Living on Less Than $28,000 A Year: Managing the Money

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Living on Less Than $28,000 A Year: How our family of six survives (and even thrives) on an income that is less than half the national median income, and what the government calls “below the poverty line” (less than $29,990 annually) for our family size.

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Click here to read other posts in this series.


To get things started I’m going to share a money management technique that helps us to stay on track with our budget. There are many ways to manage your finances and many online resources, I am simply sharing what works for us. The key to managing your finances well is to find a system that works for you. (By the way, if it’s not the way I do it, you won’t hurt my feelings.)

(If your eyes just glazed over you may want to wait for the next installment in which I will be talking about something less math-related. :))



Living on Less Than 28000 a Year -- How We Manage Our Money 1 -- The Peaceful Mom



First of all, let me say that growing up was financially confusing. I had a father who was a super spender, had more credit cards than photos in his wallet and left us with quite the load of debt when he divorced my mother. My mother on the other hand was super frugal. That woman could do miracles with a dollar bill and she loved to save them. She always had a rainy day fund.

Fast forward to my adult life. I decided the spending route was more fun and ended up in several thousand dollars worth of debt before I was 22 years old. Thankfully I married a man without any debt, but neither of us had any financial training.

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After having four children in five and a half years with no real financial plan, I realized we were in trouble. While researching on the internet I stumbled upon The Cheapskate Monthly newsletter (now Debt Proof Living) and immediately signed up for a subscription. Mary Hunt rocked my world with a little concept called the “Freedom Account.”

The Freedom Account is a separate checking or savings account that you set up for irregular expenses. Mary Hunt’s idea is to calculate your irregular expenses (the ones that aren’t monthly) like car insurance, clothing, medical expenses, car maintenance, Christmas, etc. and then divide the amount by 12. That amount is what you should be depositing into the Freedom Account each month (you can divide it further if you are paid weekly or biweekly). She suggests automatic withdrawal from your paycheck so you don’t have time to decide if you are going to spend it on something else.

When it’s time to pay a bill from one of those categories, the money is there in your second account and you don’t have to use credit cards to pay that “surprise” bill. (If we’re honest, we knew that the bill was coming, we just didn’t want to think about it.)

I liked the idea, but because I tend to look at the checkbook balance and spend whatever is there, I had to adapt her plan. Here is what I do:

Each week on pay day, I have a morning money appointment. I write the direct deposit amount from my husband’s check in our checkbook register and subtract our weekly gas and grocery money (I will take the grocery money out in cash before shopping.). (You can see my weekly shopping here and my $100 Budget Weekly Menus here.) [UPDATE: We have increased the budget to $125/week. You can see the new $125 Budget Weekly Menus here.]

I then transfer the remaining money into our second checking account. As an example, let’s say I transfer $376 from each paycheck from now until the end of March.


I note the deposit on my spreadsheet and update each category with the new amount. (You can see a larger view and read all the gory details here.) You can use something like Excel or Quickbooks, but I like a paper and pencil version because I’m just nerdy like that.

If there happens to be extra money (my husband gets some sales commission and has a part time job that he can work a few hours a week when work is available), we have a quick meeting to discuss where the money is going. If there are multiple needs, we prioritize (daughter #1 needs a hair cut, but that will have to wait because daughter #2 just out grew her shoes).

If you look closely at the spreadsheet you will notice that we are only funding the first four categories with this month’s paychecks. As extra money comes in we will add money to the other categories, but right now I don’t sweat it. The priorities are rent, utilities, food, gas and insurance. We don’t have an emergency fund right now {UPDATE Jan. 2013: We now have a $1000 Emergency Fund!}, but if we had an emergency we would take money from the account that has the farthest due date from today, so hopefully we would have time to replenish it before the bill is due.

On paper, it sometimes looks impossible. I will talk more about that in a future post, but let’s just say we realize we are on the edge and we have to trust that until we can increase our income everything will work out.

By using the Freedom Account in this way, we can see exactly what is going on and have a little bit of a backup plan without resorting to credit card use. (We don’t have any by the way.) We truly have to discern what is a need versus what is a want and I’m not always good at that, but I’m getting better. :)



If you are a great money manager and a whiz at Quickbooks, this entire post probably seems ridiculous. But then if you are a great money manager, maybe you aren’t reading this post.

If your current system isn’t working and this idea seems like it might work for you, here’s what you need to do:

1. Take a look at the spreadsheet and explanation here.

2. Set up a separate checking account. We have both of our accounts at the same bank so we can easily transfer the money once our check is deposited.

3. Print out the blank Freedom Account Page here. Fill in a few categories. If you want to just do irregular expenses, make an educated guess as to how much you spend on each category for the year, then divide by 12. That is the monthly amount you need to deposit (divide by 2 for bi-weekly paycheck, 4 for weekly paycheck).

4. Make a pay day appointment with yourself and write it in your calendar.

5. On payday, make the transfer to your Freedom Account (or set it up to transfer automatically).

6. Fill in your spreadsheet (use Quickbooks, an Excel spreadsheet or print my form here). If this is too overwhelming, you could sign up for or Dave Ramsey’s FREE budgeting website, which many readers have recommended.

6. ONLY spend the money from the Freedom Account on the designated categories. (Do not look at the balance of $300 and say,”Oh goody, now I can buy that expensive pair of designer shoes I have been wanting.”)


If this post overwhelmed you, don’t panic. You can start with opening a second checking account and keeping a spreadsheet with only a few categories.

What tools do you use to help you manage money? Leave a comment and let us know how it works for you. :)


next post in this series: Diapers and Swimming Pools

Click here to read other posts in this series. 


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  1. says

    We have been using a freedom account for years and I love it! By having everything so planned out and taken care of with the freedom account we rarely have true emergencies.

  2. karen b says

    just printed the blank freedom account page. we are working on reworking our budget once again. we are going to try this. we need it more for those non monthly expences like car & life ins. was also wondering what your husbands occupation is? if not comfortable sharing totally understand. looking forward to next installment:)

  3. katie says

    I love this idea!!! I’m great with my spreadsheet for all of the regular monthly stuff but it’s those other expected but only once in awhile things that I find it harder to deal with like vehicle registrations, vaccinations for the pets etc. Thank you for writing this series. I look forward to it and you motivate me so much for sharing something that I can relate to and while we make more(2 income house) we are paying down debt before my husband gets out of the army in about 18 months and I am eventually going to quit to go back to school full time. It shows how possible it is for a family to do well on what some people wouldn’t consider much. GREAT JOB!

  4. Rebecca says

    Our family has 2 more than you do, but my husband is self-employed. How would you recommend doing the financials with that? He makes about what your husband does.

    • says

      Rebecca, I would do something similar. When we took the Dave Ramsey class he said that with irregular income you basically make a prioritized list of what has to be paid, so for example: 1. Rent/Mortgage 2. Utitlities 3. Food 4. Gas for the car, etc.. (Dave actually puts food first, but I have found that if we make it a priority to pay the rent, God always makes sure we have food.). You then work down the list and pay what you can. Whatever is left goes back on the list for the next paycheck. Does that make sense?

  5. bella01 says

    I am very lucky, my husband has a very secure job and is very well paid. He is also a money wizard. I am terrible with money, I used to spend a good 800 + on food each month, I used to spend around 2,000 each month on myself and my kids. We can afford me doing this, but one night when I was surfing the web, I found your blog and read the majority of it! A very late night! I went to bed feeling very ashamed with myself and very disgusted at how easily I spend and then throw away things. So I slashed my spending to just over 400 a month on food. I spend a huge amount less each month on myself and the kids and have learnt a valuable word NO! I have also really enjoyed being creative with money and myself.
    Due to your blog, my marriage has improved. My husband respects me more for taking control of my spending and myself. It has given me more confidence, a good Can do attitude , instead of the attitude I had before. So thank you for all your advice. I hope this all makes sense and I don’t sound like some spoilt house wife.
    I am very thankful for your blog and all the advice you give.

    • says

      Wow Bella! I am humbled. Thank you so much for letting me know that the blog has helped you so much. And CONGRATULATIONS! Cutting your grocery bill in half is amazing. Keep up the good work. :)

  6. Emilie says

    I also keep a sheet (pen and paper) with 37 or more categories on it. I calculated how much for the year we need and divided it by 26 for the pay periods. My husband and I both teach full time and get paid on the same weeks so I spend that Friday night doing my “banking”.
    Here are my categories: school loan, truck loan, tracotor loan, electricity, water, cell phone, land line, gas, church, St. Vinnies, Household (cash), groceries (cash), prescrpitions/medical, hotlunch (1 day per week), sports, school for the boys, daycare, clothing/shoes, homeimprovement/lawn, vehicle registrations, camper storage, oil changes, car repairs, boat, hair cut, eating out, movie rentals, holidays/extra groceries, vacation, life insurance, property taxes, debt, mortage, home equity, statefarm (vehicles, home owners, life).

    I have a checking, savings and 6 side savings accounts the bank that are labeled as: home, vehicles, recreation, taxes, debt, extra savings.

    Easch pay day a specific amt is put into each side account and I keep the balance in an indivudal check book register (free at the bank) and the amount in each category on my sheet of paper.

    Any extra right now is going into the “debt” account to make payments on our credit card (almost paid off).

    It is nice that the money is there but to spend it I have to go on the computer and make a transfer to my checking. It makes me really think if it is worth the effort and making the balance go down on the sheet.

  7. Lyn says

    Hi Kimberlee,
    Thank you for sharing your method. We keep a zero-based budget on paper. A few things are paid by checking, but most of our categories are done with the envelope method. I find that this works well because I can go to the money right away and use it if need be for that category and I cannot overspend. I found that trying to keep track of everything in one account was too difficult.

    We have an emergency account so anything left over after the checking and envelopes will go there directly (at least 65-70%). This way we are not tempted to spend. The remaining money I divide amongst the envelopes, adding to them in order of need. This is when my husband works overtime. If he doesn’t, the budget is tight and accounted for as mentioned.

    God always seems to work it out. We have been able to save, even on an income of about $2k net/or less (this includes overtime) per month. We are trying to put aside about 20-25% monthly when possible. We have an older car that will kick the bucket eventually and we are working hard to put away all that we can so we can buy a used car with cash at some point. Just hoping it’s later rather than sooner. :)

    • says

      I like the idea of the envelope method, but I just find that if I see the cash I spend it. That is great that you put all of your extra into your emergency account. Hopefully your car will last and you won’t have to use it too soon. :)

  8. Lyn says

    That’s kind of funny you mention that because I have the opposite challenge and tend to spend more if it’s in my checking account, lol. I guess we all have to find what works best for us individually. I don’t think any system is probably perfect. I know we have our own challenges at times. It doesn’t always run as smoothly as hoped, but we just do our best. Thanks for the good thoughts. :)

  9. Patti says

    I love the Freedom Account concept. We have one set up, too. We use two little ledger books – one is for our monthly expenses (mortgage, tithe, telephone, natural gas, electric, etc.) and the other is for our Freedom Account ( insurance deductibles, taxes, vacations, home improvements, etc.) Each year we update the $$ amounts according to our paycheck. It truly does keep you from having any “emergencies” as you always are planning for them. We are not completely in tune with our needs (for example, we do not have any money saved to replace our car), but we are way ahead of most folks. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series to gain inspiration in making ends meet.

    • says

      Not a stupid question at all. Sorry I wasn’t clear. All of the money from each paycheck is deposited into our main account, so let’s say the deposit is $536. I transfer the $376 into the second or “freedom” account, then there is $100 left for groceries and $60 left for gas in the main account. Does that make sense?

  10. mNewcomb says

    What works for us is putting everything on a credit card. We pay it off in full at the end of every month. My husband’s checks are always so random, we may only get $300 for 3 weeks and then get a bigger check the fourth week…he is paid piece rate. I am usually pretty good about deciding what is a need and what is a want. I know this doesn’t work for everyone but my husband and I run purchases by each other all the time for anything that isn’t a necessity such as gas and groceries. At the end of the month it always seems to work its self out. I know it’s not the best way to do things because we don’t have an exact budget, but because my husband drives a lot for work we can’t put a budget on gas because it always differs. We hope once he finishes school to find a better paying job and to finally get a set budget!

  11. says

    I love how you describe yourself as living on the edge! I always tell my husband that we aren’t in that credit card debt hole anymore, and I finally feel like we have taken one big step back from the edge.

    As for us, I have tried Quicken and, but I find that me and Excel are the best team. I am also not great with cash. It transforms itself into fountain drinks at the nearest gas station.

    Thanks for your blog!

  12. sarah says

    I just stumbled upon your site, and I want to thank you for your posts. My husband and I struggled on an income of 23k in the Washington D.C area, when we had 3 young children and he was in graduate school. It was not easy, and I could have worked and earned over 70k with my language and academic skills, however it felt completely wrong to leave the children with a babysitter, so we just lived in a tiny apartment for a few years and made do. I will never regret that decision. Thank you for your example. Keep up the great posts, and may God bless you!

    • says

      Sarah, I just love what I heard Jon Acuff say recently about putting life with your children on hold:” The years you lose are not for sale later.” I commend you for making a huge sacrifice for the sake of your children. Blessings!

      • Stephanie says

        You ladies are wonderful! Here I have been feeling guilty for being a stay at home mom/ full-time student while my husband works. He brings in 32k/yr, and things are tight! I am constantly trying to learn new ways to budget our money better and actually get to save some. When we are having a bad month, I feel so bad that I do not have a job, and am not contributing to our finances. Even though my husband and I have talked about it many times, because I have been out of work for 3 years, what I would bring home in a paycheck would just go towards daycare for our 2 children. Plus I love being a stay at home mom. I love taking my son to school every morning, and being home all day with our soon to be 4 year old. My husband loves that I stay home as well. I never thought about it the way you did, I always thought I was doing more harm because we were constantly struggling and never had the money to go out and do things with the kids, or go on family vacations or anything like that. But you have given me a whole new perspective on things! This blog is extremely helpful and encouraging, I am so glad I found the Pin about it on pinterest!! Thank you so much!

        • says

          Hi Stephanie–I am so glad that I could encourage you. What you are doing is immeasurable and while you can’t see the benefits now, you are doing something for your children that cannot be purchased with money. Keep up the good work!

          • says

            Listening to your discussion here has helped me a lot, thank you! My husband has a stable job but we have 5 children ages 9 and under. I’m a stay at home mom because we feel it’s beneficial to our kids but also because it really isn’t cost effective to pay a baby sitter, or day care center to watch our kids. Our last child spent a while in the NICU at the hospital (Born with Pneumonia) and it depleted what we had in our savings account as well as the money we had been putting aside for the kids’ savings accounts. Now my husbands car broke down this week and is non fixable and so we are going to have to purchase him a new car to get him to and from work. I’ve been feeling very stressed over the lack of putting money back into the kids accounts and wanted a way to cut back on non-essential items. I’m hoping to try and implement some of the items you’ve suggested. Thanks!

          • says

            Hi Heather–Hang in there! It is difficult when you have medical bills to pay. I am just glad that your child is okay now. I pray that God will show you a way through this hardship and that He will encourage you along the way.

