Living On Less Than $28,000 A Year: A Look At Our Paycheck For This Week

Affiliate Link Disclosure B

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.

Subscribe to my FREE e-notes to get my best tips to help you save money, get organized and enjoy life sent right to your inbox! You can also join me on Facebook or Twitter for daily interaction.

Click here to read other posts in this series.

As a side note to my Living on Less Than $28,000 A Year series, I thought I would share what we did with our paycheck this week so that those of you who are new to budgeting can see exactly what we do with the money.

If you read my post here on Managing the Money, then you know that in a typical week we are unable to fund all of the categories in our Freedom Account. The plan is to sit down on payday and make a specific plan for where every dollar will go and to put as much as we can into the second account for future expenses.

This was not a typical week. My husband has an occasional part time job that he can work for a few hours depending on when work is available. He was able to work last week and he also made some commission on his full time job, so we made more than normal.

THIS WEEK’S CHECK (rounded to whole numbers for simplification):


Gas & Grocery Money For This Week $180

Freedom Account Transfer To Second Account $440 :

$250 rent ($1000/month)

$75 utilities ($300/month)

$60 car insurance ($240/month)*

$15 life insurance ($60/month)

$20 car maintenance ($80/month-want to increase this!)

$2 car tag ($8/month)

$5 clothes

$10 medical    

$440 total weekly deposit

Daughter’s Birthday Party Food and Gift $50.00

Haircut for Daughter: $16.00


If we made the amount of money from this week every week, we would be on track to earn around $32,000 this year. While it is tempting to go out and spend the “extra” money, we have learned that means problems later. Our paychecks for the month of February actually totaled less than $1800, or around $21,000 a year. If every month were that low and we had no savings, we would be in trouble.

We don’t always do things perfectly, but we have realized that we need to save “extra” money when we are able to get it. In my next post, I will share some specifics for saving on the food bill as promised.

What do you do with “extra” money? Feel free to leave a comment (or a question).


next post in this series: Saving On Groceries

Click here to read other posts in this series.


*UPDATE: I have had lots of comments about our car insurance amount. The actual amount of our insurance is $67 a month, but we had not been able to save any in the previous months so we had to save a higher amount to be able to catch up and pay the bill on time.


Offers from other sites (not TPM related)

  • Fran

    Generally extra goes toward debt reduction. However, if there is something we have been wanting or needing, the extra may be used for that. We don’t have clothing or household “wants” budgeted so when there is extra, it may be used for those things.

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Fran! Debt reduction is a great way to use extra money.

  • Stefani

    I am loving this series and seeing how “real” people make the most of what they have. I love how you showed your budget and it encourages me that our family can too. It’s hard for my husband to see how a budget works so this might help him.

    • Kimberlee

      Great Stefani!

  • Jennifer

    I ALWAYS have a plan for extra money – otherwise it would disappear. This year we are trying something different. We have about 8 different income streams between my dh and I. We decided to assign each different income a category to fund. Ok, not my dh’s main check as that covers our regular stuff. We also need $200-$400 each month from my main paycheck to cover the regular bills. So anything above that now has a certain place it is to go each month.

    • Kimberlee

      That’s a great idea Jennifer and so smart to have several sources of income. :)

  • Lisa Langley

    I just wanted to comment that I’ve found these posts very interesting…My family experienced a medical emergency about 3 years ago when my husband’s kidneys very unexpectedly failed. He was diagnosed with ESRD and was put on dialysis. I had always been a stay at home mom dabbling in retail work occasionally when we had extra expenses, but overall, I never had a need to work. So, when this happened, we have had to learn to live off of 2000 a month in disability, LESS than HALF of what he used to earn when he was able to work. I have gone back to school to work towards a more sustainable income, but of course that takes time. Plus, we are working towards a transplant for my husband, but we will need to obtain around 30K to pay for the expenses that won’t be covered by his medical coverage. Needless to say, it was, is, and has been a life-altering event for us. We have lots of things that we are still trying to sort out and manage and to be honest, we don’t do a very good job of it. But, we have no debt at all except for medical expenses (unavoidable) and our mortgage (which of course was financed way before this happened, and to be honest, I wish we had never done it now). It’s interesting to read how other families are making the under 28K a year work. We have a family of 5. :)

    • Kimberlee

      So sorry about your situation Lisa. I hope you can get the money for the transplant quickly.

  • Nookncranny

    This is so helpful!! I have a hard time categorizing the money for my secondary account…I love this idea of writing down what those irregular expenses are and then dividing by 12.

    • Kimberlee

      I’m so glad you found it helpful. :)

  • Ashley

    Thank goodness for pinterest. I am really enjoying your blot. We are having our third child this spring and I will be quitting my part time job at the same time we are buying a house and new car to accommodate car seats. So more going out and less coming in. I have mastered coupons but budgeting everything else is where I need work. Can’t wait for the rest of this series!

    • Kimberlee

      Welcome Ashley! Hopefully you can find some good ideas. :)

  • Emily

    Thank you for caring!!! We are a family of four at the moment..that could always change I guess :) and I am a stay at home mom. My Husband works three jobs and has for 3 years now…our goal is making one of the part-time jobs full-time and the one and only job. In three years this one job will put us above what we have ever been..down fall is during the transition and for the next year we are cutting our already small income in half! YIKES!! On the bright side he will be home in the evenings for all of the wonderful end of the day family time and weekends (yay for camping)!! We are excited but nervous..looking at the numbers makes me feel sick to my stomach but I know that God has a plan and he places people who care in our lives for extra encouragement..I am looking forward to following your series!! oh and by the way alot of people look down on me staying home and him working so much..but alot of prayer and communication later we know this is what is right for us. We have been working toward our plan for a couple years now and we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel..just didn’t know there would be a huge hole towards the end we would have to jump over but we can do it! :)…Thanks again!!!

    • Kimberlee

      Emily, it sounds like you have been working hard and making sacrifices toward your plan. Way to go!

