeting!
Here are all of our numbers for September:
Our total income for September was $7,952. Since we live on last month’s income, this is money that we’re waiting to spend in October.
Attorney Income (Day Job)– $5,741 Mr. SixFiguresUnder has been working full-time as an attorney for the state of California since the fall of 2015. His actual take-home pay was $4,610 but I add back in the cost of the benefits (insurance, dental, vision, parking, union dues and retirement) that are automatically taken out of his check so that you can see what happens to the money that never makes it home.
Attorney Income (Private Practice)– $0 On top of working full-time, my husband has a part-time private law practice on the side. He started it to help speed up our debt payoff and because he had clients from his days at a small firm that didn’t want to let him go. This income fluctuates greatly from month to month. He didn’t spend a lot of time on this work in September as he was busy being super dad with the kids and the new baby.
My Income (Blog)– $2,211 The income that I report is the income that I received this month minus all of my blogging expenses. Of this, I set 30% ($663) aside for self-employment taxes (which is currently covering the estimated quarterly payments for both of our businesses) and the remainder ($1,548) goes into the family budget.
If you’re interested in the details of my blogging income and expenses as well as other blogging tips and resources, you can sign up for my Behind-the-Scenes Blogging emails to get the scoop.
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Each month we budget down to zero using last month’s income. When we started doing this, it literally changed our lives! For more about how living on last month’s income works and how you can get started, check out my free Guide to Getting a Month Ahead Financially.
Our spending in September came from the income we earned in August. Here’s how we spent money in September.
Other Giving– $80 Other charitable donations this month.
Mortgage/Rent– $2,700 We’ve been paying a nice even $2,500/month (slightly more than the actual mortgage payment), but last month my husband’s paycheck increased $200 (thanks to a union agreement or something) so we decided to channel that extra $200 straight to the mortgage. While we have other savings goals and spending goals, we decided to earmark this extra money for the mortgage. Curious about our mortgage? You can read more about why we got a conventional mortgage instead of FHA or USDA and then why we didn’t wait for a 20% down payment.
Electricity– $338 Our highest electric bill yet! We are pretty careful about our electricity usage and have specific strategies to keep our bill down in the summer, but August was really hot. Keep in mind that our electric bill covers the small rental we have on our property as well.
We have been really motivated by the OhmConnect program which lets you earn extra money for saving power. My kids think it’s super fun to save power now. If you’re in California, Toronto or Texas, you should definitely check it out! If you connect your utilities to your account in October you’ll get a $5 bonus.
Water– $47 Our water bill comes every other month, so I just set aside approximately half of what I expect the bill to be (or what it is).
Trash– $35 Our bill for trash service comes every other month. This is half of it. We’re currently paying for curbside pickup, but that’s not the only way to do it. If you’re trying to cut every expense to its bare minimum, here are some ideas to save on trash service.
Internet– $50 After surviving so long without internet, I’m thrilled to be paying an internet bill (and a nice low one too)! It’s been months now, and I still stop during the day and marvel at how wonderful and remarkable it is to have internet access in my very own home. We won’t quickly forget what it’s like to go without it.
Home Phone- $4 Since my husband works at home a day or two each week, we decided to get a home phone for him to use. It’s Ooma, which is internet-based, not a traditional land line. The monthly service is very cheap and the set-up (hardware, etc) is under $100 (and my link will get you a $20 Amazon gift card on top of it!).
Republic Wireless Cell Phones– $13 We’ve been using Republic Wireless as our cell phone carrier for over two years now. This covers the cost of service for my phone, including all taxes and fees (we’re on the Republic Refund plan). My husband also has a Republic phone which he uses for his private practice, but that’s a business expense, not a family budget expense. If your cell phone bill is killing you, I definitely recommend that you check them out!
Health Insurance– $408 We have insurance through my husband’s employer. This is the portion of the insurance premium that his employer does not cover. It includes health, dental and vision insurance premiums and comes straight out of his paycheck.