        • Krista says

          Stephanie, you sound just like me. I graduated last year with an education degree but I will be taking another academic year at home because we had our first baby in Dec and im not ready to leave her. I have struggled with guilt about not working and contributing for several years (i only worked a little bit while going to school). I know that we will have to put off our dreams a little longer but I feel its worth it and my husband agres because he is not ready for anyone else to take care of our baby either.
          Im so glad I found this info because I spent hours trying to start a dave ramsey budget and finally gave up.

          art a

  13. says

    I am going to more thoroughly read through all your ideas and see which ones I can implement into our lives. It would be impossible for us to live on less than 28,000 though… I work 3 part time jobs and hubby is self employed as a struggling insurance agent after losing his job 5 years ago. Our mortgage for a 1,800 sq foot, 12 yr old home- basic ranch style is $16,800 yr, and health insurance comes to $14,400 a year for the 3 of us (we have 4 grown children, 1 teenager still at home). So to have a roof and health insurance comes to $31,200 a year. We are barely making that and we still have his office bills/rent, utilities for our home, food, medical bills and more.

    See the problem? We have tried refinancing but we don’t make enough to qualify. We can’t get food stamps – not that I particularly want to, but we own 2 old vehicles and were told to get rid of one to qualify. We live in the desert (110+F in the summer) and my office is a mile or more away.

    Anyhow, I want to see what I CAN do to try to cut out some expenses or somehow make more money. Your blog is darling and a fun read. Thanks

    • says

      Hi Bev! I’m glad you’re here. Sounds like you have quite a challenge on your hands. Hopefully I can share some ideas that will help you to cut expenses. I do know that God is faithful and if you ask Him, He will help. Blessings!

    • Judy says

      Hi Bev, have you considered a health sharing arrangement such as Christian Healthcare Ministries? Their costs are very straightforward and much less expensive than traditional insurance. It might be worth looking into for you!

    • Amariah says

      Many years ago we struggled with a higher mortgage payment, and ultimately moved to a smaller, cheaper house so that I could stay home with out kids. Going for cheaper things always works to spend less. Not meant to sound mean or anything, but sometimes it’s what it comes down to. Prioritize & know what you can afford.

    • says

      Hi Ladina. If we were paid once a month then I would do the following:
      1. open a second account;
      2. divide my irregular expenses by 12;
      3. on pay day I would pay the rent or mortgage and utility bills for that month (or put the money into the second account in those categories);
      4. transfer the irregular expense money into the second account and update the categories on the spreadsheet;
      5. leave the grocery and gas money in the primary account.

      To be honest, if we were paid monthly I would probably have to take the grocery money out in cash to make sure I didn’t over spend and end up with no gas money at the end of the month. Does that make sense?

      • Sarah says

        My husband gets paid once a month, and controlling the grocery budget has indeed been an issue for us. I have tried the cash thing and found that I borrow from the cash envelope far too often in instances when we HAVE to pay for something else with cash. So now I shop once a month. I meal plan for the month, sort through coupons, and make one enormous shopping trip (or two if I find deals at more than one store), and keep that budget under a certain amount. What is left in the grocery budget is used weekly to purchase milk, yogurt, bread, and fresh produce. I have found that because I am purchasing SO much in my mega trip, I don’t do ANY impulse buying because I am very focused and don’t have room in my cart! LOL! I have made my own comprehensive shopping list and just highlight the things I need to purchase as I plan. It sounds really time-consuming, I know, but it really isn’t. I have a few intensive days when I am planning and shopping, and then I don’t worry about it again for another month. Honestly, it is a very liberating feeling to have a pantry full of meals for a month at my fingertips. I feel like I have more time on a weekly basis to spend with our three children because I am not constantly running to the store. :)

  14. says

    Just found your blog today!! I can’t wait to look around more. I’m another huge fan of Mary Hunt. I just wish we had always been dealing with our finances like we were huge fans. We are very slowly working our way out of debt on one income and 4 young kids. We’ve made alot progress but we haven’t made it yet.

  15. Tonya says

    I just found your site from a facebook link and love it! I usea modified version of Dave Ramsey’s plan. I have his software, and everytime I get paid (usually the day before) I spend it on paper, on purpose, before the semi-month begins. :) However I don’t like that I can’t scroll with Dave’s software to all the different categories I have. So I exported the worksheet I like best once, adjusted the font, took out some blank lines and reworded some things, and now just use that as my Dave Ramsey budget. I also try to use the envelope system as much as I can, by going inside the bank to get cash and ask for extra bank envelopes. I go in when it’s not that busy with a list of the total amount I need broken down into how many $20’s, $10’s, $5’s, $1’s, quarters (for laundry),and other change I need. Then stay in the bank and divide it out into the envelopes. Before I leave for the bank, I write the checks I need to pay bills, like tithing, rent, and electricity. I also have as much auto drafted from my account as I can. It usually leaves me with $2-3 in my account after the auto-debits go through. I learned having absolutely zero left in my account stressed me out completly, but if I have over $1 and less than $3.25 I can do something besides worry about the lack of money.
    Sometimes I don’t do the envelope system, and just use my debit card. But I really feel like I’m working toward being debt free when I do the envelopes.

    Thanks for your site, I’ll have to look around more. :)

  16. Alison T says

    Excel and I are best friends! First column header is empty. Second column header is empty. I put the Friday of each week in the top of each column to the right of that for at least a year. In the first rows I put (negative numbers) the take home pay that will occur in that week (hubby is paid monthly on the 25th and I am paid on the 5th and 20th). I have rows below that for each regular and irregular expense. In the first column is the description of the expense and in the second column is the expected amount of that expense. Then I use formulas to refer back to the amount in that second column, and copy that formula across the columns to the week in which I will need to pay that expense for the year.

    Then I have a subtotal at the bottom, to see what is left at the end of each week. Then I balance things out and move them back a week or 2 or 3 as needed so that the expense falls under a week in which there is income. Then I know what I have left, and assign an amount to savings.

    This way I don’t pay anything late. Every month I set aside for car insurance and life insurance 25 days ahead, because that’s how the money situation/cash flow works. I can also see where the funds need to go for the irregular expenses.

    Since we got out of debt 5 years ago (except for hubby’s student loan – 29 months to go! – and mortgage), it has been much easier to make this work and actually save. Now I have to learn to not spend the savings on a house project when we get our savings up to a certain point! Delayed gratification is a key principle.

    That is what works for me.

    Oh one more thing. About 3 years ago I stopped tracking “cents” in my check register. I rounded all deductions from the account UP to the nearest dollar and all additions down to the nearest dollar. By doing this, over a 2 year time period I’ve set aside $1000 in our account a few pennies at a time. It’s also way faster to do the math in the checkbook when you aren’t figuring the cents :) I just leave that $ there but it’s not recorded (so if my check register balance reads $287, there is really 1,287 there). That is our emergency fund.

    Thanks for sharing, look forward to reading more!

  17. says

    We’ve had a freedom account ever since I discovered Mary Hunt a few years ago, but your way of tracking it all on one page is so much more efficient than the way I do it. I love this!

    Also, I am just excited to find your website. I’m always looking for ways to spend less and manage our money better. Thank you so much for sharing.

    And as for the tools I use, for the past year or so, I have used AceMoney to track all our expenses. It is similar to Quicken in the way it works, but you don’t have to buy a new version every year. It is great!

  18. Heather says

    My husband and I use a credit card for all of our purchases because we use the points we get for flights home to visit family. We pay it off at the end of every month though so as to not pay any interest.
    I also keep a calendar by my computer that I keep all of our payments on and the amounts so that I can remember them all, and know what we’ll owe.
    I also keep a running total of our bank accounts (similar to what you do) but I just keep it on a sheet of paper, but I do that to ensure that we will always have enough money in our account.
    Also, just an idea for the times that people have even a little extra cash to save. We have bank accounts through ING. They are online savings accounts so they make a little more interest than a normal savings account. You can have as many accounts connected as you want, and so we have 9. I know that seems like a lot, but we have them “nicknamed” for different savings purposes. Some of them are Emergency Savings, House Down Payment, Car Fund, Christmas Fund, Birthday Fund, and then different college funds for each of our children. Then any time we have even $50 to put into savings each account gets a specific percent. Emergency Savings always gets 50%, House Down payment gets 10%, Car Fund gets 10%, and the rest get 5%. This way we have specific things that we are saving up for. Once Christmas comes around whatever we have in that account is our budget for Christmas. If we feel that it is more than we need we distribute the excess into the other accounts. The other nice thing about online savings accounts is that you link it to your other bank account so you just transfer the money online, but it does take a few days so since it’s not easily accessible you really have to decide if you need it or not. I love watching our savings account grow so it helps me when making decisions on whether I NEED something or just really want it. I hope this all makes sense.
    I love your website, and love the ideas that you have! I’m always looking for ways to cut down on spending!

  19. Cindy says

    I just came across your blog via pinterest and am very interested in paring down our monthly expenses. I’m not sure where you live, but I think our cost of living must be A LOT higher cuz we could never live off that. I keep track of every cent going in and out on a daily basis in Excel. At the end of the month we’ve spent just about every cent we’ve earned and we aren’t wasting money. I will say that we spend approx. $1,100 per month on groceries (that’s everything from the grocery store, not just food. ie. cleaning products, shampoo, soap, toilet paper, etc etc). And… our fridge and pantry aren’t very full, and only a couple packages of meat in the freezer. I’d love to know how to reduce my grocery budget to $400. Do you do private consultations at all?

    • Cathy H says

      Cindy – I was spending a huge amount on groceries (food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.) and couldn’t figure out how to save on this. I found the solution – coupons! I am a true believer now. I have been able to cut our spending by about 70%. My refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets are bursting at the seams with food, we have plenty of toiletries and cleaning supplies, and the best part is we have been able to pay off all of our debt and are now purchasing our first home! Me and my husband were just talking about how a year ago at this time we were struggling to pay our normal bills and figuring out what we were going to wait to pay so we could buy enough groceries to get us through. Then my husband discovered a large growth and it ended up being a tumor – with him off work, numerous sugeries and doctor visits and not to mention meds, we were sinking fast. We knew we had to change something or we weren’t going to make it. I sat down and wrote down every penny we had coming in and every bill we had and kept track of every penny!!! I studied the coupon sites and decided what did I have to lose. We are now at a comfortable place – it is possible!

  20. Barbyeh says

    I just found your blog while searching for ways to stretch a dollar. I wanted to share a website with you that has been helpful for me. It is a free website where you can keep track of all of you debts (car, school, etc.) and bank accounts and credit cards. You can’t pay bills or move money so there is little risk. I have used it for budgets and goals. I am looking forward to reading more of your tips to help me in my journey.

  21. Linda J says

    Just found your website on Pinterest,so excited to read past posts. I love this idea of a freedom account. I am a big fan of Gail Vaz-Oxglade, host of “Till Debt Do Us Part”, she has some great ideas on getting your debt under control and living within your means. We have paired back alot but irregular bills still throw us for a loop every once in awhile. Thanks for all the information.

  22. Eva says

    I would absolutely love to budget my families income in a better manner. Right now we have a budget that we have talked about but my husband is auditory and I’ m visual. I m just wondering how to get my husband on board with budgeting? We seem to lack in the area of budgeting. We are living paycheck to paycheck and just over spending. Over spending in all necessities and extras.

    • says

      Hi Eva- I love Dave Ramsey’s advice that usually one partner is the numbers “nerd” and the other one is the “free spirit”. I am definitely the nerd and enjoy all the numbers. I work everything out and then take about 5-10 minutes to tell my husband what is going on and ask if he would make any changes.
      I think it’s important to be loving, kind and humble in your communication and to choose a good time to talk. You might tell your husband that you would like to talk for a few minutes about the money and ask him when a good time would be. (A relaxing time without television or other distractions is good.) Be prepared to really hear what he says and to work with him on what he wants, not just what looks good on paper. Hope this helps. :)

  23. Chris says

    Thank you for your post! So many people need a little push in the right direction. We’re big fans of Dave Ramsey.

  24. olivia says

    my husband and i both make about 30,000 each in our jobs… so alot compared to what you are talking about. i am a teacher and want nothing more than to stay home with my son who is now 9 months old and i just want to be a full time mom. However, our biggest stumbling block is college loan debt. We both have some and its the hardest part about me not working, any advice?

    • says

      Olivia, debt makes things more difficult, but not impossible. I don’t know how much debt you have, but if you decide that you want to pay it off quickly and you make some sacrifices in areas like eating out and entertainment, you can do it. Why don’t you work out a plan on paper to be home in a year and see what the numbers look like. Maybe you could sell something or your husband could pick up a pizza delivery job in the evenings to bring in some extra cash. Dave Ramsey has some great resources for help in paying off debt. Hope this helps!

  25. says

    I’m just at my wits end here. I am very inspired reading all of your posts and everyone’s comments. The sad thing is with mine and my husband’s income we quite possibly make triple what we’re talking about here. . yet we have NOTHING. We’re always late on our bills, we have LOTS of emergencies, etc., etc., .
    Most of our budget goes towards my husbands food. I try to pack him lunches but he STILL raids the snack machine. And those little bits of $2 – $6 add up and up and up!!!
    Sometimes I think it would almost be EASIER if I had children. That way it would force me to live a more budgeted and scheduled life. But unfortunately we have not been blessed with any yet.
    My husband gets paid weekly and if we have a bill due we’ll pay it. . . if not. we don’t. Anything we have “extra” we pretty much just waste. I wish there was a way we could get excited about saving.. . . . . instead I go hit the quilt shops, DH buys a bunch of new music. . or we’ll take a weekend camping trip =c/

    • says

      Hi Katie-Don’t despair! Why don’t you try the Freedom Account? You could even set an amount so you could buy quilting supplies and your husband can buy music. I know for me it works to “hide” the money”, so I don’t see it in the regular account and spend it. You can also check out Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover (check your library). He has some very motivating information. Good luck!

  26. Sydni says

    I am super excited to try this out. My husband and I are two young college students. I’m in a limited-entry (a.k.a SUPER expensive)program that is basically a full-time job, so I don’t work, and my husband works full-time making just a little more than your family does. We live with family (so we don’t pay rent), but constantly find ourselves scraping the bottom of our checking account each month. Hopefully this helps us so we can start budgeting and saving so we can buy our first home together :) Thank YOU for taking the time to share your thoughts and tips in hopes of helping another!

  27. Tanya says

    I use a program called CommonCents. It is basically envelopes (Dave Ramsey) in electronic form. I don’t use cash…I spend it faster than I do checks etc. So this way works well for me. I have all my checking accounts, credit cards, etc. in there. All money is divided into envelopes. I can see at a glance what I have in each category. I can even print out a list to take with me as a guide. It also allows you to set up automated transactions, so when the paycheck comes in, it is all split out into the envelopes/categories automatically. $35 software, with free trial download to see if you like it. I am a whiz with excel and such, but after trying lots of different software, spreadsheets, etc., I like this the best. It is only 3.0 version, and the reporting is not great, but it is fabulous for knowing where you are at financially at any time. (I am not an employee, just a happy customer!)