  • Carol

    Kimberlee, I’ve got to let you know that out of several “money saving” budgeting type of blogs that I read, I really enjoy yours. Its practical, realistic, common sense. So many of us get caught up in life or have never learned to budget and your site puts it back into the real world.

    One of the best books I read close to 20 yrs ago was The Wealthy Barber. The author incorporated his life lessons into a fictional character. And that made it entertaining and not so dry. His biggest message that I have followed is pay yourself 10% of your pay cheque. I’ve automatically put 10% into a separate account and then transfer that to an RRSP every month. It has worked and I don’t notice the money gone. In 20 yrs I have been able to save nearly $100,000 in RRSP’s for my retirement.

    • Kimberlee

      Wow Carol, that’s amazing! Good for you! I’ve never heard of that book, but I will see if I can find it.

      • Kim

        I agree, the only budget item missing is retirement and it’s a big item.

  • Susan MacInnis

    Hi love your column. What is a Freedom account? Where is it and how do you establish it. I see that you make deductions for certain areas, like vehicle tags, medical etc. How do you keep track of it.

    Thank you


  • Kristina

    I found this series via Pinterest and love it already – though my situation is totally different from yours. I will be leaving University for my first job this summer and will have to live from not even 15.000 Euros a year in 2013, income increasing after that. It might sound a good deal of money, but life here is extremely expensive (more than half of the amount is going to be spent on the rent for a small flat). At the moment I still live at home and I get funded for many things by my parents. That will change radically in summer, and though it’s getting hard, I’m really looking forward to it. Your tips and suggestions will definitely help me with the budget (something I never had to think about until now, quite ashaming really). So thank you so much for sharing this, and I’m sure I’ll value every single Euro I earn. And thank you for being so open about financial things, you surely are an inspiration for everyone struggling with this matter.

    • Kimberlee

      Thanks for your encouragement Kristina. Sounds like an exciting adventure!

  • Dianna @ practicing frugal

    We use “extra” money for a combination of things. I like to give it more than one place to go. The largest amount to savings, some for debt (we have very little now) and a bit for a current need. That need may be on the line of need/want sometimes. My current need is gardening supplies. We added 4 more raised beds and they need to be filled. It will provide a great return for us though.
    Really enjoying the series Kimberlee!

    • Kimberlee

      Thanks so much Dianna! I haven’t ventured into gardening yet, but I definitely need to try it. :)

  • Brittany

    This series has been quite the inspiration. Thanks for being so open and brave in sharing with all of us. Just reading through comments, you’ve met your goal of helping others, including us. My husband has been medically retired 15 years shy of when he expected to from the Marine Corps leaving him broken down and unable to do most men’s work. Your blog is inspiring and so simply put that we can together work towards a brighter financial future.

    • Kimberlee

      Thanks so much for your encouragement Brittany. I am excited that it’s helpful to you. :)

  • Lucy

    We live on $22k a year more or less. It is hard, but doable. The worst part for me is other people thinking we are missing out on something. We’re not – we have things – even some of the latest gadgets – we just have our priorities in other places.

    • Kimberlee

      Just remember Lucy that you are living your life for YOU, not for them. :)

  • Janine

    Thank you so much for this series! My husband and I are in the process of bringing our finances into order and it’s going to take a good while to dig ourselves out of debt. Thank you for your inspirational words and comitment to what you know is best for your family. I’ll be following you, praying for God’s provision in your budget and seeking inspiration in your blog for the difficult journey that lies ahead of our family. God bless you!

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Janine–thank you so much for your encouragement. I know that God will bless you for your commitment to get your finances in order. I would love for you to check back in and let me know how it’s going. :)

  • annette

    we have 6 kids all together, and even though my husband and i both work, we very rarely have any extra money and survive with our family of 8 (kids ags 18, 17, 15, 4, 3 and 1) on even less than you make… On the rare occasions that we have extra money we tend to do something together as a family that we wouldn’t normally do because we just don’t have the money. That could be anything from buying a movie or game for the family to taking a day trip around where we live to going to a dollar menu somewhere. we hope that it shows our kids that we value them and want to spend time with them and they are more important to us than money. we do hope to put some money in savings soon as my job steadies out, but for right now, those rare occasions that we have extra money is better invested in our family! :)
    p.s. i love the blog!

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Annette! I can imagine that you have a difficult situation with two more children and less income than we have. Maybe you can find some ideas here. I love that you put your extra money toward family “togetherness”. That’s a great investment!

  • Brandi

    I have been truely convicted by this incredible testimony. We have five children. One only nursing and make twice your income. I cant figure iut where it goes. I am blessed by this and am so excited ti continue reading and impliment some of these ideas into our finances. Thank you. It ttuely has shown mean how lazy I have been.

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Brandi. I’m so glad the post was helpful to you. It’s easy to just let the money slip away, but maybe you can find some good ideas here for keeping more of it. :)

  • Nancy

    Most of the extra money that we get goes to debt reduction. Hubby occasionally gets overtime & I try to make sure that I immediately send the OT pay to debt reduction or we (I) end up spending before we can do anythign else with it.

    • Kimberlee

      That is so smart to pay the debt off right away. I know when we don’t plan ahead, the money flies out the window really fast!

  • Maranda

    I am a mother of three and I work part time as a nurse on the night shift. As my family is getting older, it is getting harder and harder to be a working mother. it is a dream of mine to be home full time, but we just havent figured out all the things we can do to get off of having my income. You have given me inspiration and the belief that we could make it happen!!! We started using a budgeting software called YNAB just over a year ago and it has helped us get completely out of consumer debt! It has also helped us to be better at saving, now we just need to figure how to cut out all the unnecessary expenses we have. Thank you for your openness and willingness to share your information and how you make it work. I look forward to reading.

    • Kimberlee

      Good luck Maranda. I believe that if you are willing to make some sacrifices, you will be able to come home. Congratulations on getting out of debt! That is the first step toward financial freedom.