Car Insurance– $140 Our auto insurance at USAA is fabulous! In addition to the wonderful coverage, they also give us dividends at the end of the year, which is always a nice treat. We’re able to get insurance with USAA because my father-in-law was in the service years ago. If you, your parent, or your spouse were in the military, you’re probably eligible for USAA too!
Food– $263 With a new baby born at the beginning of the month, I didn’t do my normal big grocery shop. We just ate what we already had in the pantry and freezer. Plus, friends from church brought in meals for several days after I got back from the hospital, which was really wonderful. With all of our other spending (which I’ll detail below), I tried to keep grocery shopping to a minimum this month.
Gas– $381 Is it crazy that we spend more on feeding our cars than on feeding our mouths? Anyone else do that?
Parking– $155 Working downtown means paying for parking. It comes straight out of my husband’s paycheck, which means it is paid for with pre-tax dollars, a small consolation.
Clothing– $24 I scored some great summer clearance clothes for the kids and also found some great thrift store buys. I had a few returns from last month too which gave an additional $20 back to the clothing category in our budget (meaning I actually spent $44).
Household– $252 Our household budget was a higher than I’d like it to be. In addition to normal toiletries, I bought some storage tubs (on clearance after the back-to-school season), reusable lunch bags (also on great clearance after back-to-school), disposable diapers (to last the first six weeks or so, then we’ll go to cloth), a new toilet seat with kid seat built-in (love these!), freezer bags, mattress protector and deep pocket sheets for our new bed, and a few other random things.
Fun– $30 Our kids love buffets, so we went out to eat at Golden Corral for a late birthday dinner for my 8-year-old and me. If you sign up for their email list you get a coupon for a free meal around your birthday (buy one, get one). You can sign up your family members in your same account. I was afraid they wouldn’t let us use to free meals at the same time, but they did! So we paid for one adult and two kids and got an adult and kid’s dinner free (the 2-year-old and newborn were free, too). So our whole family had a “fancy” (according to my 9-year-old) meal for our family of seven (well, six that eat solids!).
Kids– $80 This money was totally unnecessary. Just the result of bad planning. My kids needed sports physicals so they could run on the cross country team. Easy, I thought. I’ll just take the form over to their doctor to fill out. Well apparently it has been more than two years since their last physical, which means they are due for another. The doctor could not complete the forms without first doing another physical exam, and the soonest appointment for a physical was two months away. The docotor’s office suggested I take the kids to an urgent care office for sports physicals. I had to pay $40 out of pocket for each one. Ugh.
Home Improvement– $1,010 We’ve expanded our “home improvement” category to pretty much be the long list of expensive things we plan to buy or update in the coming months. This is where things got a little crazy. We actually spent $1,874, but we have been putting some aside into this budget category each month, and had a balance, so only $1,010 came out of this month’s money.
As I mentiond last month, we planned to get a along-awaited bed. A few days before the baby was born we bought a Cal King bedroom set we found on Craigslist for $300. We kept the dressers, end tables, mirrors, headboard, and bed frame, but we weren’t interested in keeping the mattress. The seller was a retiring general contractor and had tools for sale at great prices, so we also came home with a table saw, a router and router table, and another weed whacker, all for $250.
A few days after the baby was born, we found a firm mattress we liked at a discount mattress store for under $500. Instead of getting box springs, we bought 2 pieces of plywood to put on the bed frame and then put the bed on risers (so it would be higher and we would have storage underneath). My husband also wanted to get a fancy talalay latex foam topper for our bed. He did the research and was sold on them. For a 2″ Cal King topper it was $310.
At a yard sale, I found matching comforters for the girls room. I went online to get matching sheets and found a great deal at Macy’s. The trouble (or good thing) was that I found a great deal on new comforters for the whole family (3 for the triple bunk in the boys’ room, a Cal King size for our room, and a queen for the guest room). They were $30 each and included comforters, sheets, pillowcases, shams, and bedskirts. A great deal, but an unexpected purchase, so we had to move money around.