  28. Jane says

    Hi Heather, I am a 56 year old with grown children and my husband and I are still challanged to live within our means. I appreciate all the hard work it takes to lead a life that glorifies God, and is an example to those watching. I have found that along with learning to be disciplined in our spending habits, we have to discipline our hearts not to covet things just because we see that others have them, or because we can afford them. This is a task that will take a lifetime to accomplish! Thank you for daring to share your struggles in order to help others overcome theirs.

  29. Jane says

    Hi again Kimberlee, so sorry I wrote Heather, saw the name and my fingers just typed it. (see above post) 😉

  30. Motherof2 says

    So excited that you are doing this. We chose for me to be a stay at home mom for the same reasons you did. My husband makes about a tad bit more, but we also have some credit card debt that we are attacking. If I am reading correctly, your rent is 1000? That is AMAZING that you can do this. Our rent is the same, and last year was REALLY tough. There were months that we had less than 1.00 left in the account at the end of the month. I guess that was enough though right? lol Thanks for being so open and showing us how this can really be done!

    • says

      Yes, it is VERY difficult, but God is always faithful. We are trying to find a cheaper place to rent, but rents around here average $1300-$1500 for 3 bedrooms. Good for you for attacking your debt. Blessings!

  31. T.K. says

    We have started following David Ramsey and how he does things. We have a cash reserve for emergencies and we have made a list of what count as emergencies. Then we budget for the month putting some away each month for things like birthdays, christmas etc. We have a planned amount that we spend for birthdays and christmas and then we have that divided into 12 months and each month we put that amount into our savings so that when a birthday comes up we aren’t scrambling. We can pull out the allotted amount for the birthday.

  32. Traci says

    We started doing this about 5 years ago and it has helped us manage our finances SO much! We have added columns to our freedom account for the “extras” when we don’t have anything pressing (like the shoes or the haircut since we only have 2 kids!) and we save for things like visiting my family twice a year since they live out of state. I love your title though! I never heard it called that, but it is definitely what leads to freedom! :)

  33. Kalea (k-lee) says

    I just wanted to thank you for this blog. I’m currently serving as an AmeriCorps Member (essentially a domestic peace corps) and living on a very limited monthly allowance. I’m not paid for my hours but rather I’m given a living allowance of $400 bi-weekly. I’ve been struggling in the last few months to make this work. As I have about $400 in student loan payments every month since my private loans refuse to defer for AmeriCorps Members. I also have racked up quite a dept on my credit cards through my stupidity as a college student. I have been very lucky, in that I’m living with a room mate in a house that her aunt owns. My room mates aunt has been very generous in not making us pay rent just cover the utilities we use. Needless to say, there isn’t a lot of room in my budget and I seem to be drowning at this point. I’m hoping that your tips will help me keep my head above water until I can find a full time job after my 1 year service with AmeriCorps.

  34. Mel says

    I am so excited about this series! I use a modified version of Dave Ramsey’s allocation table, but at the end of the month I can never remember exactly how much is in each account as it’s in one joint account. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the ING banking idea in combination with a Freedom Account.

    Great job with the blog, and keep the wonderful ideas coming!

  35. says

    Just stumbled across your website tonight. I’m definitely encouraged to read more about your frugal lifestyle. But did I read your worksheet correctly–your rent is $250? Wow! My rent is $1450 a month and it’s about to go up! My husband and I have been working hard at bringing down our debt. We have 2 car payments left and we will be debt free! Really looking forward to that freedom! I’m looking forward to reading about your grocery shopping and menu planning, especially with a GF diet. I don’t even want to think about what the GF diet cost us when we tried that a couple of years ago.

  36. Ariane says

    Kimberly I just found your page and am really excited about all your tips. I am trying to find a better way of budgeting, as my husband who is a teacher gets paid once a month. How would you adapt your system for a once a month payday?

    • says

      Hi Ariane–If I were paid once a month I would divide my irregular expenses (those not paid monthly like car maintenance, clothing, gifts, etc.) by 12 and deposit that amount into the second account. Hope this helps.

  37. Lea says

    Do you have any suggestions for a family of five with two full time jobs? The one job only pays once a year and that paycheck goes to pay the bank. We ranch as well as work in town. But it’s hard to have that extra account for the ranching when that paycheck goes to paying the cows off. Just wondering if you know of a book for similar situations. Thank you for your time and consideration. Lea

    • says

      Hi Lea-I’m sorry I don’t know of a book but I wonder if you could email Dave Ramsey and if they would have an answer for you. Sounds like a tough situation.

      • Lea says

        Thanks Kimberlee. It is but ranching is never easy but oh soooo rewarding. We are calving now so it is especially a fun time to see al those cute critters bucking and running in the pasture. Thanks again and I will keep digging. :)

  38. ShannonH says

    Looking at Mvelopes in your financial resource section, I don’t see that it is free. It has 14 day free trial but asks for credit card info when you sign up. Am I missing something or is this a policy change?

    • says

      I’m so sorry Shannon. I thought it was free to use, but you are correct it is only free for the trial period. I don’t see how much it is, but Pear Budgeting is only $4.95 per month.

      • ShannonH says

        Thanks. I was thinking I’d missed something. I did find in another comment on here, the program CommonCents. It’s free for 60 days and then you can buy the program once for $35. Thought we’d try that 60 days and see if it’s worth the investment. Love a company like that – make sure it’s right before I buy.

        Loving this series by the way – sharing with friends and family, many of whom are teachers and feel the crunch too! Thanks.

  39. Summer says

    My husband and I are currently going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. It’s awesome, and we’re loving learn how to manage our money (so that it doesn’t manage us!). Basically, there are 7 baby steps: Build an emergency fund as quickly as you can ($500 if your income is below $20,000, otherwise $1000); Debt snowball; Fully fund your emergency fund (which is 3-6 months of expenses in the fund); Invest 15% of your income towards retirement; Build a college fund for each of your kids; Pay off your home early; Build wealth and give. After 3 weeks, we are starting to build our debt snowball!

  40. Joyce Heishman says

    I am 68 and have always budgeted. My problem is , when I find I have extra, I want to give it to my children, who seem to be always struggling. This has encouraged me to direct them to your site. Coming from you, may get their attention better then I do. God does send angels and I believe you are among them.

  41. Meghan Wedemeyer says

    Just curious, how I can apply this to my daily life. I am a single Mother of two kids, don’t get child support and make $40,000 a year. I live in Southern California and in a low income apartment that costs $1,130 a month. Afterschool costs $400 a month(Which is for my son’s school tuition and afterschool for my daughter for 2 hours…..if I didn’t have my Grandmothers help both kids would be in afterschool alot more hours and it would cost $900 a month). Those are my two huge bills. My electric and gas are around $50 a month, since we are never home and I work alot. I would love to be more frugal…where should I start?

    • says

      Hi Meghan-My first step if I were in your situation would be to track my spending for a couple of weeks by writing every purchase down in a small notebook or on index cards. Once you see where the money is going, you can make some adjustments. Making a weekly menu plan and grocery list has been one of the biggest ways we save money. I used to spend a lot on fast food because I was just too tired to think about food when dinner time rolled around. Hope this helps. :)

  42. Manddi says

    I’m so glad you are willing to share this information. We use a similar system except with 2 Freedom-ish accounts and I use MS Money for tracking. I was a spender and sent us into major debt in my early 20s. When the medical bills started rolling in from the birth of our daughter I realized how bad things had gotten. Its still a struggle to pay the bills but we have managed to pay of $15,000 in debt in 3 years! I actually find that I am glad that we went through this so early in our marriage because in the end it has made our marriage stronger and I learned valuable lessons that are going to help us be financially more sound in the future.

  43. Kate says

    Hi– not sure of you’ve mentioned in any recent comment replies, but I noticed (or maybe missed) if you have mentioned what area of the country you are in. Here in upstate NY THE COST OF LIVING is substantially higher than most other areas in the country. For example- in comparison to Cleveland Ohio, Albany New York homes are 51% higher in price, and the pay for a $100,000 job here in upstate NY would be only $80,000 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is just one example. My entire point is that $28,000 would never work for our family of 4 simply because of the cost of living here :(

    • says

      Hi Kate-My point in writing the series is not at all to say that everyone can or should live on $28,000 a year. It is only to encourage people that they can probably live on less than they think they can, and that they should be living their lives intentionally according to their principles, not what other people think or tell them they should do. Maybe you can find some ideas that will work for you in some way, even though our lifestyle isn’t the same as yours. :)

  44. Leslie says

    You are awesome (and sound a lot like me!). When I was pregnant with our second child, I got very sick and had to leave my job- and depend on just my husband’s income. He was still in college so his job, though full-time was also in retail sales. I started a budget very similar to this and still use it today! We are in a much better situation now, but I am glad there are other people out there that have raised a family so successfully as you and your husband and didn’t need a 6 figure income to do it!

  45. Brandy says

    Have you guys ever used or looked at YNAB? I have been a Mary Hunt follower for years. I love the idea of the Freedom Account, use to use it ourselves til my husband and I found YNAB. Will never go back. It is the same concept, but so much more. It is the best way to track your “freedom account” plus your regular spending and budget. Highly recommend you at least checking them out. They have FREE online videos and live classes that walk you through everything and you can even ask your own questions. There is also a free trial so you can see how it works for you. Check out the testimonials on the site, so many people can’t be wrong. We will certainly never use anything other than YNAB. It has helped us not only stay on track, save for those future expenses, but get out of debt. With 5 kids and a military husband, I never thought that was possible.

  46. Nicole says

    WOW! So glad I found you! Thank you for sharing :) We are a family of 5 on about the same income as you – give or take a little – my hubby is straight commission – eeek. I stopped working a year and a half ago in order to go back to school full time. I want to finish my degree to teach – and we finally decided now or never – so we went with now! It’s been a hard struggle for us to live off just one income – we seem to keep forgetting that this is our reality now and we need to make adjustments…oops… I feel very overwhelmed with our finances, as does my husband, and we just never know where to start to get on track again. I think you are going to help me!!! YAY for that!

  47. Kelly says

    I would love to hear more about how you got out of your twenty-something debt. Do you have any good tips or tricks for that? I’m a twenty-something with a lot of student loan debt from college and a little bit of credit card debt. The student loan debt has been a heavy burden. I’m not a heavy spender and I do pay on it each month but I only ever have enough to pay the minimum payment. Any suggestions??

    • says

      Hi Kelly! I would really keep an eye on your spending. You might be surprised where you can cut corners and put extra money toward that debt, especially in eating out. You could also get a part time job to supplement your income for a little while. My husband has done pizza delivery in the past to increase our income. Hope this helps.

    • Angela says

      Hey Kelly, I’m in kind of the same situation as you right now. 25 and lots of credit card debt and some student debt. The trick for me is to cut down on extras as much as possible then pick one account (maybe the one with the highest interest) to start with. Pay all the others minimum payments and the special one as much over the minimum that you can while still surviving. It’s tough but $20 extra a month adds up and eventually you will be out of debt. I read this awesome book “I will teach you to be rich” by Ramit Sethi that is geared towards 20somethings. It can help you balance things and not have to work hard at it.

      • Dorothy P says

        I actually was 21 with about 8K of credit card debt (and a minimum wage part time job). I actually did the opposite and paid down all my smaller balances as quickly as possible & then put all my efforts towards the big one. I learned the power of eating in, which has made my shopping/eating habits a lot healthier, and I’ve taken a genuine interest in food, from production to consumption. I agree that there are a lot of corners that you can cut without feeling like you’re being deprived of anything.

    • kirstine says

      I worked a second job once a week. It gave me variety and the cash went straight to loan payments. Making those extra principle payments sure help cover a lot of ground in the long run.

    • Brandi says

      What I found to help me so far with student loans and credit cards is to look at exactly what the interest rates are on each and figure out exactly how much of my payment is going to interest and how much to principle. I would also suggest really checking your student loans because if you have federal direct loans you can have a different interest rate for each disbursement and you may find that you have a smaller balance that you can pay off quickly just by adding a few extra dollars to that one payment. For example I pay around $200 a month for all of my federal loans but the smallest balance is around $1000 and the payment is only around $30 half of that goes to interest so by adding just another $15 a month to that specific payment (you can allocate how the payment is made by choosing how much you want to pay on each loan grouping) I’m paying it off quicker and when i do I will reduce the total payment by $30 which i can then reallocate to the next lowest balance in the loan grouping. I hope that’s not to technical and that it helps.

  48. Eryn says

    Thanks so much for sharing this information!! I chose to use to create a monthly budget. I just started a new job and will be making almost double what I did before, but would like to keep living and budgeting as if I wasn’t making anymore money. I want to take this extra money and put it into a savings account and another account (probably a Roth IRA) to begin setting aside money for a long term/retirement saving account since I don’t have one through my job.

    Thanks so much for ALL you share on your blog!! All of the information is very helpful :)

  49. Michelle says

    I just absolutely love your website!!! I am going to try my best to implement these into my daily schedule. I am a little concerned over saving money in the food department. There are not many coupons to be had for fresh foods! So…do you have any suggestions? Since September of last year, we have completely changed our eating habits and I do use coupons when I can. The one area (food related) that I know we can cut back on is “eating out”. I have talked to my husband and is definitely on board! I am just soooooo glad to have found your website!!!

      • Cindy says

        Not to but in but if you have an Aldi supermarket near you they have excellent deals on fresh produce each week. May not be exactly what you are looking for but they get what is in season and what would be the best deal to the consumer without the super markup :0)

        • says

          I usually only shop at Alid’s, unless I need something they don’t carry. But I buy the bulk of my gorceries there! I haven’t had a problem with anything that I’ve gotten there!
          We are a family of 6 but soon to be 8, we are adopting 2 special needs kids from China, so I watch very closey what I buy,etc… We do have a bit of debt, but almost out. I make a monthly meal plan, then shop once a week. Amazing what you save by making a menu! :) My weekly grocery bill is around 80-100 from buying there, for the 6 of us!
          Sorry, didn’t mean to butt in either, but wanted to put my 2 cents in about Alid’s! LOVE that store!! :)

          • Carolyn Heiges says

            I shop at Aldi, for my family of 4 and I can keep our weekly groceries under $50, most weeks I average $30.

    • kirstine says

      If you have a little space you could certainly plant some veggies. If your just stuck with a patio. Zucchini and Tomatoes do great in containers and super easy to take care of.

  50. Keisha says

    I use to track all my spending- was a HUGE help to see where all our money was going…and it’s FREE!

      • Stacia says

        I absolutely LOVE As a college student it helped me to realize where all my money was going. Once I realized how much I spent on eating out, I was appalled (especially when I have a meal plan for on campus meals). Mint really makes it easier to stick to your budget, and having the app right on your phone so you can see your balances and budgets easily gives you fewer excuses to go over budget. I’ve even got my mother to use it, and she loves it too.

        • Heather says

          My husband uses for our budgeting too! We are 25 and 26. has been a big help, because we both had school loans (his are all paid off and my are almost half!), we also bought a house Dec. of 2009 we are also 2/3 of the way done paying it off! helps us keep track of what we have left and you can make your own categories. I am in a direct sales business and we can label the categories whatever we want…this also is helpful around tax time. :) The best part about is of course that it is FREE to use!

