Every month we make our personal finances public by sharing everything we earn, spend, save, and pay toward debt. We’ve been sharing our finances since September of 2013 (when we were in six figures of student loan debt) and haven’t missed a month!
Our hope is that getting an inside look at one family’s way of budgeting will give you ideas on how you can make budgeting work in your family. Of course everyone’s income and priorities are different, so everyone’s budget should be different too. We’re happy to answer questions about why we do things the way we do and we hope that you’ll be inspired to start (or restart, or continue) your own budget!
The Debt Smash-athon is back in 2020! If you’re working on paying off debt this year we would love to have you join us! If you’ve got savings goals instead of debt, you’re welcome to join in too! You can report your February debt payoff (and savings) progress right here!
Let’s jump into the numbers. If you want to see everything in our actual YNAB budget, check out the video below!
Income Earned In February – $9,464
We live on last month’s income. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, check out the video explaining how living on last month’s income changed our lives or the post explaining how we got to that point. The income section shown here is the money we earned in February, which has all been set aside to use in our March budget. The spending section below shows the money we earned in January and spent in February.
Attorney Income $6,716 – 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 $1,167 – My blogging income fluctuates a lot (it’s low this month) but I am really grateful that I’m still earning money from the long hours I put in back in the beginning.
If you are interested in learning more about how to earn an income blogging, there’s a free training tomorrow by Ruth Soukup that I’m super excited about where she’s talking about the mistakes all bloggers make and how to fix/avoid them! I’m sure I’m making at least some of them still, so I’m totally attending the free training too!
Airbnb Income $1,581 – We’re thankful to be able to earn extra income by renting out the one-bedroom apartment on our property. 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 February
Each month we budget the previous month’s income down to zero. This is how we spent the money we earned in January.
Tithing – $1,184 We always pay a 10% tithe on our income. This tithing (like all of our February spending) comes from the money we earned in January. 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 – $2,781 This is our newly refinanced mortgage. Mike will share a complete post with all of the details really soon.
Electricity – $338 Our electric bill covers both our home and our Airbnb rental. We haven’t been using our central heat this year, just our wood stove and/or bundling up. Thankfully it doesn’t get too terribly cold here. The rental, on the other hand, has electric heat which is used whenever our Airbnb is booked, which is nearly all the time.
Car Insurance – $165 We have our two vans on our insurance. 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 are grateful to have an internet connection right here in the comfort of our home. 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.
Water – $80 After our last bill was crazy high, we decided to set more aside each month for this bill which comes every other month. We also got official notice that our rates will be rising steadily over the next five years, so this will likely get even higher!
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 (for just a little longer), 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 also handy for the older kids to be able to call us when they are babysitting at home. 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).
Orthodontist – $61 Since our oldest gets her braces adjusted every other month, we chose to treat this as a monthly bill rather than pay it all up front. These payments will last for the two years that she has braces.
Disability Insurance- $200 Mike got several quotes for disability insurance over the past few months. We finally made the decision at the end of February and purchased a policy from Mass Mutual. We decided to pay the annual expense up front. The total was just over $2,200. We had set aside $200 in January and $200 in February for disability insurance and we took the other $1,817 from the emergency fund. In the future we will budget $151 each month for disabilty insurance and pay it back to the emergency fund. This might seem odd to use the emergency fund for this, but since we have a good chunk of money there ($25K+) and we’ll be paying ourselves back, we feel good about it. This will save us $60 over the year that we would pay in extra charges if we paid premiums monthly instead of annually.
Food – $514 In addition to what I bought in our $300 monthly grocery haul we got 80lb of apples from a local orchard for a great price, got pizza once, and stocked up on a great deal I found at Grocery Outlet on Smuckers Natural jam. We also bought some groceries for our weekend getaway, and bought additional bread and milk during the month.
Fuel – $402 This is pretty standard gas spending for us. Current gas prices are sitting right at $3/gallon, which is great!
Houshold Misc – $178 In addition to normal toiletries and household odds and ends, Mike and I both got RealIDs which cost $30 each. Mike is building a go-kart with the boys at church and bought some supplies for that. Also, Mike forgot his parking pass one day (we had a van in the shop and they gave us a loaner car), so he had to pay $24 to park at work! One of the downsides of working downtown.
Clothing – $0 Well, I actually spent 19 cents. I had a $5 credit at The Children’s Place, so I used it to buy some leggings for our younger daughter. I love that they have free shipping on every order!
Animals – $139 We have two dogs now to add to our chickens and outdoor cats. We won’t be spending this much every month, but we bought a lot of pet food in February!
Kids’ Activities/School – $360 We had several kid activity expenses this month including a wrestling tournament and honor band. We signed the three older kids up for swim team which starts in April. I used $300 from this budget and $475 from the Family Fun Fund which you can see down in our sinking funds.
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 blog post.
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 sits 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 – $300 We still have medical bills coming in from the birth of our new baby, but we only spent $21 in February. We used to put $400 per month here, but I think we’ll be good with putting just $300 now, since we have a good chunk saved up. Current category balance is $4,033.
Car Maintenance – $300 We spent $459 on the Odyssey to fix the serpentine belt and figure out why it snapped suddenly while I was driving. Current category balance is $2,814.
Christmas – $100 We didn’t do any Christmas spending in February. Current category balance is $132.
Life Insurance – $75 Our premiums aren’t due until November, but if we put aside $75 per month we should have them covered. Current category balance is $300.
Birthdays & Gifts – $40 We actually spend $79 in this category for some upcoming birthdays and parties. Current category balance is $140.
Car Registration & Smog – $40 We spent $126 to renew the registration on one of our vans. Current category balance is $417.
Family Fun Fund – $38 We added to this fund with money we earned from OhmConnect. We used money from this fund to cover $475 of swim team for the summer for our three older kiddos ($775 total for the three big kids). We also used most of what was left in this fund for some for horseback riding for the kids on a little family retreat we had in February (we used credits we had with Airbnb, so the horses were the only expense of our little two-night adventure). Current category balance is $17.
Car Fund – $550 – We have a new sinking fund to save up to buy a used Prius for Mike to commute in. We’re planning to have $10,000 saved by the end of the year. He’s been driving our second van (the one we were going to sell after we bought our 8-seater) ever since his car was totaled by a deer. Current category balance is $4,082.
Kids’ 529s – $125 I know that $25 per kid per month invested for college isn’t much, but we’re not as concerned about college costs as some people. Scholarships, grants, loans, and jobs during school worked for us. We may accelerate this savings later, but it’s not our highest priority right now. 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 2020. 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. It looks kind of impossible on paper right now, but we’ll figure it out. You read about our mortgage-payoff goal here and see more of the mortgage numbers here.
In addition to the $1,447 of our normal payment that went toward principal, we also had $2,146 in additional principal payments
That brings our totals to:
Current balance (after February 2020 payments): $306,551
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: 15.59%
Percent of 5-year time elapsed (16 mo): 26.67%. We hope to do some catching up in the next few months.
The 6-month goal we set for Day 1 of the Frugal Fresh Start Challenge is to put an additional $25,000 toward our mortgage by June 30th). So far we have put $4,216 toward that goal.
We should have some bigger payments coming in soon with an upcoming tax refund and some private law firm income that will be coming in as Mike finishes a few matters that have taken a long time to finish up. He’s essentially done with his private practice, just some straggling matters nearing their end.
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 February! 🙂
How About You?
- How did your budget and/or debt repayment go in February?
This post contains affiliate links for products or services that we love and recommend.