Another unexpected purchase was a longer extension ladder so that my husband could take care of some woodpecker damage to our house. Having a ladder that will allow him to reach every part of our house will come in handy as home owners and will allow us to save money in the future by being able to take care of problems and fixes on our own instead of hiring someone. Still, it wasn’t in September’s budget. We had to pull $260 out of other categories to cover it.
All in all, we spent a lot more than we had planned in this category, but we fit it all into the monthly budget by spending (and saving) less in other areas.
Animals– $22 We bought cat food for our outdoors cats. We encourage them to catch rodents, but we do give them cat food too.
Tax Prep– $90 Our tax advice and preparation plan allows the cost to be spread over the year.
Supplemental Property Tax– $158 The property tax that is escrowed with our mortgage doesn’t include the increase in taxes that comes from the reassessment at the sale of a property. California property tax law is a peculiar thing and we don’t need to cover all the details, but in short, when a property changes hands, the property tax bill generally goes up. This wasn’t a fun notice to find in the mail. If we set aside this much in each month, we will have enough for the bill when it’s due.
Now that we’re done funneling every extra cent toward debt, we are using sinking funds in our budgeting. This is money that we set aside each month into certain categories where it builds up until we need it.
Dental– $0 We normally put $30 in a sinking fund for dental expenses, but we didn’t contribute to it this month.
Car Repair– $100 We would have like to put $150 in for future car repairs, but we had to re-allocate some of it to another category.
Medical– $73 We contributed $200 to the medical category this month, but $127 of that was used this month. We had SIX $15 co-pays for office visits this month! I think that’s more than we had all last year (or mayber two years). Usually we just go in for well-checks. Right now we have $893 saved in our medical fund. We should be getting bills soon from the doctor and hospital for baby’s delivery. Those bills are always a mystery until they show up.
Car Registration & Smog– $0 I skipped this in September. Normally we put $20 in.
Christmas– $0 I had set aside $50 for our Christmas sinking fund, but did a little Christmas shopping and spent $147 on Christmas gifts. This is earlier than I usually do my shopping. It’s kind of fun! Right now we just have $78 left in our Christmas sinking fund.
Life Insurance– $70 If we put aside $70 each month, we will have our premiums set aside when they’re due later this fall.
Gifts– $0 Our budget included $35 for a gifts sinking fund, but we ended up spending all $35 this month instead. I purchased a few gifts for my 8-year-old son’s birthday as well as a gift for a party my daughter went to.
Retirement– $539 With my husband’s state job, this amount comes directly out of his paycheck and into his state retirement fund.
College Savings– $100 We contribute $25 per month per child to 529 accounts. It’s not much, but it’s a start. More on our decision to start saving for college in this post.
Here’s a quick look at our current savings goals. We’ve taken care of taxes, the cost of getting internet installed, and saving for a new (used) car.
The next goal is to beef up our our emergency fund. We’ve set the goal amount at $25,000, so we still have a long way to go! During September, we added $1,400 to our emergency fund, which brings the total up to $9,500.
In addition to our financial goals for 2017 and beyond, we’re also saving for some larger items. To make this list, an item must potentially cost $1,000 or more (sometimes much more).
California King bed
- Desktop Computer— Last year, as we were saving for our house, our desktop computer died. We were eager to replace it, but more eager to get a house. We don’t have a TV, so the computer has been our screen for watching occasional movies. We’ve been getting by using our laptops, but are looking forward to having our normal set-up back.
- Garage Door— Our garage door needs to be replaced (both door and motor). The estimate is something like $2,400.
- Privacy Hedge— We want to plant some sort of hedge along the roadside of our house. Hopefully we can get something planted in the fall/winter when temperatures are milder.
We have prioritized them and will be saving and spending from our “Home Improvement” category for these purchases.
How About You?
- I’d love to hear about how your budget and/or debt repayment went in September
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