          • Heather says

            I should also tell you all that we both have full time jobs at a university (we walk to work) and we also don’t have any kids and only have one car. We have never had credit cards and don’t intend on ever having them. We know we won’t always be able to pay off things the way we have been, which is why we are trying to do so now (I know kids will cost a lot of money if the Lord allows us to have children) Anyway, just thought you should know those things also…we are just trying to do the best we can with what we have, where we are in our journey.

  51. Samantha says

    I have used YNAB ( for years. Unfortunately I have used it the way it’s meant to be used (having a one month buffer of expenses) but at least I know where we are financially at a just a glance. I do set aside money for the expenses that don’t happen every month but again haven’t always left the money there. I like your idea of a freedom account. I think I will put that into place. Thanks for your post.

  52. Alex says

    My husband and I have a bank account with that we use for the savings that you are talking about with the Freedom Account. It’s been a great tool for us. Our favorite benefits: 1. great interest rates! 2. You can create categories within the same account and name them however you want. 3. You can transfer $ for free and easily to other major bank accounts. 4. the security is great. The transfers take about 2-3 days, which helps with any impulse buying! We transfer money each paycheck and put it into the categories we have designated such as car insurance, registration, vacation, etc… we also have savings for a few other expenses we know will come up in the next 5 years, such as a new car. This bank has really helped us to save with intention and keep on track with our goals!

  53. Julie says

    WOW! I am so thankful to you and your example. You are definitely an inspired woman, and I hope to glean some ideas from you and implement them myself. I would love to call myself a savvy saver one day, and I am glad to find your blog and learn lots from you! Thank you for your inspiration!

  54. Julie says

    I love your ideas…but I live from paycheck to paycheck, spending every bit I have on bills and living. How am I supposed to set aside money into a separate account for “The Freedom Account?” As usual, I just need more money!

    • says

      Julie, if you will follow along with my new weekly video series you might find some money you weren’t aware of. Here’s a link: Also I have some ideas in this post for making some money quickly: You can also check your insurance coverages (like car ins.) to see if you can make some adjustments. Hope this helps! :)

      • says

        It’s not about making more money to create the freedom fund but to PLAN for it. Instead of getting to your 6 month insurance payment and fainting, it’s putting the money away each month and when it gets there not being stressed. The freedom fund is mostly for things you are paying for but doing it in a much more mindful manner.

          • says

            Your website is great. I love Mary Hunt’s books. I’m just saying for motivation sake and sanity, it’s nice to realize when you are done building the freedom fund you can make what you were making before – because you are only rearranging your payments so you have the money ahead of time.

    • says

      Julie, there are almost always ways to cut back on your spending. A lot of people who live paycheck to paycheck (not necessarily YOU) would be surprised to see how much money they are wasting/nickel and diming, and that they could free up if they had to. I know that when push came to shove for us we were surprised at how much we could cut out!

      • Carrie says

        Julie, I’m 20 years old and the best way I can recommend starting out in a paycheck to paycheck situation is to tithe: give one dime of EVERY SINGLE dollar you earn or receive away to your church (if you attend one) or to a charity of your choice. I was taught to do this practically from birth and if you make it a habit (give that 10% away first, not last!) you will be truly blessed. Whether you believe in God, Karma, or just plain “I should be a good person,” you will be blessed…promise! Suddenly the money will stretch and you’ll have more than enough for your daily needs. Also, my grandmother always taught me to keep a change jar: start emptying your loose change into a pretty glass jar every time your wallet starts feeling a bit heavy and it will add up.

  55. Mindi says

    Thank you so much for sharing this! We have been trying to get ourselves onto a budget, (baby #3 on the way and my husband wants to go back to school) but nothing has really been making sense to me. I love the idea of dividing up each paycheck and to spread it out evenly. When I looked at the details on your spreadsheet it all clicked. I am very excited to try this technique! Thanks again for sharing.

  56. kayleigh says

    This is great. I have recently been doing something similar. We havr a larger budget to work with but it did not matter how much we had we could hardly pay the bills. I added up all our regular monthly expenses and set up a ‘bills’ checking acount. On average we have to put 350 each week to ay all bills but i have been putting back 400 when possible and the extra has been enough to cover unexpected expenses and birthdays. It has been a load off i would rather be broke all the time and know my bills are payed!!

  57. Joanna says

    You show “irregular” expenses on your freedom account page….where and what are your “regular” expenses? I would think rent would be a regular expense? What about groceries? Maybe I have missed how you handle that. I am just so excited to do something and I really like the pen and paper concept. My husband rolls his eyes at me, but really, it just seems so much more clear to me. Thanks!

  58. Tressa says

    I do it the opposite way that you do, but it’s essentially the same thing. I figured out what my regular monthly bills are, divide by 2, and I have them direct deposit into a separate account from the rest of my money, then I draw the rest out in cash and that’s what I have for 2 weeks (I get paid bi-weekly). Bills are on auto pay, so I’m never late and never get late fees. Works well, either way I think it’s essentially the same thing.

  59. Lacy says

    I am a single woman who lives alone. What I do with my expenses I have is at the end of the month I pull out my wall calendar. For the upcoming month I write down when bills are due, the amount due, and which ones are automatically withdrawn from my checking account. (I also denote when I get paid) That way I know what bills I have to pay with what pay check.
    Even though I haven’t missed a bill by doing this I also am not saving any additional money. So when I have a “surprise bill” I often have to cut things very tight with my money to make sure bills are paid.
    I am thankful that a friend of mine pinned this on Pinterest, I really hope to learn something from you. I live on a gross income of about $28K a year, so if you can do it with a whole family I’m sure you’ll be able to give me pointers!

  60. Alycia says

    Thanks for your honesty…it’s nice to hear about other people who are trying to live well on a modest income….without racking up tons of credit card debt. My hubby and I also had thousands of credit card debt before we married…with debt consolidation it is now gone. We thought we would never own a credit card again and paid cash for everything. A couple of years ago we decided to get one of those “double miles” credit cards, with the logic of making our money work for us. And I can joyfully report it has worked. By using the credit card for as many things as we can and paying off the ENTIRE BALANCE each month we have earned 4 plane tickets and a rental car. All of our family lives in another state so this has been a huge blessing. I know credit cards are not for everone and can be dangerous…but we are very happy we decided to try using one to earn miles. Once again thank you for your advice and honesty. My best to you and your family.

    • DSeattle says

      I’m thinking of going the travel card route. For many years we used a card that allowed us to choose gift cards at certain retailers. Since my hubby likes electronics and I have never been attached to them, each year before thanksgiving we’ve been turning in our points for gift cards at an electronics store. On black Friday he uses the cards to get a group Christmas present for the kids. It worked well for us. Now that the kids are older and we have plenty of electronics, I’d like to take them on more trips.

  61. tricia says

    This is basically how we budget. My husband is a self-employed carpenter and I stay at home with soon-to-be 5 kids. I don’t know what we would do without such a strict budget! We have a bills account that we deposit enough money in every week to cover all our bills, monthly or not. Its so nice not to stress about being able to pay bills on time! Then we each get a certain amount in cash to cover our expenses for the week, and to spend on whatever we want after diapers, gas, etc are covered. $100 is also our grocery budget (although sometimes I use some of my spending money to buy extra groceries). Anything extra goes into one of our savings accounts, for emergency, house savings, etc. So far this has worked for us!

  62. liindsay says

    Do all of you on here with THAT many children and living on THAT little of a budget really believe you’re providing them with a fulfilling life?! I would have been disappointed with my childhood and resented my parents had we grew up this way. Just.. wow. I assume most of you are anti-contraceptives and pro-life which is how and why you have so many children getting ONLY the bare minimum out of life. This is 2012. The world and our society is what it is, whether you like or approve. Your children will be judged. And they will feel underprivileged. Not a great way of life.

    • says

      Hi Lindsay! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I can appreciate your point of view, but I have to say that seeing our children as “underprivileged” depends on your values and what you mean by that word.

      It is hard to tell from reading one or two posts, exactly what our life looks like, and if you are picturing skin and bones children dressed in rags who never get to do anything, then I would have to agree with you–they would be underprivileged. Our children, however, have great clothes, get plenty to eat and have had many wonderful experiences including participating in a local swim team, going to Disney and traveling out of the country to work with TRULY underprivileged children in a third world situation. They have a Wii, Ipod, mp3 players and a Nintendo DS (one has a 3DS), but they worked to pay for part of the cost and therefore appreciate them more. They go to see movies, go to the beach and have friends.

      They also have many things that money can’t buy: good relationships with their parents and each other (most of the time), peace, creativity, entrepreneurial skills and intelligence (and that is not my opinion, but what objective tests have shown). They understand the value of money and know that, while money is necessary, it is never more important that what is eternal. You can certainly have money and all of the things I mentioned, but just because we don’t have a lot of money doesn’t mean our kids are missing those things.

      You are most certainly welcome to your opinion and welcome to raise your children in the way that you see fit. We have chosen to have less money for now in order to spend more time with our children and to be actively involved in their lives. I guess we will see in the end if we have made the right choices and whether or not they resent us. In the meantime, I will keep doing the best that I can to be the best parent possible to them and to teach them to be respectful, loving, kind people who understand that money is a tool, not the end goal of life.

      Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to something that other people may be thinking as well. Have a Peaceful Day! :)

      P.S.-By the way, I am not anti-contraceptive, but I do believe that every life is valuable and eternal and should be treated as such.

      • Diana says

        “…they worked to pay for part of the cost and therefore appreciate them more.”

        I WISH my parents had not given in to my every demand and had me work for something I wanted! I had horrible money skills when I moved out from under their roof. Thank you for giving your children skills to succeed in this world! :)

        • Diana says

          Oh, and I forgot to say, “and me!” My husband and I are trying to manage our money better and I’m so glad I found your blog on pinterest because I really think it will help! :)

          • Kelly Loving says

            Very good response.

            My children too have “more” than what others would perceive as possible given our income…3 computers in the house, we have cable and smart phones, xbox360, playstion 2 and a WII as well as Nintendo DS….a nook.

            My kids participate in dance and any sports of their choosing (currently dance and basketball), shop for clothes with brand name tags on them.

            We get to eat out, enjoy movies and a family vacation each year ( 2x this year – once to Oklahoma and once to Texas).

            We also enjoy our time together and with friends…and have cars, motorcycles and up until this year a motorhome.

            Neither I nor my family are underprivileged, we just prioritize differently.

      • Bella says

        Oh dear! Underprivileged! Is that what people were saying while I was growing up? My parents met, were both divorced each had 2 children so when they got married and then had me there were 5 of us under one roof. Did I mention this was a 2 bedroom house? I have 3 sisters and a brother. Through saving and budgeting, planning their weekly meals my parents were able to not only pay of their home but to add an extention too. Our parents taught me how to use money wisely, drummed into me that credit cards should be avoided if possible, turn the light off when you leave a room. Nothing I resent them for… We all had everything we wanted whether it was Nintendos, mobiles, game boys, horses, pets, name brand clothes, fancy jewellery the list goes on! We had chores, ones we were paid for. I love to budget. Spending every last sent of your household pay? Well that doesn’t appeal to me very much! My husband and I only have one child at present and live off ONE wage. Had my parents and my husbands parents not taught each of us how to live on a budget and how to handle our money we could never survive on a single wage. liindsay is right! This is 2012!! Its a difficult task to live in a major city, pay bills, save money, live well. Hence why budgeting is so important! I dont understand how children would be judged for having frugal parents? I had friends whose parents obviously didn’t budget. And how do you think society judged them when debt collects came? Yes I’d rather have my children judged for having parents who count every sent that children whose homes are taken away.

    • DSeattle says

      Years ago a woman wrote to a columnist (I believe the columnist’s name was Marilyn Vos Savant). She said that her family did OK financially and probably a little better than many of those they knew. She said she was writing because her children had recently asked whether they were rich and she wanted to know how to answer them. The columnist said to tell them that they live in the United States of America so relative to the rest of the world– yes, they are rich. That answer has really stuck with me. Over the years we’ve bounced around from at the poverty line to below the poverty line several times; now we’re well above it, but every time I’ve caught myself worrying about our kids I remember her answer. We live in a nation with public libraries, free education for children, and programs like Medicaid and WIC, where all adults can vote their mind. There are so many nations today where families still live huddled together in one room with a rusty metal roof, where they have to stand in long lines just to get water for the day, where they barely have hope to feed and clothe their children let alone educate them. We are all truly wealthy in comparison to the rest of the world and I’ve tried to help my children understand that.

      • Kelly Loving says

        First world problems vs third world problems….I am trying to teach my children the difference :)

  63. Crika says

    Well I for one am glad to see how many dedicated and hard working parents there are out there! It’s good to see a generation of children being raised to be responsible, loving, and understanding. Unlike the obvious spoiled brat above who’s parents clearly failed at that.

  64. HeatherP says

    We were introduced to Dave Ramsey’s methods last year and have been following his Baby Steps to Financial Freedom ever since. We’ve paid off several bills and are on our way to be completely debt-free in about 10 years (including mortgage), pending any major life emergencies. We are adjusting ourselves to move from duel to one income soon so I’m always looking for more tips and ideas. Thanks for your blog! Also, my husband and I both downloaded a smartphone app from It’s a real-time envelope budgeting system so if I spend $100 on groceries, I plug it in and we can both see how much we have left in that envelope for the month (he gets paid monthly so this is the safest way to go for us). He’s a spender and I’m the saver so this solution has been the best way for us to solve the financial communication issues (i.e. “Do you have any receipts for me today?”). It’s working for us! We have a complete picture of our monthly financial income and outflow and it gives me peace of mind knowing all $$ is accounted for. :)

  65. Rachel says

    Wow, Im definetly going to study all of this. I feel horrible and wasteful after reading some peoples posts, and know now for sure I can do better. Im in my mid 20’s and its just me and my husband no kids and never have extra money to put into savings. My student loans just started up and took a huge new chunk in our budget. We are military and live on pretty much the exact amount you talk about so I know there has to be something somewhere in our budget that I can cut back on. Thank you for sharing all of this with the world, after crying and worrying every pay day this is amazing to come across.

    • says

      Hi Rachel! I’m so sorry that you have been crying and worrying about money, but I hope that you can find some encouragement and hope here. :)

  66. Casey W. says

    Do you currently include tithing in your monthly budget? I go back and forth on this question for myself. Do we honor the directive to tithe even when tha t means it will take us longer to meet our financial goals? In the last 3 years my husband has become physically disabled due to an injury, a car accident shortly after back surgery, and other factors. We had an independent disability policy that really made a difference, but that benefit ran out in February. We are now a one income family. Fortunately my earning ability is more than enough to meet our family’s needs…except for major medical expenses! We are hopeful that he will be approved for permanent disability, but in the meantime we pay his medical premium out of pocket. Due to his history and current condition, we must keep his coverage. If we ever let it lapse, he will be uninsurable.
    For us, I have maintained tithe in our budget. We do spend on more conveniences than I would like to. With me working long hours (I’m a school principal) AND trying to manage all aspects of taking care of our family and household, we resort to more costly shortcuts than I’d like. My husband is not able to help with anything physical (cleaning, laundry, mowing, grocery shopping, cooking, etc.) so often things don’t get done unless I pay for help. I feel that if I find room in our budget for those things, I can’t justify NOT keeping regular tithing in there! My goal for this summer when I have a few weeks off is to put some of your ideas to work! I hope that will let me keep a few conveniences in place AND maintain regular tithing without being tempted to take it out of our budget. :)

    • says

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on the blog. As for tithing, we feel that giving is very important and take the view that God owns all of our money, not just ten percent of it.