  • Jenny

    Thank you for this post! I can understand and relate to most of the items in your list, except for the utilities. We pay around $40 for water alone, and our electric bill is usually around $200 / month. And we are not electricity hogs either. Any suggestions on how to lower those numbers???


  • Lesley

    Our extra generally goes toward debt reduction or into savings. Sometimes we reward ourselves with dinner and a movie. You remind me of my mother. I can’t imagine trying to live on any less than we do (we make about $2500 a month), but my parents were able to sustain our family of 4 on around 19k a year. I don’t know how they did it, but I’m proud to say I’m their daughter. I know you guys live in the Atlanta area like us (or did I make this up), but I’m curious as to where you are getting such a lot rent! We live in a tiny two bedroom townhouse and it costs us $750 a month. The good news is, we are buying a house and our mortgage will be less than our rent and the house has an apartment above the garage which is an income in and of itself. So exciting!

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Lesley-We were in the Atlanta area and had a huge house for $900 a month. Now that we have moved to another state we are paying $1000 for a tiny 3 bedroom condo and that is actually a deal. The average rent in our area is $1300-$1500 for three bedrooms. We are looking for something cheaper, but haven’t found anything yet. I am excited about your new house!

  • Kate

    I WANT all of my extra money to go to savings, but I have to admit it usually goes towards fun and/or clothes. (Which isn’t ALWAYS bad, but I think I’ve been overdoing it recently.)

    Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing! Recently I’ve been a little concerned that I’m not saving as much as I could. I make about the same amount as your family, but I am just one (young) person and your series has shown me that I don’t really have an excuse for spending what I do sometimes. Great tips, especially love the grocery and food items!

    Keep up the good work!

    • Kimberlee

      Thanks so much Kate. I think all of us have room for improvement in some area. :)

  • Jenny

    Just found you on Pinterest and I am loving it! I have been very blessed in the last year, became engaged and doubled my income. Only 1.5 years ago I found myself and my future husband unemployed. We are now both employed and doing welI. I know I have been spending frivolously with wedding planning but in getting married this month we NEED a financial plan and I LOVE some of your ideas. Thank you!

  • Lindsey

    I’m curious as to what medical insurance you all have? Does it only cost $40 a month?

    • Kimberlee

      Lindsey, that $40 is for car insurance and it is $40 a week, not a month. :)

      • Lindsey

        Do you all have medical insurance? Where does that fit into your budget? Just curious because this takes a huge junk of our monthly budget and we are interested in discovering less expensive options.

        • Kimberlee

          Hi Lindsey, actually we do not have medical insurance right now and it is a concern, but we just do not have the money anywhere in the budget to afford it.

          • Sally

            How can anyone have all those children and not have health care or medical expenses?? Well checks are about $500 a piece…and not to mention kids getting sick a lot.

          • Kimberlee

            Thankfully we are very healthy. Just about the only thing we ever go to the doctor for is for a strep check if someone has the symptoms. Most sicknesses are viral and the doctor is only treating symptoms, sometimes with the unnecessary use of antibiotics. Antibiotics only affect bacterial infections, not viral issues. Younger children (and especially those in daycare) get sick more often because they put their hands in their mouths, etc., but I have found that as my children have grown, we have been sick much less often. Hope this helps to clarify.

  • Mandy

    I find your website interesting…fascinating really. A few questions…what about toiletries? Our family uses about $20 just on toilet paper per month and I’m not talking Charmin. Also, are your kids involved in activities like music, ball, dance, etc.? I admire your willingness to “do without” so your kids can have Mom at home. We have done it too (and homeschool). Homeschooling isn’t cheap. How do you do that also?

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Mandy-I buy the 12 double roll Angel Soft when it goes on sale for $5 at a local store. I usually spend about $20 on toiletries per month. My children are involved in different activities at different times. Two of them participated in a swim team last year, but we received a discounted rate and found competition swim suits for $15 each at Ross. Right now two of them receive free music lessons at church and play in the youth worship band. We just pray about what we need and usually God provides. Check out this story about how we received our homeschool curriculm last year: .

      • Mandy

        Ok, we use waaayyy too much toilet paper! God is so good and is our faithful provider. What a blessing. Thanks for the link.

  • Kelly {the Centsible Life}

    It’s great to see the breakdown and how you divvy up your expenses.

    Will you be sharing how you use your blog income? For me since it’s such an irregular income most months we use it as ‘extra’ to pay off debt and save for household items (IE a new washer) after I account for my expenses (hosting, etc.).

    • Kimberlee

      Yes, actually I have a post planned for that very subject. :)

    • Crystal

      I was wondering this as well. Your blog seems pretty successful with a lot of followers and ads.

      • Kimberlee

        Sorry for the delay, I will be posting details this next week. :)

  • Krista

    Id like to know how to start your money management from day 1, from scratch. I understand how your system works based upon hour past post, I just dont understand how to start that first month. Right now I pay different bills each week based upom their due dates and cost. For example my husbands check is 523 a week. This week I paid the car payment-235 and electric -180. What is left is what I use on gas, groceries, and misc (our problem is not budgeting the extra which is why Im going to start your method)
    With that said…if I go tomorrow and open a second account, what is next?

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Krista-If you want to use the second account just for irregular expenses (not utilities), decide what your irregular expenses are (car maintenance, gifts, clothing, medical co-pays, etc.). Divide those by 12 to get the monthly amount to deposit, or since you are paid weekly, divide by 52 (the number of weeks in a year) to get the amount to deposit weekly. Does that make sense?

  • Tanya

    Extra money from required over time usually goes in 3s. 1/3 to debt pay off, 1/3 to savings, 1/3 to fun – cause we all need a little fun.

    My bonus usually goes exclusively to savings/debt reduction.

    Sometimes I purposely work overtime for a reason. I really want a new dinning room table, my kid’s birthday is coming up and I know how much I want to spend on it, etc.

