April’s numbers are in, which include a tax refund! For the past two years we’ve had to pay at tax time, but this year we overpaid. By a lot! Between new tax laws, our businesses not growing like they have in past years, and that one time we accidentally paid $2000 instead of $200 for a quarterly estimated payment to the state of California (oops!) we had our largest tax refund ever.
Our combined refund (federal and state) was over $7,000. Before you start jumping out of your socks saying how “lucky” we are that we got a huge refund, let’s remember that the money we got back was all money that we had paid in taxes throughout the year. Except for the inadvertent overpayment to California, we paid estimated quarterly taxes on the “safe harbor” amount based on the previous year’s taxes.
We didn’t do anything fun with our tax refund. It wasn’t a windfall. It was our money and we were happy to get it back. In fact, it came at just the right time. We used $5,500 of it to put a new HVAC system into our Airbnb rental. The old propane heater died and was going to cost over $1,000 to repair. We’ve been eager to get rid of propane anyway, so we got a mini-split which takes the place of the propane heater and the evaporative cooler.
The rest of the tax refund worked into this month’s budget, mostly toward our mortgage payoff goal, as you’ll see below.
Before I get into our numbers I want to remind you to report your April progress in our community Debt Smash-athon! As soon as you finish reading here, go to the April Debt Smash-athon Report to let us know how you did (and get entered for the monthly prize). Remembr, we’re counting your debt paid, your contributions toward retirement, and/or your saving for a big goal!
I’ll report our progress as a group when I get all of the submissions in. If you’re not already receiving Debt Smash-athon updates, you can sign up here.
—On to the numbers!—
Income Earned In April — $8,652
We live on last month’s income. This income section shows the money we earned in April and will be spending in May. The spending section below shows the money we earned in March and spent in April.
Attorney Income $6,122 Mike works as an attorney full time 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 $1,220 My blog has been on the back burner lately with all that we have going on, but I’m grateful that it still produces an income despite my neglect.
Airbnb Income $1,310 We had a few Airbnb expenses this month which we deducted from gross revenue to get this income number. I purchased some new pillow cases and some sheets from Amazon. The sheets arrived with a stain, but the return label Amazon sent didn’t work, and rather than fight Amazon about it, I just purchased another set elsewhere. Those expenses are already deducted in this income number. Obviously I’m not accounting here for the new HVAC unit. We will be adding that extraordinary expense into the overall picture when tax time comes around. In case you didn’t see, I published a post recently that goes into detail about our Airbnb start up costs.
Spending in April
Each month we budget last month’s income down to zero. This is how we spent the money we earned in March (and the remainder of our tax refund after the HVAC purchase).
Tithing- $885— We always pay a 10% tithe on our income. This tithing (like all of our April spending) comes from the money we earned in March. You can read about why we continued paying a 10% tithe even when we were in debt.
Fast Offering- $80— Each month we 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 little PMI. We have a 15-year mortgage, but our big goal is to pay it off in 5. If you’re a numbers person, or are looking at mortgages yourself, Mike has a number-full description of our mortgage just for you.
Electricity- $192 April’s bill is less than half of March’s, which is happy news for sure! This includes a $30 “California Climate Credit” that we get twice a year, related somehow to income the state earns through auctioning off carbon emission credits. I’m not sure about all the details, but I’m not complaining.
Car Insurance- $168 We drive two older vehicles (1999 and 2005). We have been so impressed with the service and coverage that USAA provides. 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/are in the military, you’re probably eligible for USAA too!
Internet- $70 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- $45 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- $34 Our garbage collection bill comes every other month, so we set aside half each month.
Cell Phone (Steph)- $14 Republic Wireless no longer offers my plan to new customers, but you can now get a 1 GB plan for $20/month. That’s pretty sweet too. It’s what Mike has, but it’s a business expense for him, so never shows up here!
I had a reader recently tell me about Mint Mobile. It looks like another really great option for affordable cell phone service, especially if you want to bring your own phone. You can get data for a lot less than Republic Wireless. Definitely worth looking into if your cell phone bill is through the roof!
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 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, I think that link will also get you a $20 credit.
Food- $528 Not a stellar grocery month, for sure! Because of a hectic schedule, I never did a monthly grocery shopping trip. That means we had to go to the store more and spend more. Plus, we got more convenience foods (like frozen pizzas) that we normally do. Overall, a crazy food month.