      For many years we gave 10% right off the top of our paycheck to our local church, no matter what. Then a couple of years ago I started feeling like it was just another bill and actually started resenting it. My husband and I began to research tithing and to pray about what we should do because we knew that God wanted us to be cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”) .

      We came to the conclusion that for our family we best honor God by being open to giving whatever He tells us to, not just a specific automatic percentage. At times this means that we give much more than we would have given if we didn’t pray, but God is ALWAYS faithful to provide exactly what we need when we need it. We do our best to give what He wants us to give, not giving because we think it’s a good idea or because it would make us feel better to give.

      I know this is a controversial topic with many views, and each side has their own Biblical documentation to back up their view. Rather than get into a theological discussion, we just quietly do what we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us to do.

      I know that some people would say that our not tithing causes us to make less money, and perhaps they are correct. I personally think that they are missing the bigger picture. We have a relationship with our Heavenly Father and we don’t need to follow a rule or a law to get Him to bless us. He is a good Father and gives us good gifts. Out of love and appreciation for His love toward us, we are happy to do whatever He leads us to do with our money trusting that He will take care of our needs as He has always done. For us, it is the difference between religion and a living relationship with God.

      Of course, you should do your own research and pray about what is right for your family.

      • Kelly Loving says

        Thank you for this. It is something we struggled with for quite awhile also.

        While we are not regular Sunday church goers we have a strong faith and had to pray and talk long and hard about the best way for us to give back. I also do not think a straight 10% is the way to go. I look at tithing the same way as I look at raising my children…fair is relative….fair to our family is not the same as equal but rather giving each what is needed at the time/in the moment. So whether it be giving in the collection basket, volunteering my time, helping with Sunday school, fixing meals for shut ins, preparing a funeral luncheon or organizing Bible school, we all give in our own way and what is “fair” for us.

  67. paula says

    Spend less than you make and don’t be greedy. It’s a simple concept. Vanity and greed are the reasons people are in debt. If you want to live that lifestyle you have to put in the work. If you do not have money for child number 3 do not have child number 3. We don’t need more welfare clients. Children that do not socialize with others, IE homeschooled children tend to have poor social skills, may be why your youngest has behavioral issues. Get a job and socialize your kids! Teach your children to be hard working members of society and we won’t have as many issues in the future.

    • Andrea says

      Paula I am amazed at your comment. I am shocked at how rude and ill informed you are. 1. You are grossly misinformed about welfare clients. Their are many people who could afford their children and lose jobs. I guess you have not been reading or are aware of how the economy is. Also you are GROSSLY wrong about children who are home schooled, many participate in church activities and sports within their community or school. Her youngest having behavior issues has nothing to do with it. Honestly we have so many problems in society because of ill informed idiots such as yourself who feel they are high and mighty. Why don’t you get an education and stop throwing rocks when you live in a glass house.

    • Michelle says

      Hmmmmmm, Paula, I have to say that if this comment is an example of the “wonderful” social skills that you learned in school then I think I would rather take my chances with the “unsocialized” homeschooled kids. Just Saying.

  68. Krista says

    I am just starting to read your series. I must say that I am thoroughly impressed that you can manage to live on this much $$ with a family of 5! A couple of years ago we changed our fininacial managment using the format recommended by a Canadian financial wizard (her website and it totally changed the way we live. We now have no debt (other than a mortgage) and it feels wonderful. I highly recommend checking out what she has to say.

  69. Sarah says

    This is perfect! I have an excel spreadsheet I’ve been using for a few years to manage my auto-deduct payments for each paycheck as well as ‘normal’ monthly bills…but this Freedom Account is like the missing link for me. :) I’m excited to implement this. Being a single mom and the only supporting income, this is truly a gift, thank you for sharing!
    Also, I homeschooled my son for 2 years (7th & 8th grade) and know both homeschool and non-homeschool kids and there is no social difference. You seem to know what is best for your family & kids and that is commendable! :)

  70. Molly M says

    This post is great. It’s amazing how nobody teaches you this stuff! I can’t believe nobody has mentioned SmartyPig ( — it’s how I learned to think in terms of setting aside things for what you call “irregular” expenses that can be planned for, instead of using credit cards to manage that cash flow problem. I use it sort of how you use your second checking account, but it’s not quite as flexible and designed for slightly bigger things. I think it would be amazing to combine smartypig with your system.

    SmartyPig is an online savings account that allows you to set up savings “goals” for upcoming needs. You can have it automatically pull the needed money to reach your goal on time out of your account every two weeks or monthly, or you can manually put the money in when you have time. (or both!) When you’re ready to close out your goal, you cash out everything in that particular goal, and you can put it on (heavily discounted) gift cards, onto their debit card, or just right back into your bank account (that’s what I do). Plus, you get like 0.75% APR. (Used to be higher than ANY other bank, but has recently been reduced.)

    I have gotten through my periodic $900-1200 expenses in graduate school this way, and managed to find money to fly home to see my parents without paying rent late. 😉 Right now I have a long-term (think 5 year) goal for a downpayment on a house, a “transition” fund for the next time I have to move, christmas presents, 3 flights that i need to book this year, and a few other things.

    Of course this only handles some of my budgeting needs – I cannot seem to manage a paper budget for my life, but I use to get my feet back on the ground in terms of budget categories and where my money is going (similar to, but LearnVest is just generally an amazing source of information for women who want to be financially smart).

    I can’t wait to read your tips on managing food expenses… That’s a huge problem for me as an urban dweller with long, often 18-hour days away from the house!

  71. Molly M says

    I also just want to say that people like you are so encouraging. I am the youngest of five, and my family was on a very small one-income budget for a very long time. Later things got better, but I have to say that because my parents were debt-averse and fastidious about their budgets, I not ONCE had the thought that we were “poor.” We had everything. I think my parents are miracle workers – I can barely take care of myself on twice what they raised 3 of their children with sometimes. But the thought that you are giving your children the same stable, content environment that I was raised in makes me so, so happy. Keep it up!!

  72. M says

    I live on about $22k a year with both me and my fiance working full time.
    There are 3 people in our family and we manage very well.
    We even have a $700 emergency fund.
    I notice most of the tips people give for money management, I already do.
    I guess growing up poor made me better with money.
    The only tips I really need are how to get your fiance to be frugal.

  73. Britt says

    I am so glad I came across this. I have been struggling here lately with things. Staying way too stressed. Thank God I found this blog! PLease, PLEASE do not let their negativity get you down. You’ve done awesome things with and for your family. I hope I am 1/2 as good as you when I have kids! :)

  74. Laura says

    I use the Mint app on my iphone, it is especially helpful with sending reminder texts and emails. I am loving your freedom account idea…will have to talk to the hubby and see if he’s up to trying it! thanks!

  75. Bonnie says

    This blog is very interesting! I love reading about other people’s financial success stories, especially if it’s one where someone is really trying and being patient with the financial game of spending money correctly. I hope you don’t mind if I share my story and some help that I had received when it came to the baffling topic of personal finances.

    When I got out of college almost 2 years ago, I was completely lost as to how to manage my finances as well. I had no clue how to do anything. I didn’t have credit card debt, but I am working through student loans. My sister sent me into the world with a book, and through that I found myself completely enlightened in how to spend and save my money while reducing my loan amounts little by little, and with a quick and easy-to-read book. The book is:

    David Bach’s Automatic Millionaire

    He puts things into easy to understand terms, and you can finish the book in a day without becoming bored. He has steps and tools to use to determine the best decisions for yourself, and never tries to sell you on anything but what is best for you. After reading this and having my soon to be husband read this, I have no more worries about finances in my future.

    Take a look, and continue to inspire people through your own personal story! Thanks!!

  76. Brandy says

    I know one thing for sure… try to pay off old debts before having kids. I ended up being a single parent of a 2 yr old with lots of debt left on me from my ex. I moved in with my parents at the age of 32 so that I could pay off the debts and not have to work 3 jobs and not see my daughter. It was the easiest and hardest choice I had to make (who wants to move back home at my age!).
    You never know what life is going to bring your way!

  77. Jessica says

    Wow! I feel like I just came across a gold mine of awesome help for me to figure out my finances and learn how to budget!! I also love that you write so clearly and understandably, Kimberlee, and how classy and patient you are with any negative comments left. I also like that you incorporate God and faith into your “living on less” plans. I have a really hard time with budgeting (I basically don’t!) and this summer is a time when I really need to learn to do this well and not shop like I want to, go out to dinner with friends like I want to (this one will be really really hard), etc. I am a single woman, almost 30, with a dog who is #1 :) I make sure she has everything before me (heartworm meds, food, etc) so I suppose I “budget” there, but I am looking forward to reading more of your blog and watching your video series. I have a difficult time with feeling like I have to be structured and follow “rules”, so I am sure it won’t be very easy, but I am hoping and praying it turns out well for me! Thank you for putting yourself out there to help others in this area!! :)

    • says

      Hi Jessica! I have totally been where you are. I was single until age 28 and I really understand the desire to go out with friends. I think you should have time with friends, but maybe you can find ways to do it more cheaply like going out for lunch, eating a little bit first and just having a salad or appetizer, drinking water only, etc..

      I have hated budgeting and resisted it all my life until I made the connection between my everyday life and my long term vision. I think the important thing is to really pray about what your purpose in life is and to start determining what you want your life to look like. I started by cutting out pictures from magazines, sketching and writing in a journal, but I also like Pinterest because you can search websites and “pin” pictures to your board that represent what you want in life.

      Once I had a vision in place, it was much easier to bring our finances in line. I still struggle and mess up sometimes, but we are at least able to keep me home which is the plan for now.

  78. Taylor says

    I don’t live on my own yet. I am 20 and live with my mother, step-father and I have two brothers, 16 and 2 1/2. We have a great household income, with my mother and step father working full time, and with me working full time I pay for most of my own bills: food (i rarely am home to eat), gas, insurance, most necessities, leisure, and building a savings. My parents still find plenty time to spend with my brothers. My 2 1/2 year old brother is tri-lingual, knowing not only English, but ASL (american sign language) and Spanish. He has a home sitter, who is a BLESSING. She’s basically his grandmother, since we have no blood relatives near us. I don’t think we could have asked for better.
    Now, for MY tip to everyone. I’m not sure who all has done this, but my advise is COUPONING. Yes, we live comfortably, BUT we still have BILLS. With that said, my mother is a HARDCORE couponer. That woman can go grocery shopping and spend only 50-60$ on 130$ worth of stuff. The amount of FREE things you can get once you learn couponing is almost ridiculous, especially necessities. Toothpaste, deodarant, shampoo & condiditioner, body wash/soap, etc (she tends to keep us STOCKED). CVS, Target, Publix, Winn-Dixie (and only occasionally Walmart & Sams Club) are her main shopping spots because of the couponing deals. Its an art for her now, and she LOVES it. It saves TONS after you start adding up savings after the first two or three months.

  79. Melissa says

    Our debt:income ratio is out of control. We are starting your plan by using the freedom account and dividing up the expenses to make sure everything starts to get paid monthly(before that wasn’t happening, not even on a good month). I also, just started watching your videos. My question is how do you allocate for bills that are behind like utility bills, phone bills, etc.? Also, how do you pay off the debt not necessarily credit card debt, but like medical bills, collection items, etc.? Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

    • says

      If you are behind, catching up should be your first priority. I would cut out all unnecessary spending (eat really cheap meals, no eating out, no entertainment, etc.) and try to bring in extra income through selling things, babysitting, house cleaning, lawn mowing, etc. until you can get caught up. Once you have everything current, you may want to continue the extra income to get the accounts a little ahead and then just make sure that you plan every paycheck so that you take out money to pay for food, gas, rent/mortgage and utility bills first before you spend on anything else. Does that make sense?

      • Melissa says

        That does make since. Unfortunately, we don’t do any of those things. Rarely do we ever go out to eat, we don’t see or rent movies, etc. This has always been our major set-back and why we’ve never been able to stick to a plan. I have a ton of things listed for sale on craigslist, but I seem to run into the “I want something for nothing people” and can’t sell the items. Would taking a single paycheck and paying all of the things that are behind be smart? We’ll definitely have to look into trying to find a side-job for extra income. I really appreciate your advice/help. Thanks so much!

  80. Ree says

    I would love to try this as I am trying to find a way to cut down my spending. When I’m bored usually that is when I get myself into trouble because I like to walk around the mall and then I get hungry and eat something there, then buy things and it’s just such a vicious cycle. I don’t necessarily feel any pleasure in buying things, sometimes I even get buyers remorse. So I would love to try this system. I’m great with Excel, but I know what you mean about writing things down. To see it written is more powerful to me than seeing it on a computer screen. I was just wondering how I go about getting started. I wanted to make sure I understood the steps correctly. The Freedom Account is used for what I need to save or what I need to spend the money on (i.e. my credit cards)?

    Thank you for sharing this! I love bargains, maybe a little too much sometimes. Bargain shopping adds up if you do it frequently. So focusing on needs and wants is something i need to learn and it’s something my friend always told me about. I would just like to make a change.

    • says

      The original intent of the Freedom Account concept created by Mary Hunt was to put money aside for future expenses that are irregular. I use my second account for every bill whether regular or irregular because if I see money in our primary account I will spend it on something I don’t “need”. Does that make sense?

  81. Lori says

    I was $60,000 in credit card debit over seven years ago and
    my game plan was to work 2 part-time jobs and 1 full-time job
    and to use the envelope system every pay day to make sure
    that I did not leave any money in my checking account that I could not spend. I also went through a good credit counseling service that helped me deal with the credit card companies.
    I did not not use a credit card in 7 years and am happy to say that
    life is much easier with out so much debt. It was easy getting here I had to make a lot of family time sacifices but the stress is no longer there. Wish there had meetings you could attend in your hometown to sure ideas but then again no one ever wants to talk finances until its to late. My advice it a system that works for you and don’t quit find someone who will listen when it is getting tough and you will see the light at the tunnel when it is all done.

    • says

      Congratulations on paying off so much debt! I am so impressed! Great advice to find a system that works and keep plugging away. Thanks Lori.

  82. says

    It is so good to see someone who does not use credit cards!! My husband and I made the decision to avoid credit very early in our relationship and though we’ve suffered slightly in credit score, I feel that overall we are better off. I see so many of my friends, family and neighbors charging their entire lives and I cant wrap my mind around living that way. I have met a woman that uses them so much, she basically makes money off the bonuses- they swear they have no debt but I can’t do the math where 6K a month on one card and 2K a month on another equals 300 cash in a gift card and there is zero debt. We are also a frugal family on a low income and we live a comfortable lifestyle. Thank you for sharing, you have no idea how much it means to me to hear that someone else avoids credit also.