    • Kimberlee

      That’s nice to have that option Tanya, and you are right, everybody needs a little fun. :)

  • Lisa

    Thanks for putting yourself out there. It can’t be easy! I see you don’t have anything for health insurance. How do you provide health insurance for your family?

    • Kimberlee

      We don’t have any right now. Not the best situation, but unavoidable at the moment.

  • Meshan Foutz

    Maybe you already explained elsewhere, but how in the world is your rent only $250.00 and your utilities $75.00?? Do you live in a box? Lol

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Meshan–We are paid weekly, so that is the weekly amount I deposit. Our rent is $1000 a month. :)

  • Val in the Rose Garden

    We are working very hard to get out of debt. So each extra paycheck or extra bit on a paycheck works towards that. This next month we will have paid off our van and we only have 6 months after that until we have no car payment at all (we will own three cars outright!). So that is always where our ‘extra’ goes. Unless of course, someone needs braces (two this next month. 😛 )



    PS thanks for sharing your story. It does really help the rest of us who are on a similar path due to circumstances or choice. :)

    • Kimberlee

      Thanks for your encouragement Val!

  • Jennifer

    Wow, I just found your blog and I love it!! I started a notebook, and a freedom account!! I am a newly single mom, of two growing boys! I went from having everything I needed, to nothing and pinching every penny, and I have really enjoyed your blog, and ideas. I can wait to start seeing the benefits of staying organized and on a budget! Thanks so much for being open about your situation, it makes me feel like I can survive, and thrive, also!

    • Kimberlee

      Welcome Jennifer!

  • Kristy

    I just started reading your blog and I love it! You have a lot of great ideas. I would just like to share what my husband and I have started doing and it is working great for us. We quit using debit cards! We added up what our bills are a month so we make sure we always have enough money in the checking account for the bills and then when he deposits his weekly check he receives $250.00 cash back and that is what we use for anything that is not a bill that we don’t write a check for such as food, gas, entertainment, etc…We have been able to save money doing this because we know once the cash is gone we are done spending for the week. With debit cards it was just too easy to spend the money that was in the account. Now we don’t have access to the money unless we actually go to the bank. It has been wonderful!

    • Kimberlee

      Great idea Kristy. Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Nikki O

    I just found your blog on Pinterest and I love it! I’m a stay at home mom, but my husband makes enough that we should be saving a lot more than we are. Your blog has encouraged me to take a much harder look at where we spend our money. I’m curious, does the car maintenance include gas for your vehicles? We spend anywhere from $90 to $175 monthly for gas alone! I’d love to hear any tips on this end.


    • Kimberlee

      No Nikki-the car maintenance category is just for repairs and oil changes. We spend between $60 and $80 a week on gas because my husband’s drive to work is a little long. We are hoping to move closer soon.

      • Kimberlee

        By the way, I am planning an upcoming post addressing transportation issues.

      • Tiffanie

        HI! Sorry to but into this conversation, but I fill up every 3 days (about 60$) and seeing that ya’ll spend roughly $250/month in gas (lucky ducks lol) where does that come from?? I guess i need to see the post on transportation. (I live 50 miles from work, but that’s VERY COMMON for our area since the job market is better in the next state..yes i said STATE lol.) I’m just looking for more ways to cut our $600/mo fuel costs. p.s. we are living on $1900/mo as of last week when my husband was laid off. (would you try and get out of a lease in order to pay more for rent and less in gas?? that’s what we are thinking…ugh but we just moved in 3/1/12) =( I think i’m still in the panic stage of his lay-off. We have however successfully cooked at home, brought my lunch to work, snacks to work (i’m 7 months preggers and always hungry) for the last week. if i sound desperate..its b/c i am lol. I have def re-eval’d the whole way we view our home, $, and lifestyle. You have given us so many great ideas! Thank you.

        • Kimberlee

          Hi Tiffanie- I am so sorry that your husband was laid off. The reason that our fuel costs are so low is that we have one car right now and we live within 15 miles of my husband’s job. I have the car on his days off to run errands and we do family activities those days as well, but usually things that are fairly close to where we live. As far as moving, if it were me I might wait a couple of months and see what else you can cut out of the budget. It would be great if you could find a place to live that cost less AND cut your gas expenditures, but I don’t know if that’s a possibility. Is it possible for your husband to just get a temporary job right now to bring in some money (like delivering pizza or working for a friend)? That will definitely relieve some stress and help you with your budget.

          I will say that praying and trying to stay as peaceful as possible during this time will help you make better decisions. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Nikki O

    Thanks for your reply! I’m glad to know that we’re not the only ones spending so much on gas. I look forward to your future posts!

  • Kimberly

    I am confused. I thought that the Freedom Account was for non-monthly expenses.

    • Kimberlee

      Kimberly, that is the original intent of the account. If you read my post here, I explain that I use it differently because if I see money in the primary account, I tend to spend it. By depositing a weekly amount for rent, utilities and other monthly bills into the second account, I keep my hands off it! :)

  • Tammy

    I just wanted to say how much I have appreciated your site. It has been inspiring to say the least!

    One thing that came to my mind while reading this post was the cost of insurance that you pay. We have two vehicles on our auto insurance and are paying about $64 a Month. I have found it very helpful to call around at least once a year to find the best prices. If you have your homeowners insurance and auto insurance with the same group it saves money also. I am not sure if the difference is from state to state (I live in Montana) but I would think there are better prices out there. We also never have a car payment. I won’t buy a new car because we don’t want the car payments. Plus my kids always keep our car nice and messy so we will just wait till they are gone and enjoy a clean car then. :)

    My other thought is phone bills. I called my phone company to see if I could reduce the price of our phone bill or get rid of something to make the bill less. I was told that the bundle we have is actually now $30 less but the same thing. So they changed my bill and payed me a few months back for what I had overpaid them on this new plan. So it is helpful to call and see if they can lower your bills.