Fuel- $387 Gas prices are going up, up, up as it gets closer to summer. Right now it’s around $3.91/gallon
Houshold Misc- $439 Another crazy-through-the-roof category this month. We renewed our Sam’s Club membership (wondering if a Sam’s Club membership is worth it for you? Read this). I spent about $50 on fabric to make Easter dresses and bow ties for our whole family. We got a new battery for our riding mower. We spent $120 on stuff from Home Depot to run an ethernet cable into our rental. We bought normal toiletries and household things, as well as some “special” occasion purchases like Tecnu for when half the family ran into some poison oak 😭.
Clothing- $17 I bought training underwear four our littlest guy. This is the best deal I found on the thicker, more absorbent ones. I used the last of my ThredUp credit, which went even further because they offered me free shipping. I’m not sure if everyone gets the “limited time free shipping” or not, but it’s worth a look!
Animals- $75 We bought two 40 lb bags of chicken feed, 44 lb of cat food, and 50 lb of wet cob. Any guesses on what that last item is for?
Kids’ Activities/School- $58 Our daughter performed at a pioneer event and needed a pioneer dress. Normally I would have made one, but I had just finished making Easter outfits for everyone. I was exhausted and very happy to pay for this cute one. We also paid for a field trip and dance class.
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- $0 Don’t worry. We had lots of free fun in April.
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 and let it build up until we need it.
The amount in bold is the amount that was 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 This month we had some major poison oak in our family, which required a doctor visit for two kiddos and two steroid prescriptions. It wasn’t pretty (and is still ongoing, actually). We also had an eye doctor co-pay. In total we spent $56. Current category balance is $2,345.
Car Maintenance- $300 We spent nearly what we contributed to our auto fund this month. We got a new battery for Mike’s car, and a new air filter and gas cap for the van. We also replaced a side mirror on the van after it suddenly exploded as I was driving in a residential area. My best guess is that it was shot with a BB gun. Current category balance is $1,746.
Christmas- $100 We spent $0. Current category balance is $290.
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 $355.
Birthdays & Gifts- $40 We spent $5. I took our 4-year-old to the dollar store on her birthday and let her pick out four things. I had some other fun gifts stashed away for her too. Current category balance is $199.
Car Registration & Smog- $40 We spent $0 from this fund this month. Current category balance is $241.
Home Projects- $0 We aren’t actively putting money toward any home projects right now. Current category balance is $706.
Family Fun Fund- $0 Formerly referred to as the Kids’ Fun Fund, this is where we put money that the kids earn together. Most of the money comes from the OhmConnect program where you earn money for reducing your electricity during designated hours a few times a week. Current category balance is $314.
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 seem to be. 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 state 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 April mortgage payment of $3,454 includes principal, interest, property tax, homeowner’s insurance and PMI. Of that, $1,661 went to principal. In addition to the normal payment, we paid an additional $1,837 of principal, using the entire remaining March income that wasn’t spent in other budget categories.
That brings our totals to:
Original balance of 15-year mortgage: $372,700
Balance at start of 5-year goal (Nov 2018): $363,171
Current balance (after April 2019 payments): $336,341
Percent of 5-year goal reached: 7.39%
Percent of 5-year time elapsed: 10%
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 April! 🙂
How About You?
- How did your budget and/or debt repayment go in April!?
- Any big plans for May?
This post contains affiliate links for products or services that we love and recommend.
I’m going to guess goats or sheep. Good luck with your new friend!
Did you get a horse? Horse people always tell me, “Oh, horses aren’t expensive!” and then spend half an hour running through their bills for that month: a new blanket, a vet bill, massage, a ferrier, food, supplements . . . If you bought a horse you might as well get used to always being six figures under!
Ha ha, yes! Horses are expensive! We are way too frugal to get a horse, you probably guessed that though. 😊 I’ll tell you soon.
REFUND, not return. Return is the thing you file. Refund is any money you get back.
Aaah! Thanks Rose. It’s corrected now.
Hello! I’ve followed you for quite some time and just wanted to say Bravo! for both what you are doing for your family’s finances but also by sharing openly you give hope and encouragement to others. My husband and I are in our 70’s and are retired. We started following Dave Ramsey in about 1990 and have followed a budget and been debt free for many, many years. We are able to enjoy these retirement years because of this and we are able to give like no one else now. One of our greatest pleasures now is being able to see some need and help to take care of it. So my very best wishes are with you as you continue your Debt Smashathon.
Thank you for your sweet words Florence.
Congratulations! I listen to Dave Ramsey a lot and the most difficult /sad calls to me are the people who didn’t save for retirement and still have debt.