  83. Jasmine says

    In response to Lori and Wendy about the Credit cards… here is something little that my husband and I both are doing. We both needed to build credit and were not keen on the idea of credit cards. I had had one since I was 15 but my parents held onto it for me, allowing a once a month purchase on it after I showed them the cash in hand. So taking that concept, my husband and I got a joint credit card… BUT… we leave the credit card on our dresser, it doesn’t go out with us so the temptations not there to use it. Once every month or every couple of months we go out to this little local bagel shop and have a morning date (breakfast prices are soooo much cheaper)! The total never goes over 10 dollars, for the both of us, and since we don’t ever eat out…this is our one little splurge and it takes care of our building credit issue as well(We pay this off almost as soon as it pops up on the account). Hope that is an idea someone can use! For us we kept running into problems of not having enough credit built up, so ideally credit cards wont be in our long term and have and always will be an ’emergency use only’ kind of thing!

    God Bless!

  84. Dana says

    This is great. Thank you for sharing. I just had my 2nd child and really need to re budget my self. I know this will help!

    Also, I had around 5k in 20’s debt. One year I used my whole tax return. I called each company and asked for a discount if paid in full. Some worked, some didn’t. I saved 2k. Depending on your debt amount compared to your tax return amount you could make a decent dent. Hope that helps someone :-)

  85. Dee says

    You are lucky you have a husband that works with you. When I got married my husband said my money is my money and your money is our money. I thought he was joking. twenty four years later I am struggling to pay the bills all by myself and I have no clue what he does with his money. It is a hopeless situation.

    • says

      I am so sorry Dee. Have you tried marriage counseling? We have not always been in agreement, but through counseling and my choosing to communicate when things were not working in our relationship, we have come to this place. Marriage is a lot of work and even if your husband won’t agree to go with you, you could benefit greatly from going to counseling yourself. Another good idea is to read the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. I think they even have one specifically for marriage. Good luck!

  86. Shayne says

    In addition to our Excel spreadsheet, we keep a dry erase board in a visible place in our house (to be hidden when company comes) that tracks budget items that we have complete control over: groceries, entertainment, dining, etc. It’s basically a checkbook log, and it helps us keep an eye on where we are in those categories so that a) we don’t go over, and b) we can celebrate when we are under in those areas.

  87. says

    I wanted to just drop and FYI for those wanting to know ways to get out of credit card debt. For the past 4 1/2 years I have been paying down just that. Due to my sons medical needs I was forced to put A LOT of the debt on my cards. The minimums were killing me and I was going nowhere. A pastor friend and his wife send me some information on a debt management program they were using and had just finished up their last payment of a large debt. Fast forward to present. In just a few days I will be making my last payment on a debt that was well over 20,000 in credit cards alone. I am in no way affiliated with this company but I sing their praises as often as I can because of what it has done for me. There are many debt management companies out there I just know from personal experience that this one is legit and works. The way it works is they gather all the information on ALL your credit cards including ones like Lowes and even furniture store cards. They call each one and negotiate a lower interest rate and payment. As long as they are a participating credit card company they ALWAYS negotiate. (They want paid as bad as you want out) Once they work out the details they call with the amount you will be paying monthly. It MUST be an automatic withdraw from your account and they manage the dispersing of funds. You choose the date you want the withdraw to happen from a group of date options they give you. They do ask for a small fee monthly as they make no money from this other than whatever we(the ones in debt) pay them. Based on your income and your debt management payment they suggest an amount. I personally couldn’t at that time afford what they suggested and it wasn’t a large amount.(I believe it was 20 or so?) They asked what I could pay and I said $10.00. They accepted that amount and it would become my fee along with my debt management payment per month for the next 4 1/2 years. Your payment for your credit cards will be significantly smaller than what you are currently paying and it will be one lump sum. When one card is paid for they choose the card that has the next highest interest and apply the payment to that card along with what was already being paid. When another is paid they do the same thing till you are down to one and then NONE! ;0) They even crunched the numbers to show you how long(just paying minimum) it would take to pay the debt and how much it would end up costing you. It was astronomical how much money I saved not to mention I would never have paid that debt off in this lifetime at the minimums. Those cards have all been cut up and tossed loooong ago and NOW, if I don’t have the cash for an item I don’t buy it. I do have my house and car but those are necessities to work/live. My sons medical needs/supplies also have to be prioritized choosing only the items he needs to survive and pushing all other items back till we can afford them. This was and still is very difficult to do especially since his needs are just that “Needs” but, by taking away all the extras that were just “wants” on my part and slashing every bill down to the bare minimum that we need to survive its working. I’m not finished yet though…My plan now is to take what I’ve been paying on my debt management and begin applying it to the principle on my car and house which will greatly reduce both their amounts in the next 2 years making those payments even more manageable. Our income will be going down quite a bit at that time so rather than the “surprise!” your income is less, I will be dealing with it along the way making the transition that much easier. It’s the best thing I have ever done and would do it all over again.

    • says

      I am glad that worked out for you Trina. Unfortunately I have heard a lot of complaints in situations where that didn’t work out because the company took the money, but did not pay off the debt and when the person checked their credit report they had problems. For others reading this comment, you can actually negotiate with credit card companies yourself. Dave Ramsey has a lot of information about how to do this.

      I love that you are taking the money and paying off more debt instead of spending it. Way to go!

  88. Casey says

    One tool I LOVE is the app on my smartphone. (But you can also use the website by itself) I set the kind of budgets that I am trying to stick to (gas budget, grocery budget, etc.), and every day it updates on all my accounts, and tells me when I am overspending in one category, or when I have a little wiggle room left. It can also offer investment advice. It’s a really helpful little app – I always know where every penny is.

  89. Robin says

    I’m 21 and working full time, I’m going to college debt free but I haven’t finished by far. I just took on a car payment. What my parents taught me when I first started earning my own money was to budget. When I was in high school it was easier to do percentages. 10% of this 20% of that and so on. Now I do 10% for tithe (I know I could use that money for a lot of stuff but God has a place in my life and I have to trust Him), then i take everything that I need to buy/pay and figure out how much I’ll need per paycheck to make it happen. I still live with my parents so I don’t have to worry about rent or groceries so much. But I do pay my own phone bill (cuz I wanted an iPhone) and my car payment and for clothes and to take care of my dogs and stuff like that. I make about $1200.00 a month. I have an app on my iPhone called EZ Budget and its like an electronic envelope system. I divide my paycheck into it, then I know how much money I have where. I have enough money to save for car repairs and savings about 30 bucks each check. and 55 per check for car ins. my phone bill is generally 110ish there’s no way to lower it I’ve checked. i get 30 spending cash for however many days there are between the 15th and the 30th. my spending money is for any eating out, sodas or anything i want thats not in the budget. before my car payment i had 60 per check. I’m learning how to save and its painful but its goin. anyway just wanted to chime in, but i would recommend that ez budget app to anyone who has a smartphone. its 5 bucks i think but its totally worth it i think.

  90. Zee says

    I just wanted to share a great tool with you. I am not sure if you are familiar with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University!!! Our church offers his DVD classes every semester….We did it last fall. It was very beneficial for us. We learned to categorize our money and are working toward building some savings for emergencies.
    I still don’t have the hang of it and am struggling with our budget. We don’t have cable, barely go out, but we seem to come across lots of emergencies. Our biggest spending is groceries, and I need to find how to manage that.
    Great blog. Thank you

  91. rs.Deering says

    This is an amazing blog. My husband and I are both college graduates and had fairly decent jobs prior to having children but were still living paycheck to paycheck due to frivolous spending habits. Since having kids ( 3 year old and 8 mos. Old) I have been a stay at home mom and we have been living on half of what we used to make and do not feel shortchanged or like we are missing out o anything. In fact by prioritizing we have managed to buy a house( in the bay area of Cali) paid off all CC debt and typically have money to do whatever pops up( date night,out of town trips) ) it really is about what is important for us it was about being there for our children and raising them instead of working to pay a babysitter and having a little extra money. We are extremely happy with our decision and would not trade it for the world. Oh and we too set up a separate account for expenses but just use it for the mortgage and for all other things use primary account. Plus a savings if tthings are short or something unexpected comes up.

  92. London says

    I do something similar to the process you mentioned above…my husband works off of commision as well and I am a Stay at home mom as well…what i do is at the 1st of the year I buy a new $store calendar….I then take our monthly bills add them up and divide by 4 (weeks) I know that some of our bills arent entirerly predictable (water, house gas, electric…ect) so I use the average of what they cost during the year before and set that as my “payment”…I then arrange the bills in a weekly format on my calendar…I always pay the amount I show due even if the bill is less so that if the bill is ever higher i have a credit and can continue to pay the amount I show (big stress reducer)…now my husbands weekly pay is around 500-$700 so when I set up the calendar i arrange the weekly bills so that they are around $300-$400…some of the bills can be paid all at once and some have to be spilt into multiples (like rent) I then take the remainder of his check and split it in 1/2—half goes to savings half goes to “mad-money” (ie his lunches, maybe a movie night or something else that we may have planned)…we stick to this very closely….the other thing that I do is very strange to most people…when I write a check or use our debit cards (we have multiple accounts as well) I round the amount up to the nearest $ and then add a $ (I know this seems strange but let me explain) if i spend 12.25 i write in my registar $14 every 3-4 mos or as unexpected things arrise I sit down and figure the “cushion” money in our checking account often times just by doing this we will have $500 we pretended we didn’t have! this is an awesome help around birthdays and christmas and is the ONLY way our kids get to do extras like cheer and football! I’ve tried many times to explain the way I work our books to others and very seldom does anyone really get it…but i works great for us also as has happened in the past there are those pay weeks that for one reason or another are way below what I had projected so that’s another time when I can dip into the “cushion” fund and still keep our heads above water. Another thing I do is we only buy one car at a time and we use a “tote the note lot” where they do not charge interest so we pay a few $ extra on each payment and when we get our income tax return we take them the whole thing! By doing this it gives us a bill that we can occasionally put off paying because we have no balance due at that time…we try really hard not to have to do that, but when medical or car issues arise it really is nice to have that to fall back on…now I haven’t mentioned our savings much so here it is…we are avid hunters in our family and that is how we spend the majority of our “together” time…so we build up that savings account so that durring hunting season we know exactly where we stand and how much we can or can’t do…kinda like alot of people do with a nice summer vacation…we just stock our freezer with meat that has no additives and is healthier (debatable by many) which also cheapens the amount of money that we spend on groceries because we very seldom buy any meat other than chicken.( We are not trophy hunters we hunt to eat and enojoy sharing the process of life with our children. I say this because I realize that many people just don’t understand the reasonings behind hunting…this is ours) I really appreciate you sharing your financing methods and hopefully sharing mine may help someone else as well!

  93. Katy says

    What would you say for someone who has just destroyed their credit and how to get it back? I have so much school debt it’s crazy.

    • says

      Hi Katy! I think the most important thing you can do is take a realistic look at the entire picture (write down exactly how much you owe and to whom) and then make a plan to attack it step by step.

      The most motivational way to pay off debt is to list your debts smallest to largest and start paying off the smallest while paying the minimum payment on everything else. Set goals for yourself (example: pay $500 extra this month on loan #1: pay loan #1 off in 3 months (or whatever is slightly shorter than you think is realistic).

      Reward yourself when you reach a goal (within reason–don’t go buy something expensive on credit, but maybe treat yourself to something that you have sacrificed to be able to pay the debt.). I have heard of people keeping a thermometer type chart on the fridge so they can stay motivated.

      I know it is a long road, but you can do it. The worst thing you can do is to ignore it or give up. Good luck!

  94. Anthony says

    Thank you. I have always created a budget, but have never been able to track it in a way that made sense to me. This makes sense to me. Thank you!

  95. says

    We are also a homeschooling family of 6 living on a similar amount of money per year.I WANT to have a budget, but I find it nearly impossible with a husband who is self employed and who’s income can vary greatly from month to month. Do you know of a way we can budget?

    • says

      The best way to budget an irregular income is to make a list of what you need to pay in order of priority and apply the money you have to each item on the list one at a time. For example, your list might look like this:

      1. food
      2. gas for the car
      3. power bill
      4. water bill
      5. rent/mortgage
      6. car payment
      7. car insurance

      Whenever you get money, you pay the 1st thing 1st, so you would buy food to last until your next pay period. Then you would put gas in the car, then set aside money to pay the power bill (we use a separate account for bill and rent money). Just work your way down the list, until you run out of money. Until you have significant savings, I would not eat out or spend any money for anything you don’t absolutely need. Once you get a little bit ahead you will have more freedom. Hope this helps.

  96. Carolyn Heiges says

    I use something very similar. It works in the same capacity yours does , just looks different. I have my budget worked out for the entire year. I look at how much we will bring in each week and what our bills are each week, what I need to roll over into the next week to make ends meet and if I can put any in savings. Also, I get paid every week, the husband every other, instead of getting slammed with a HUGE mortgage payment and home equity payment, I pay 1/2 of each on the weeks where we have more income, this eliminates the robbing peter to pay paul scenarios, our money is spread out to match what is coming in so there are no weeks with shortages. Through this process we are able to get ahead on our bills and we are almost paid off on the credit cards. Also, we have a joint account for the bills, then we each have our own individual accounts. Each week we get a set amount of money for an “allowance”, that is our gas money and/or eating out at lunch, etc. Right now it’s pretty much just gas money. That way someone isn’t overspending on anything. The Joint account is bills only and you can’t run out of your allowance or you’re up a creek. It takes some discipline, but we are able to make it. We are a family of 4 and spend only $50 a week on groceries. I’m a couponer, but not an extreme couponer.

    • Lisa says

      I do the exact same method…however I resigned teaching at a private christian school to home school and manage by husbands trucking paperwork. I am missing the extra money that we were using to pay down medical bills and credit cards. This means I am really “pinching every penny”. We have been using our cards as a crutch and this has really put us to the limit on our credit cards. Thanks to our wonderful government taxes and fees that you must pay to run your own business our income changes drastically weekly. Thanks be to God that we are barely able to keep our heads above water! I will be more disciplined with using cash when grocery shopping and we are locking up all ccards this week! Thanks for the inspiration. We desperately want to be out of debt! -L-

      • says

        Hi Lisa! You can do it! Good for you for getting rid of the credit cards and living within your means. If you need more encouragement, check out

  97. Christine says

    I haven’t had a chance to read all the replies so I’m sorry if someone has already mentioned my idea. We follow the Dave Ramsey plan which is actually similar to your plan. Instead of a separate checking acct,we use ING accts. They are free with no minimum balance. You can have as many as you like. We have several including vacation, christmas, car repair, home repair, etc. You can name them exactly what they are. The only hitch is that you have to request the transfer and it takes three days for it to hit your local checking acct. That’s actually good for big purchases b/c you should have a waiting period before you make a big purchase,imo. For this reason, we keep our emergency fund in our local savings acct and it is only used for emergencies.

  98. Shawnee says

    Thank you!!! Stumbled apon your website on pinterest! I can not wait to sit with my husband and go thru all this!!!! We are going to be going thru some BIG financial decisions and I’m scared! This just may help us!!! Thank you again!!!!!!