    Thank you for being so open about your finances here. I often think we are alone in our struggles. We have also just recently determined that the first thing that comes out of our paycheck is tithe. I do not want to live with the fear that I have been and am determined to allow God to provide like he said he would. Amazing how we constantly forget that he is our provider!


    • Kimberlee

      Hi Tammy! Thanks so much for your ideas. As far as car insurance, we have the very minimum amount that we can take (we don’t even have collision). Insurance is just outrageously expensive where we live. As for the phone, we have free phone service with our internet and the internet is the cheapest we can get in our area and still have good service.

      That is a great reminder to check every area of your budget to see if you can get cheaper quotes. Thanks!

  • Jessica P

    Any “extra” money we get goes into our savings account. There is always something to save for, such as an unexpected trip to the doctor or to the vet for our dogs.

  • Lea

    We would like to try for baby #2 soon but I’m concerned about if we can afford it right now. Our financial outlook isn’t going to change any time soon so you have given me the motivation to sit down and make one out. Something that has been killing me lately is online banking. Since it’s all online I no longer have to keep up with how much is in my account every minute of every day (I do check it often! and never overdraw) so it’s easy to think “Oh I have $X in my account, take out won’t hurt once” and I’ve been doing that all too often lately. DH isn’t a good saver so right now we keep our money separate and split the bills in half, joint account would just cause way too many fights. :(

  • Erica

    Do you ever thought about cut hair at home? I learned to use clippers for my son (used to go to barber for special events but it got to the point where my haircuts looked as good as hers).. Check out Crea Clips for girls and yourself. FYI

    • Kimberlee

      Yes, Erica. My husband cuts his own hair and I trim everyone else’s when necessary. If someone needs more of a real hair cut we go to Great Clips with a coupon. :) Great idea to mention that.

  • AJ

    Just wanted to say I love your site!! And I think it’s great how you take the time to respond to people’s comments and such.

    I hope you’re making money off of it, too!! 😉

  • Amber

    Hi my soldier and I just ETSed out of the army and your blog is a Godsend! We were making over $50K a year while my soldier was on active duty and now that he is Army National Guard, we are making around where y’all are, maybe a tad lower. Anyways, thank you for sharing your experiences!! I am drinking all the information in!! Hooah from the Homefront <3

    • Kimberlee

      Thank you and your husband for serving us in the military Amber! I am glad for you that he is home now. :)

  • Wendy

    Not to be all up in your business, but I think you might be over-paying for car insurance if those figures above are correct. Now, I guess I don’t really know what the going rate is for your area, but we insure 2 vehicles for $45 a month here in Wisconsin. Maybe you meant $240 every six months? (I hope) I enjoy your advie and I hate seeing people get ripped-off.

    • Kimberlee

      Yes, it is $240 every 6 months. We live in a high cost area as well. Thanks!

  • E

    First of all, I love your honesty and think this is so helpful. Thank you!

    Second, our family is slowly but surely digging out way out of debt and we live very, very frugally. I am a stay at home mother to our daughter. We want to have another child soon (the sooner they would both be in school, the sooner I would work, and before I get too old), but we are currently on Medicaid and we do receive WIC. Do you think we are being irresponsible? I have talked to very few people about this for fear of being judged, but I’d love your thoughts.

    • Kimberlee

      We had Medicaid and WIC when our children were younger. I struggled with taking help from the government, but a friend reminded me that those services are there for people in need and we were definitely in need. It would have cost more for me to go to work full time and pay for childcare for three children (we added a fourth later), than it did for me to stay home with them. My husband’s income was low and we could not afford the health insurance and still pay the mortgage and feed the kids.

      Your first responsibility is to take care of your family. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”. In other words, not even a Christian. I believe that you are being very responsible by doing what you need to do in order to put your family in a secure financial position.

      Having said that, I don’t think it is right for someone to take those kinds of services and then spend money on luxuries that they could not afford without the government assistance. It bothers me quite a bit to see people pay for groceries with Food Stamps when they have a fancy manicure, designer purse and an i phone, then leave the store and get into a very nice car. I am sure this is not you. It is unfortunate that some people take advantage of government assistance to raise their standard of living above what they can earn themselves.

      We personally made it a goal to get to a place financially where we did not need those services, and maybe that is something that you will want to think about in the future. For now, rest assured that you are being a good mother by caring for your child and providing for her medical needs. Hope this helps! :)

  • Jenny

    We are debt free except for the house. While I’d like to put money into paying that down, we put extra money into savings right now. We want to make sure we have a good savings built up for any unplanned high expenses: major car repairs, house repairs, etc.

    I’m not sure when we’ll pay down the house. We still have 25 years left on the loan, so it would still take us at least 15 years to pay it down. Right now, I’m scared to not have the extra cash every month for 15 years. LOL!

  • Deb Stuart

    I really enjoy your blog and thought I’d shoot ya a note to letcha know! :)
    Also, I recently started taking my teen daughters and myself to a beauty school for haircuts. $8 for the cut and I round it up to $10 to include tip. Saved me $21 total! We’ve yet to have a bad haircut!

    • Kimberlee

      I love that idea Deb. Wish we had one close by.

  • Brooke

    I just found your blog thanks to Pinterest… and it could NOT have come at a better time. I am currently building my first home and while I try to follow the Dave Ramsay plan as much as possible, I dont have THAT much saved for “unexpected” **-i-just-dont-want-to-acknowledge-at-the-moment** expenses. I love your idea and more over I LOVE how translucent you have been with your family situation. Thank you for giving me some peace-of-mind!

    • Kimberlee

      You are very welcome Brooke! :)

  • tawnya

    can you please break down the dividing my 12 idea again, im sorry i am not getting it.

    • Kimberlee

      The idea is that for expenses that are irregular, like car tags or property taxes for example, take the annual amount and divide by 12 to get the amount you need to save each month so you can pay that expense when it is due. If your car insurance is due every 6 months, then you would divide by 6 to get the monthly amount you need to save. If you get paid weekly, you could then divide that monthly amount by 4 to get the amount you should save from each paycheck. Is that clearer?