  99. Dawn says

    I have only 1 checking account but I do have 2 savings accounts. I have money automatically taken out of my paycheck each month and put into both accounts. One account is linked to my checking so that I can get to it if necessary. The other savings is far more difficult to get to and I don’t play with online. It is difficult to access the money so we don’t touch it except for actual emergencies or big ticket spending – like our son’s college.

  100. Sarah says

    I am a calender girl I write everything on my calender. I realize this is old school for most people but works for me. As soon as I get a bill I write it on the calander on the day its due. I know what bills are coming out of what check. Those bills that you dont pay every month in my cause say garbage I know how much it is and I pay it every 3 months I take the amount and divide it by three and ad it to my monthly expenses. I also round up if I know a bill is say $56.73 I round it up to $60 and we dont have direct deposit so I only deposit the money for the bills in the bank and take the rest cash. For me its easier to manage my wekkly money and by rounding up my bills I have extra money in the bank I also round up my deposit. So if I have figured I need say $442.00 a week I deposit $450.00 I know it may not seem like much but it does add up in the long run. At the end of the month whatever is extra I transfer to my savings.

    • Sarah says

      I forgot to mention where I live we only have electricity no gas and I know in the summertime my electricity runs about $215 a month w/my a/c set at 82 I budget this amount every month and my car insurance I pay it for 10 months but budget it for 12. So there are months when I have quit a bit leftover.

      • Angela says

        Fyi most electric companies have a program where they will average out your electric bill for the year. Instead of having a $100 bill in Jan and a $200 bill in June, you would have a set payment every month. It really helps to budget.

  101. Jessica says

    This is a genius idea! I definitely now know how I’m going to separate, manage, and spend my money when I’m married! Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      I have a post planned about this, but my “go to” plans are: (1) Find items on clearance and store them in a closet where I “shop” when I need something; (2) make something personal (ex: hand painted baby shoes, embroidered blanket or towel for baby shower; romantic picnic basket for wedding couple or devotional book with a nice handwritten card, etc. (3) Go in together with others to purchase a larger gift, for example, you each contribute $10-$20 but buy something more expensive because the total amount of money is larger when combined.

      Hope this helps!

      • Heather says

        To add to that, I plan for a certain # of birthday parties and weddings each year and plug that into the budget plan for the irregular checking account (I already have a system in place similar to what you mentioned).

        Reply Add-on to Jess:

        For instance, I already know our close friends’ kid’s birthdays and then we always gets a few invites during the school year, too and there is always at least two weddings each year. And for the close friends you can watch the clearance shelves throughout the year, too.

        If we come under budget, then great, otherwise we are already prepared by saving monthly for them.

  102. says

    We do something very similar to you only we use a fold-out checkbook register with all the categories in it. This way, we only have one checking account and always are able to update it when out and check our amount in certain categories. It’s called the Budget Map and you can order online if interested. I love it and it has completely changed the way we handle our finances. My husband has his own that he keeps for certain categories too so it keeps him involved.

  103. Shaunese says

    I have a “Never Fall Below Amount”, which appears to be similar to your idea. The concept is never allowing my checking account to fall below $1500. This must be there after all of my bills are paid at all times! It works well for me. I like this approach because if there is ever a payment I forget about or something comes up, I will not have to use credit nor will my payment bounce. I suggest it!

    • says

      That is a super idea Shaunese–my mom does this as well. I unfortunately don’t have the discipline to not spend it when I see it in the account.–LOL!

      • says

        Kimberlee, I know what you mean! If I see it in my checking account balance, it’s too tempting to spend. I find it helps if I write it “out” of my balance. Meaning, it’s in my checking account, but I don’t reflect it in the bottom line of my checkbook balance. So if I have $1,599.00 in my checking account, but I don’t want my checking account to fall below $1,500, I just simply write that $1,500 out of my balance so my checkbook total reads as $99. Then I don’t spend more than what my checkbook says I have in the account ($99). But I never have $1,500 in my checkbook backed up….right now, it’s only $30. LOL!

        • Mea says

          I have done this with a fair amount of success- I have deposited tax returns into the checking account, but never wrote them into the check book. I knew the money was there, but I never actually wrote it in, because of the whole “see it, spend it”. Since I couldn’t see it physically there, I didn’t spend it.

  104. says

    I am loving this series and your blog!

    We use a software program called YNAB~*You Need A Budget*:

    I am still trying to figure out what to do when there is no extra $$ to put aside for the *unexpected*. That is the number one problem that throws us off for a few months…dealing with it right now…ugh!

    Okay…going to read more!

    • Barbara says

      Theresa, What Kimberlee said was a good start, if you have something unexpected and have no emergency fund yet you’ll have to “unfund” some of your “don’t need it today” categories and pay that bill. Then move the $$ back when your income allows. But, also, for me, It was “scorched earth” for awhile, until we had $1000 in the emergency fund. Then we thankfully went back to normal. We incurred $5500 in medical debt in this 9 month process, so we are making no interest payments on that, but we will have that paid off in Jan. It’s just about not getting scared and keeping your head even when it looks like it’s going to be tough. Once you can roll even a few dollars a month into each “monthly” category it builds up fast and you’ll see a big difference over time. Best to you.

  105. Charlia K says

    I just found your blog yesterday and it has truly inspired me to start becoming more like this. It always has been a goal of mine to be able to be a stay at home wife and mommy. My husband makes about 45k a year but it still is super tough for us to stick to a budget and stick to a plan to save money, meet our goals, and get to where we truly would like to be in life (bigger house, truck paid off, emergency fund, health insurance, life insurance) etc. And although your posts have helped me SO much to come up with good ideas on how to save more money it is still beyond difficult for me to be able to put it all together and have a full blown plan to be able to bring to my husband and say Hey i figured it out this is how we can do it and this is out it’ll work. I’m not sure where to start to get there. if you have any suggestions on building my plan please email me and let me know! thank you!

  106. Ericka W says

    PNC is my bank and they have a free online budgeting system that comes with their Virtual Wallet accounts. You can set your budget and it keeps track for you. There’s also a wish list feature that you can allocate your saved funds, which could work like your Freedom Account. You may want to check and see if your bank offers this, as I can’t tell you how much time it saves me!

  107. Barbara says

    Obviously a great way to start managing money better is to always have a budget. I do recommend Dave Ramsey or Mary Hunt about how anyone can budget no matter how you receive income. I have been using “YNAB” software (You Need a Budget). It is very inexpensive and you never have to upgrade (the way Quicken does). It is so stinkin’ easy to use and I have found I no longer even look at my check book balance until I reconcile. I look at the budget, see what’s in what category and spend from there. Each category is funded , but not every category is funded monthly. The top essentials are funded first, then (for us right now) everything else goes to debt reduction. So there is no $$ in “gift giving” or “eating out”, but groceries are funded, vet expense or Gasoline categories get $ put into them each month. YNAB makes it super easy to change your figures, be flexible and satisfy that budding nerd within. (this is a budget to zero method, so every dollar has a job)

  108. Crystal says

    I have found that for us, doing our budget on a monthly scale helps a lot. I can break down each week on a spread sheet and have a section for income, a section for monthly bills that always occur, necessities (food, gas in the car, etc.), savings and payments to things we are paying off (credit cards, etc.) and then at the very end have the spread sheet (or manually) add it up to make sure all the money is accounted for. This also helps when we have extra money because on things we are paying off or trying to save a specific amount for (Christmas, Birthdays a vacation) we can see how close we are to our goal very quickly, which sometimes makes that decision easy! I know budgeting is not always easy, especially when the income side of things is minute compared to the expenses portion, but knowing how your money is spent is extremely important! Even if you just hoard receipts for a month and then add it all up at the end of the month, I guarantee you would be shocked at where your money went! Happy Budgeting!

    P.S. I like your Freedom Accounting method. I think it is great to be able to find stuff like this free online!

  109. Desiree says

    I’ve developed my own custom excel budget that is broken down by week. Having things broken down week by week has been crucial to me understanding and actually sticking to the budget. I do a weekly bill pay and money check-up on paydays. Rather than transferring money to a separate account to pay bills later on in the month, I leave the money in our normal account. This only (and I mean ONLY) works because I pay ABSOLUTELY no attention to the number in my checking account (other than making sure that the amounts from my budget match the amounts in the account). To me, the amount in the account is NOT the amount of money that I have to spend because part of that money will be needed to pay the mortgage at the end of the month. I realize that this definitely doesn’t work for everyone but once I got used to using my budget as a guide to how much money I have, rather than my bank account, I’ve had very few problems with actually sticking to it. Another thing that has helped immensely? Dedicating an entertainment category once a month. It can be a little or as much as your budget allows, but knowing that I have a set amount (taken out in cash at the beginning of the month) keeps me from feeling too restricted but also makes me be smarter about how I spend it because when it is gone, it is gone.

  110. Heather says

    I’ve been using You Need a Budget for a couple of years now, sort of like a virtual envelope system, and it has completely turned my whole world and my bank account around. I love it.

  111. Anna says

    This is WONDERFUL! We recently had to make a major financial change in our household and I’m quickly learning how to budget everything, as I take over the books. With no more credit cards spending to fall back on, every penny counts and all of these tips have been very helpful. I’m still figuring out our needs and expenses are . . . and what we really CAN live on or live without! We’ve never been big spenders, but all the little things would add up quickly. I can’t say that all the anxieties I’ve been having lately will just poof away, but this all helps a lot. Thank you for your blog. I’ve been inspired and I know it will get easier as time goes by. There really is a light at the end of our financial tunnel.

  112. Hannah says

    I like to use a spread sheet that I found online that is broken down into each pay period. It breaks things down even farther to give your totals of in outs and what you have left over and gives the opportunity to plan using a zero balance. This spread sheet is free and has been quite useful so far.

    You can find the template at this link and several other useful ones all free. The one I use is the GLBL BUDGET.

  113. says

    Before I read this post, I had no idea about a freedom account. My husband used to use mvelopes but it was part of our regular account and didn’t work for much more than seeing where our money was going, not really where it needed to be going. I love this. I used an extra account I had for another purpose. I love spreadsheets so I bought excel geek’s freedom account spreadsheet; an investment of $10 that has or already paid for itself. Thank you times a million.

  114. MissAngel says

    I am 22 years old, and have moved into my first apartment and started my first quarter of University simultaneously. I get no financial aid and thus have to work part time as well as going to school full time. Unfortunately, not many high paying jobs want to work around a college student’s schedule, so I am stuck with slightly above minimum wage. It’s been really hard trying to manage my money around rent and other bills. Not to mention the fact that I make just enough that I don’t qualify for food stamps. Anyways, I’m babbling. I just wanted to say: You are my hero!

    • says

      I’m sorry you are having a difficult time, but glad that I can encourage you a little. Is it possible for you to get a roommate to help with the rent and utilities? Just a thought. :)

      • Sabrina says

        See if you can get on payment plans for bills like utilities. Some gas and electric companies can calculate what your useages will be in a year and divide the cost over a year so that there are no surprise every month on what your bill will be and it makes it easier to budget those payments. I personally do this and love it.

  115. Sabrina says

    I do something I feel is very similar. I decided it was to easy to spend my paycheck if I tried to “save” money for payments with it sitting in my checking account. So, I opened a second checking account at a different credit union and split up my direct deposit. I sat down wrote out a list of my bills and figured out how much I would need from each check to meet my monthly obligations. I get paid every two weeks so I divided the amount by two and that is how much went in every paycheck. Now that I am married and we have two incomes to work with. I again evaluated what our monthly bills were. Now my paychecks go to the “bills” checking account and my husbands goes to the “household” checking account. I have ACH payments set up for some bills and other I have bi-weekly payments automatically set up through the online billpay service the credit union offers. We use the “household” checking account for daily and weekly expenses that come up, such as; groceries, gas, eating out, and extras that may pop up.

  116. Paige says

    Great ideas! I set up a second checking account, but did so with another bank. I did this because I was constantly looking at what was available when checking my regular account. This may not help everyone but it did for me. I had a hard time saving money once I was in college and this worked. Thank you again for sharing your ideas with us!

  117. Shayna says

    I use a similar application for my bills. I used to work at the Credit Union we use so I created many accounts. We have three savings accounts (mine, his, and kids) then we have three checking accounts (mine, his, and bills). When my husband gets paid the money comes into the “bills” account. This account only has checks attached to it so there is no simple way to get to this money. This is also the account that all our automatic drafts come out of (car insurance, cell phone, etc.). From there I can move money to my checking and his checking account that we have a debit card for. We were sharing a debit card account but he tends to spend and not tell me so we just split it so I could better manage the spending. So far this has been the way we have done things for years and it works out great. There is always money in the bills account and if we use all the money in our personal accounts then oh well. The problem we have found is that he is not involved in any of the financial issues and all the stress comes to me so I get overwhelmed very often and sometimes just say the heck with it all and ignore everything. This ends up biting me in the butt. I don’t know how I can keep myself motivated!! I am so glad I found your blog!! It gives me more hope that I can get back on track and work down our debt. Our monthly usage seems to be about the same as yours or maybe a little less to work with. Thank you so much for posting!! It gives me hope that it can be done with hard work and consistency!

  118. Missi says

    Wonderful ideas. I’m glad I found this site as we roll into the new year. The question I have is what part of the country do you live in? Cost of living varies greatly from one part of the country to another and would like to be able to convert some of your ideas to where I live. (I apologize if this was answered somewhere and I missed it.)

    • says

      Hi Missi–welcome! We are in the Southeast. Prices do vary, but in our area we have high housing and utility costs, and our food costs are higher than some areas (especially the midwest). Every area has its challenges. The key is to find areas where you can cut back in order to spend that money on things that matter more to you.

  119. says

    Hi Kimberlee!

    Can you help me understand how to get started on the first month? if you have to pay the bills because they are due for that month, do you just have to put as much as possible in the freedom account to save for the following months? I amnot sure I understand how to get going.. or for another example, say I want to start using a freedom account today, I can out 1/12th of my car insurance in each month, but the bill is due on July.. know what I mean? I am energized by reading about this..but I dont quite understand the whole thing yet I dont think!

    And I think now is obviously the perfect time to start saving for holiday shopping isnt it?!

    • says

      Hi Kerry! There are several options. Here’s what we did: when our next paycheck arrived, we paid anything that was due before the next paycheck, left grocery and gas money in the primary account and moved anything leftover into the second account. There wasn’t much at first, but we put it into the first category on the spreadsheet which for us was rent. We did the same thing with each following paycheck until we were able to pay the rent completely from the second account. After that we took 1/4 of the rent amount, utility amount, etc. from each paycheck and put it into the account. Does that make sense?

      If you don’t have any leftover money in your first paycheck, you can use these ideas to get some extra money: The comments have lots of helpful ideas too.

      • says

        Yes this makes a lot of sense, thank you for taking the time!

        I make more than 28,000 a year but I am a single mom and send my two kids to Catholic School (live in an urban setting and our public schools are scary). The added expense makes it really tight and I feel like I am neglecting other aspects of my life (emergency fund, home repairs, etc) and I am recovering from credit disaster (from the marriage/divorce) so I can not (nor do I want to) rely on credit cards for an emergency.

        I just want to be able to feel secure and not in a state of panic that the hot water heater/furnace/car/you name it will break and I wont be able to fix it. I want some financial freedom!! :) You really have shown me a good plan for this! Thanks so much!!!

  120. Stephanie says

    My family does something very similar. We have 3 boys, and my husband and I both work full-time jobs. My husband is a paramedic and works 24 hour shifts. He frequently has to eat out. Needless to say, when we were both using the same account, it was extremely hard to keep up with and we found ourselves periodically bouncing checks and when bill-time rolled around, we were short. Our “plan” has evolved a couple of times. We have more bank accounts than I care to admit, but they are all free accounts and it works for us! We have a set amount we budget in one account to cover the bills; another set amount we budget for incidentals and groceries; then we each have an account to cover our gas, lunches, etc. Additionally, we have a set amount that goes into a savings account, which we don’t use unless it’s an emergency.. Having this many accounts may sound somewhat extreme and complicated, but on the contrary, it has made things much simpler for us, now having minimal issues with bill-paying (except for the occasional utility bill that is higher than the norm), groceries, etc… Thank you for taking the time to offer this out to help other people!!!

    • says

      You think like I do Stephanie–separate accounts helps keep the money dedicated to what it was intended for. It’s not for everybody, but the important thing is to find what works for you and to stick to it and it sounds like you are. :)

  121. Heather says

    I am a single mom to 2 boys, ages 5 & 11. Including the money I get for child support, I make $2158 per month. My budget is basically a “future checkbook” in an Excel spreadsheet. I have a column for ever month, for at least a year ahead. There is a total running balance column. I just put in pay dates, due dates, can even go to the month of August and add how mucj I want to spend on their birthday party. So when I make a change in May, so my auto insurance goes up, or I decide to ride the bus instead of spending money on gas that week, I can see to the penny how it will affect my budget for the remainder of the year.

    So budgeting isn’y my problem, but finding ways to save money will be a great help! Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to read more :)

  122. Leigh says

    We are in this financial situation as weel(living on one income) and have 2 boys. So finding a way to budget for things that come up with them( new shoes, birthdays, clothes that get destroyed during a random ninja fight) has been very difficult. Im so glad a came acroos this webiste. I definately will be trying the “freedom account”. Its exactly what I’ve been looking for.

  123. Kristina says

    This is great!. My husband and I were really bad about spending whatever we wanted until we decided to buy a house. Of course when we bought our house our monthly bills increased about $600.00. Before we purchased the house we seemed to have little to no money at the end of each month but for some reason we are now able to put one paycheck a month into the savings account. We realized that we use to go out to eat once a week to an expensive restaurant, eat fast food when I was too lazy to cook after a long day at work, and I have a son so of course I bought him a ton of toys and things he just did not need. I realized that it is possible for me to save money and those days I’m too lazy to cook well i get over it and whip together some spaghetti or something. At this point I could probably go back to being a stay at home mom and we would be fine, but I like working (sometimes lol). With the money we have managed to save I have started a small business because one day I want to be my own boss and I want to be able to be home when my son gets home from school so I can help with homework. When I read your blog I didnt know if it would help me or not but it does make me want to try to be even more frugal than what we are. I am 24 years old and I am proud to say that the only debt I have is my mortgage… I just need to figure out how to hurry and pay that :)

  124. says

    Thank you for sharing Kimberlee and other ‘posters’.
    In addition to tracking accounts in’s and outs, I have a Bill Map – this shows when each bill is due over a 12 month period. It is just a table with moths across the top and bill names down the side with a tick in the grid where the bill is due.
    It doesn’t ‘do’ anything, but is a visual of the fact that June and January a full months with Professional Licensing fees, union fees (June) and home insurances, car club and return to school expenses (January).

  125. Amanda says

    I have been doing this since 2008!! My husband rolls his eyes at me and says I need a plan…. This IS my plan, this is how I save for car insurance. Our situation is much like yours in that He had ZERO debt when we got together (we recently just bought a house, so now he has that debt) but I have a student loan, a credit card, a timeshare I split with my Mom, and my car…. It totals about 30,000 not including our house… But that’s all mine, not his… My car is close to being paid off, 3 months and its done… I couldn’t do it without this extra savings account.

  126. Anna says

    This is a really great idea, but we’ve actually taken it further.

    Here’s what we do;

    My husband is the one who makes the money, however I get about $800 for going to school (we don’t live in the US, so we actually get paid for going to school & our healthcare is free, but we pay for dentist, glasses, etc ourselves.)
    He makes about $6000 a month, so we have about $6800 a month.

    Each month we put $1100 into a “freedom account”. This money is for insurance (car & lifeinsurance), our car payment, daycare, rent (rent is included utilities, tv & internet), ACT, etc. All the bills that we have both monthly and bi-monthly. The bills that we pay only once a year (insurance, ACT) we divide by 12.
    So every month when we get paid, we automatically put $1100 into the other account and everything gets paid for, so we never end up not being able to pay for something. Such a “stress-reliever”.

    For the past two years we have been buying Christmas presents through out the year. The first year, in january, we made a budget – how much we could/wanted to spend on each gift & stockingstuffers. Then we added it up, and divided it by 12, and spent that amount on presents each month plus we put that amount into a savings account for the next year.
    The next year we did the exact same thing, but then we had the money to buy the presents for, so we didn’t have to put the money aside twice.

    This year we’ve taken it further. In december of 12 we went over every birthday through out the year, figured out how much money we wanted to spend on birthday presents, and we Now put twice that amount into our savingsaccount (same as te Christmas money go into), and next year we Will have the money already.

    For food and gas, we have a seperate account. We put $900 into the account, and then we each have a debit card that we use when we buy food and gas. We can only spend as much as we put into that account. It wont go through If there are no money to withdraw from.

    At the end of each month I divide our receits. We have multiple categories – 1. Food 2. Gas 3. Clothes + shoes 4. Toys 5. Gifts 6. Haircuts 7. Fun (movies, candy, restaurants, parks, etc).

    Then we put half of our income into a savings account. If we want to spend that money we have to notify the bank 6 months in advance or else we have to pay a certain ammount of each dollar we withdraw.

    Whatever is left we put into another account, and that money goes towards haircuts, clothes, shoes, toys, the dentist (we each go twice a year, and pay $350 each time. Our daughter has free dentist until she’s 18), new tires or anything else for the car, schoolsupplies, going to the movies or restaurants, etc. We usually put about $1400 into that account a month.

    I have an app on my phone where I can log onto my bank at any time, and see how much there is on any of our accounts. Each month I print out a copy of every Bill that’s been paid and sign it, and we have a file system for all of our bills, accounts, budgets, receits, etc.

    This Got so long, and seems really confusing, but it’s really not and works so Well.

  127. Katie says

    We (a young couple in our early twenties) live in NYC, and I LOVE reading your blog. We are surrounded by people who prioritize double-income 80-hour work weeks and measure worth by who designed your shoes, and as a frugal southerner who focuses more on putting money away, I’ve always felt a bit left out. You write so eloquently about the importance of spending time with family, and it is so reassuring to know that I’m not alone in refusing to build my life around making as much money as possible.

    We may not have any designer shoes, but I’m paying off my student loans in three years and saving for retirement and kids! Thank you for reminding me what is important.

    • says

      Hi Katie! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I imagine that it is very difficult to feel left out, but be assured that you are taking care of the important things! Hang in there! :)

  128. Ashraf says

    I am using something similar and different at the same time. My payroll account is just for paying bills and nothing else (phone, electricity, mobile etc). Then I withdraw certain amount for the monthly home expenses. I divide the withdrawn into 4 equal amounts and insert each amount into an envelope (that will be the weekly expenses for each week). Next I transfer the rest for irregular expenses like school fees & insurance for my family

  129. eloisa says

    What state do u live in because u have rent for 250 a month. Here in miami an efficency cost 600.00 a month. I keep trying to find website that can help but even the price of food is very diffrent here.

    • says

      Hi Eloisa. Yes, different areas of the country are different but we live in an area with high food and rent prices. Our rent is actually $1050 a month, not $250. $260 is what we save weekly to be able to pay the rent at the end of the month when it is due.

      As far as your situation, you could check to see if someone has a garage apartment or guest house they want to rent out, or try a roommate situation.

  130. Jen says

    Your living on less series is a true inspiration. My husband is a (for 18 days now) former soldier with the German air force. We are living in Germany, and our expenses are fixed. My husband is like your father though… we have 2 children and must budget everything.. on the equivalent of $2800 a month (keep in mind, Walmart and Walmart clothes -inexpensive- don’t exist in Germany) so budgeting has become my way of keeping us out of the red. Your series has already provided me with many many more ideas that I may be able to build our savings and live more comfortably. Thank you so much!

  131. Mia says

    Hello! I’ve just discovered your site and have been reading it with great interest!
    I want and need to budget better. So far we’ve gone through our records and listed our recurring expenses such as rent, utilities, etc but what I find very difficult is how to budget for clothes. We very rarely go out clothes shopping and rely a lot on thrift stores, ebay and hand-me-downs and I also sew a lot of our clothes. the problem is that I struggle to figure out how much to budget bc – say – I don’t know when any of my four kids will have a growth spurt or when DH’s shoe get s a great big hole and a new pair is needed.
    Would anyone have any ideas pls?
    thank you in advance!

    • says

      Hi Mia! I suggest budgeting a certain amount like $30/mo. And putting it into an envelope or separate account. The amount can accrue until you need it, and you will be able to see after a few months if you need to budget more on a regular basis. Hopefully that helps.

  132. Nicole says

    My first thought was, “I hope her family size is very close to mine” and it is! Hurray!!! Our household size is down to 7 now since 2 of our children have begun life on their own and are able to provide for themselves. If we can live on under $35,000 per year we will be doing great as this is half of our annual income. Thank you for sharing!

    • says

      Welcome Nicole! It takes a lot of sacrifice and planning, but it can be done. It’s great that you can choose to live on less rather than being forced to. Good for you for taking control of your finances!

  133. says

    I will echo what others here have said – YNAB ( was my lifesaver once I got my first job. I’m a huge fan of a lot of Dave Ramsey’s financial principles, but YNAB is just what works best for me. :)

  134. Shelly says

    I started using Mary Hunt’s system in 2006. It is a miracle system. I wish I had used it years before. I love Freedom accounts and the cash system, because they seem to give you more freedom to spend when you choose to, and you know when you can’t spend! I just started reading your blog for inspiration. Good job.

  135. Rebecca says

    My money management system is 2 parts- I keep an excel sheet as well. First, I round everything up to the next dollar when I’m paying with a card so that the change creates a cushion. Second, I record all of my bills, buy groceries, and set aside gas money when I get paid. The remainder goes into a savings account.

      • Rebecca says

        The change stays in my checking account until around December. Usually by then it’s added up to a few hundred dollars which more often than not I split between Christmas shopping and saving. I have friends who have coin jars that they put their change into all year to use for Christmas shopping, so it’s the same idea. I’m a student, not married and no kids, so budgeting for one is a lot simpler than budgeting for a family. I save as much as possible because student loans are looming around the corner. From what I understand, some banks have a savings system that will also do this for you, it will automatically put the change in your savings account and you can also pick if you want to round up to the next dollar, five dollars, etc.

        • Rebecca says

          I should clarify, I check my account every pay day, but any round up money, any grocery or gas money that didn’t get used from the last paycheck gets ignored and left in my checking account. I only work with my incoming paycheck and leave the rest until December. I’ve never overdrawn an account as a result of doing this and it lends quite a bit to my savings account. If I constantly relied on checking my account I’m sure I would just end up spending that extra money.

  136. Kristin says

    Kimberlee, I just came across your blog via Pinterest. I’m “slow” when it comes to math and I’m having a hard time understanding your spreadsheet. What are the two numbers on either side of each slash mark /? Is that how much you’ve put towards that particular category on the left of the slash and what’s still left to pay on the right of the slash? Please interpret for me. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Kristin! Welcome! The number on the left is the amount that I am adding or subtracting and the amount to the right is the current balance in that category. It may be easier for you to use Excel or an online program. This is what works for us. Let me know if you have other questions. :)

  137. Malika says

    While I absolutely love your family plan. And I appreciate you sharing it with me. How would you suggest applying some of this to a young person in their 20’s, no kids and no car? I bus everywhere and I have a fulltime job. I’m just curious what your thoughts are on this. Again. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Malika! I will give you the same advice I give my son who is about to turn 19: (1) Keep your expenses low so that you can save the highest possible percentage of your pay; (2) Stay out of debt (pay cash for your car rather than getting a loan and avoid credit cards like the plague); and (3) Plan every paycheck. It is important to use some of your money for fun, but entertainment and non-necessity spending should be a very small percentage of your budget. Don’t squander your future on impulsive decisions and spending on items that are temporary. Making wise decisions now will give you the financial freedom to follow your dreams in the future. You can do it!

  138. says

    We are on but I’ve honestly never thought about saving for expenses we can foresee! I think I’m going to create at least three new categories: tabs, Christmas, and car insurance!

  139. Dary Rodz says

    I cannot help but wonder what type of house or apartment can you get by 250.00. It does not sound realistic unless you have some type of government help.

  140. Cindy Cadorette-Parise says

    I use a savings account vs a second checkbook. I transfer the money for bills into the savings until I need to pay the bill. That way I earn some interest also on bills not due every month. As an example my car insurance is every 6 months so I put it in the saving and can pay the bill in full also getting a discount from the company.

      • Cindy Cadorette-Parise says

        Does that include on line transfers? That is how I do it. my bank offers online banking so I have direct deposit . I only make 4 a month at the most anyway. It sure has helped me stay on track.

  141. Cindy Cadorette-Parise says

    I use a savings account vs a second checkbook. I transfer the money for bills into the savings until I need to pay the bill. That way I earn some interest also on bills not due every month. As an example my car insurance is every 6 months so I put it in the saving and can pay the bill in full also getting a discount from the company.

      • Cindy Cadorette-Parise says

        Does that include on line transfers? That is how I do it. my bank offers online banking so I have direct deposit . I only make 4 a month at the most anyway. It sure has helped me stay on track.

  142. says

    It sounds like you have everything under control Cara. The only advice I have is to be careful with the credit cards but it sounds like you are very disciplined. Good for you for taking control of your finances!

  143. Brandy says

    Why is the primary account for gas and groceries and misc and then you transfer to bills. It seems backward to how most people do it. They do the bills first and then food and misc last. Its confusing for me to understand

    • Kimberlee Stokes says

      Of course you should do what works for you Brandy. I am transferring money to the second account to pay bills which are due in future weeks. So for example, if a smaller bill like our internet service is due this week, I would pay it out of the main account then leave enough for gas and groceries for the week. The remainder of our paycheck would then go into the second account to save for upcoming bills.

      If a large bill or payment like our mortgage is due this week, I pay it from the second account (which has the money saved for that bill from previous weeks) and subtract that amount on the spreadsheet for that category. I move the “extra” money to the second account so that I don’t spend it and then end up unable to pay a bill two weeks later. Hopefully that makes sense. If not, feel free to ask me more questions. :)

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