  • tawnya

    awesome! yes, thank you :)

  • Sheena

    Not to be too nosey but I do not see an item for “tithe”. Do you tithe?

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Sheena! I’ll repost my response to another reader here so you can read it. :)

      “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. I am just sharing what we do.”

  • Jessica Iarussi

    All our “extra” money goes straight to the savings account. It is allocated for vacation, but will get touched in an extreme emergency.

  • emmy

    check out beauty schools for hair cuts. I get great service at a fraction of the cost $4 here. And I splurge every once and a while and get other services. Also most beauty schools offer 1/2 days! Best hair cuts ever

    • Kimberlee

      Great idea! Thanks Emmy.

  • Karen

    “What do you do with “extra” money?”

    Bank it! I have a separate savings account where I tuck away the money I bring in with odd jobs here and there, or bonuses from hubby’s work. By doing that we’ve managed to save up a downpayment for a small house, so we can get out of our base rental house with its exorbitant rent and start building some equity toward a future acreage. Happy Day :)

  • Kasey

    Consider getting some quotes on your auto insurance, preferably at an independent agency that can quote multiple companies. I work in insurance and your monthy cost seems really high to me, but then again I do not know your exact situation (ie a young driver). It is a good idea to shop around every year or two- and pay attention to your renewals for increases.

    • Kimberlee

      Unfortunately we live in a state with very high insurance costs. This is the lowest quote we can find, but that is very good advice to check different companies.

      • Sarah

        I agree, some of those numbers seem really high. I know that it can vary a lot based on region and state (don’t get me started on what can be done about that). I would just say keep checking around. If it’s been a few months, maybe look into it again. And ask someone different each time. We cut our bill by more than half (We have AAA, and we love them). Same with the life insurance.

        We have been doing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (got the book from a library sale), and it works really well for us when we actually do it all the way. I’ve been amazed at how much we stole from other envelopes in the beginning. Gas for trips and “entertainment” food is where all of our extra money goes. Or went. We’re trying to change that by throwing extra money at the student loan.

        I really like how you’ve divided fun food from need food. I’m going to have to try that.

        • Kimberlee

          Thanks Sarah, I will check again. :)

    • Miranda

      we have tried to do this and have been put off several times by companies that say they will get back to us and never do. We have good credit and no accidents ever. maybe ever 1 ticket but I think none. Any advice from someone in the field?

    • Jenn

      Be careful of quotes from multi-quote sites. They often only send part of your information to the company and then the information is also many times incorrect. I sell insurance and I still check yearly. You would be shocked to see how much quotes can vary. Several quoted me between 200 and 275 and matching coverages at my current company is 75. But companies place different weights of importance on different factors. Yes, credit is important, but there are companies that will not check your credit if you ask them not to. (Varies by state laws). Age, job, having current insurance, how long you have had current company, current coverage levels, education, tickets, accident pay outs, not at fault accidents and number of vehicles and number of drivers all can make a difference. Extras vehicles can mean extra costs. In some states 1 speeding ticket doesn’t make a big change, in others it can triple your rates. Accidents with payouts over 1000 and several not at faults can change it also. Any recent (less than 1 yr) activity can greatly increase your costs.

  • Katie

    I have to agree with kasey, your auto is high. I also work in insurance, unless you live in mass or fl, that rate is far too much. Check the big four: state farm, Allstate, geico and progressive. Each company reworks rates every six months, so you could get a better rate now than when you last checked.

    • bjd

      LoL I was just thinking, I live in MA and I”m like “UMMM that sounds about right to me?” We pay $1800/year, and that’s with an employee discount (I work at the company). Its crazy, but it is what it is.

      • Joy

        I live in FL and it is definitely correct. It had been going down over the last two years and this year it went back up by about $50. Some sort of statewide increase which is horrible!!

    • Liz

      That’s on the low side for NJ, where your insurance often costs more than your car payments (or the full value of your car, if you’re a poor grad student and have an old car). My partner and I pay much more than that a month for the insurance on our shared car.

      • Rachel

        I would recommend Geico. I found the cheapest rate there for us.

        • Shayna

          I am a stay at home mom but I also am a photographer when I can get a gig. When I get paid from taking a family picture session (totals $75) I get the check cashed and put the “extra money” in my cash stash, an old formula tin can that I cleaned out and decorated! This is our “uh-oh” money. If something happens to our bank cards or we are in a super pickle, we can get the cash and use it. If we get “extra money” from my husbands work (bonus, overtime, awards) I take about half and put it into saving and then use most of the rest to pay toward our debt. Sometimes it is use to pay of past due stuff but we are getting much better about staying on track. I value the “extra money” and try to save it as much as possible!!!

        • julie

          safe auto and the general are also good ones to check with.

          • Kimberlee Stokes

            Thanks Julie!

  • Kathy

    One way I try to save is to cut my husband and kids’ hair. I have two boys, which are easy to cut (my sister taught me how – I bought a kit for about $25), and of course my husband, and my daughter is 9 with long hair. I pretty much just keep her bangs trimmed up. We can even up the ends of the back of her hair less often. That way the only one I spend money for haircuts on is myself, about twice a year.

  • Christina Hardy

    I read many posts and blogs regarding saving, living frugally, couponing, etc… This is by far one of the best. I have only read half the information so far and my favorites that stuck out were… “set a pay day appointment with yourself ” and “don’t eat your money” (i.e. going out to dinner often).

    • Kimberlee

      Thanks so much Christna!

  • Beverly Chester

    My husband was a math major in college, and unlike my parents, his parents talked to him about finances! Like… they had REAL conversations about it! I am so grateful that I married a man who is so good at being thrifty with his extra money, because we have two savings accounts and one very nice lump sum in our spending account. **Granted, the spending account was built before he and I even started dating and was solely due to the fact that he was 1) a single man and 2) deployed to Afghanistan for 6 months.** He sends a sum of money to one account that we don’t get to touch for 5 more years. A second sum of money goes to an emergency savings fund that we have the ability to remove money from as often as we need to. We don’t EVER need to, so we don’t. We always use the checking account. We eat dinner out maybe twice a month, but for the most part, we eat at home. We don’t have cable television because we honestly care so little about being around the TV… but if we have a show that we like to watch, we will look for it online. 99% of the time, it’s there. We rent free movies from RedBox when we have a coupon, ALSO we use Living Social, Amazon Local Deals, Groupon, and Twongo for date nights! We get CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP food from the commissary, we have the most basic cell phones on the planet, we don’t have a land line telephone, we don’t really use AC unless it’s too hot to sleep, and we grow our own veggies in the garden… this is what we LOVE, though. I understand that some people hate being in the garden and that’s totally cool! I understand that some couples enjoy being around the television, and that’s cool, too! The difference is that my husband and I enjoy so many things that we don’t need to pay for :)

    • Kimberlee

      I am so happy for you Beverly. It is good to enjoy things that are free. :)

    • Heather

      We also cut out cable and use redbox and hulu for entertainment, as well as groupon and living social for good deals.

    • carissa

      I love the idea of a savings account with a time limit on it. Trying to force yourself to “never spend this…EVER!” is pretty difficult (although it’s still important to have those accounts). I like the idea of having an account that you can’t touch, but in 5 years you can. Great for working towards a car.

  • Aubrie

    You should think about tithing. I see you post scripture while in the scripture it says that our tithe will be returned 10 fold, and to test this. It should be a number 1 priority to any Christians life and I promise you would see prosperity.

    • Gemma

      I think God understands special circumstances. When my dad suffered a traumatic brain injury and fell into a coma, my family finances changed drastically. He will probably not recover enough to work again, and now we face an incredible load of medical bills. My sister prayed about it, and felt that God was directing her to use her tithe money to support me and my brother. It’s a temporary measure, but so welcome.

      With kids to feed and no where to cut any more costs, Kimberlee and her husband are doing a great job. They may not be able to give financially to God right now, but they can still serve Him by sharing their story and living meaningful lives.

      • Kimberlee

        I am so sorry about your father Gemma! I cannot imagine how difficult that must be. I pray that God will continue to bless you and provide for you. He is a Father to the fatherless dear one.

      • Crystal

        Tithing doesn’t only mean giving to the church or charity. In the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy for starters), God even commanded people to use 10% of their income to throw a great feast and worship Him and rejoice in His blessings. Don’t get caught up in the legalism of “the rules.” As long as we always remember where our money comes from and we continue to give God all the glory for His provisions, He will continue to bless us. Love your blog, Kimberlee. Thank you!

        • Kimberlee

          Thanks Crystal. :)

        • Amanda

          Crystal, thanks for the wonderful reminder. During hard times it becomes easy to forget where our blessings originate and give praise to God for them. Too many times we fall into the trap of worrying about bills, emergencies, and buying enough food and clothing.

      • carissa

        Yay for fellow Christian bloggers! :-)

        • Jo

          My husband & I are contemplating becoming a single income family due to health issues I am having & I have searched many many many sites for advice. This is the first site that has made me find hope in this becoming a reality!! I am so thankful to know that you are a Christian woman with real issues & not some business person telling me how to cut money while not struggling themself. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for spreading your word!! This is your way of helping others & because of you I am finally finding the help I’ve been looking for!! GOD bless you & your family!!!

          • Kimberlee

            Thank you Jo. I am so glad that I could encourage you. :)

    • Kimm

      I agree Aubrie, I have so many personal experiences when we have received blessings for tithing being paid. It is a wonderful thing that we each have been given agency by Heavenly Father to make that a part of your own lives. Malachi 3:10 says that we will be blessed 10 fold what we return to our Father in Heaven. I know I can use that kind of blessing in my life. Everything we have comes from Heavenly Father to begin with, returning 10 percent to Him shows gratitude and obedience.

  • Kelly

    I recently found an extra $300 in my monthly paycheck (decrease in medical insurance costs). Instead of just spending this extra money, I met with our financial advisor and opened an account. My money is automatically deposited into the account each month. This fund will be an emergency reserve if needed, but also provide for my family should something happen to me.

    • Kimberlee

      That’s so smart to put the money away before you can spend it. Great job Kelly!

  • Lindsay

    Kimberlee, I am so happy that I stumbled upon your Living on Less series on Pinterest! My husband and I recently had our first child and decided that I was going to be a SAHM(which I have always wanted to be able to do but never thought would be possible with my husband being a teacher and now he is a teacher at a Christian school, so the money is less but the relationships and new family we have gained there is worth the sacrifices) but with having to have a c-section and then shortly after that being hospitalized while on vacation for gallstones and pancreatitis and then later had to have my gallbladder removed I was slowly seeing my dream of being a SAHM slip away. I am glad to see other families that live on what we live and with more kids! It gives me hope and I know that if I put my faith and trust in God He will provide for all of our NEEDS not necessarily our wants. Money is tight but we are making it and I have been searching for a budgeting system that works for us, we have often thought about setting up a second account like the freedom account but have not done so. I think we will be doing this in the very near future. If the money is in our checking account we spend it on anything and everything so we are in dire need of a budget so that we can get our debt paid down! Thank you for your honesty and for being so blunt with how you do things. Like I said I have been looking for a budgeting system for and I came across the Economides, who are know as America’s Cheapest Family ( but they also work with a commission income and whenever they have extra money or get a raise they put the excess towards debt or into a savings account. They live within their means and do not adjust their means when they get a raise, I think that is a good way to use your extra money because you never know what could happen to your job or there may be a time where you have to take a pay cut to keep your job. My husband will receive a raise this fall with the start of the new school year and I plan on doing just that, keeping all of our bills and other expenses within the income we had for the last year and using the excess to pay down debt and build an emergency fund/savings account. I know this was super long but thanks for your blog and series again! It has meant a lot to me and my family. God Bless You!

    • Kimberlee

      Congratulations on having your first baby Lindsay! You sound like a very wise woman and I am sure that you will be able to make things work with God’s help. Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out. :)

  • Liz

    Can I ask what area of the country you live in? I’m just wondering how your rent/utilities are so low (I’m assuming you have at least a 2 bedroom house/apartment).

    • Kimberlee

      We are in the south so we don’t have very cold winters. The water was low because we had a septic tank so we only paid for clean water. With our recent move, our bill increased because we have to pay for sewer service as well. The other issue is that we do everything we can to keep the utilities low. You can read more here:

  • Lyndsay

    We are currently living on my income of 864 a month plus my husband’s income of 200 a month which is 12,768 annually. We literally have no choice but to scrimp and save. We make all our own laundry soap, dishwasher soap, fabric softener, dryer sheets. We even do batch cooking so that all our meals are done on one day to save us time during the week. We have set days that we do certain tasks (Thank you FLYLady) and we only buy stuff if we have the cash on hand

    • Rebecca

      Check out blissfully They live on 14,000 a year. I love that site.

      • Kimberlee Stokes

        Thanks Rebecca, I will check it out. :)

  • Ladah

    This is wonderful. A true answer to prayers. I’m actually looking for another job (I work part time for my father during the summer) My husband is a teacher so he has the summer’s off, that also leads to my next question. He only gets paid once a month. I am having trouble dividing up our money into seperate accounts with a once per month check. Also, my pay which ranges from $150-$200 per week….what could I do with that to effectively use it?

    • Kimberlee

      If it were me, I would pay all the monthly bills with your husband’s pay check and save whatever was left over in a second account for upcoming expenses. I would use your paycheck for groceries, gas and miscellaneous spending. Another way to do it, would be to pay the monthly bills from your husband’s check then set aside an amount for the month’s groceries, gas and non-food expenditures and withdraw the cash each week. For example, if you needed $250 a week for gas, groceries and non-food, set aside $1000 from his check and withdraw the $250 each week for shopping and gas. If you used this second method, then you could save your entire paycheck. Does that make sense?

  • Ashley

    First off I just wanted to say that I am so happy I found your blog through pinterest. I know nothing about getting financially organized. Or organized in general. I try to but I get lost and stop a lot. I did email you asking some questions just so you have a heads up about that. But again I really appreciate you doing this. ^_^

  • Patty

    As a child, my mother always cut all of our hair (there were 5 of us). The boys usually got buzz cuts with a pair of clippers and we just got straight cuts, with bangs if we wanted them. It was one way that we lived on our budget with 7 family members.

  • Tamara

    Glad to find this blog. Now if only I could get my spendthrift spouse to actually read it & use it, we’d do so much better.

    • Kimberlee

      Opposites always attract Tamara–LOL! Part of the journey is learning to grow together. :)

  • Judith

    Oh my! that insurance is costly. I have collision on my car and own a house and mine is about $100 total. I live in AZ which is not a no fault state so that makes it a little less.
    Those utilities are high too. Does that figure include cell and internet. My Elec is $75 a month year round.

    I am paid monthly so my monthly “Freedom account” is easier but I still have insurance, tags, real estate taxes, clothing, gifts.

  • bree

    I also think your car insurance seems high. I don’t know what type of vehicle you have but I drive a 2003 pontiac, and my husband drives a 1998 pickup. We don’t have any teenage drivers, just the two of us and it is $48 per month. It’s just liability though. My husband and I (and our two daughters, and our dog) live off of $25,000.00 per year. I have enjoyed reading your posts and will be using some of it. Thanks.

  • Matt

    As others have said, that car insurance is outrageous. Is that for one or two cars?

    I know that using a car to drive everywhere is the norm in the USA. However, I’ve recently looked at the math behind this, and it’s extremely expensive. Although “everybody” has a car, I think it’s truly a luxury rather than a necessity.

    Consider that a typical car probably costs about $0.50/mile, once you factor in the cost of the car itself, plus: gas, insurance, registration, and maintenance. If you live five miles from your place of work, it’s a 10 mile round trip, which costs you $5.00/day. If all you do is drive to work and back 20 times/month, that alone is $100/month. I think the average person drives something like 8000 miles per year, which costs them $4000/year.

    Given your insurance rates, your cost could well be more than $0.50/mile.

    Public transportation, if available, might be cheaper.

    Living close enough to work that you can walk or bike is your best bet, though. Walking is free, and, compared to a car, a bike is effectively free. Consider also that walking and biking “pay” you in terms of health benefits. Imagine two people, one drives a car to work for 40 years, the other bikes: all things being equal, who do you expect to be in better health at the end of their career?

    If nothing else, walking, biking or public transportation should allow you to drop your annual car mileage enough to be put into a cheaper insurance bracket. Furthermore, at your budgetary level, your car’s value shouldn’t be more than about $5k. If you can save the money that otherwise would have went to car-related expenses, eventually, you should have $5k, or enough to cover your car. At that point, you should further reduce your insurance to the bare legal minimum (maybe with uninsured motorist coverage). You have the cost of your car in savings, so you are literally self-insured; no need for collision or comprehensive insurance. And at any rate, the chances that you actually need insurance have plummeted, because you are driving less overall.

    • Sheila

      No public transportation here. Rural area surrounds us. Reliable transportation is a requirement, not an option. I can walk to work in good weather- so say 30% of time. Would love the option of not having 2 cars. (One is a paid off in town junker.) Unless you have a spouse handy with a wrench you need to have one “Good” vehicle for road trips. In-laws are over 3 hours away ~ once again rural 2 lane roads. I’m not interested in being stranded in 3 feet of snow. Interesting how all our situations are so different. A $5000 vehicle here is a town beater usually not trusted for any distance. I’m not rich – just keeping it safe for my family.

      • Kimberlee

        It is more difficult to have one vehicle when you live in a rural area. We lived 30 minutes from “civilization” at one point and made it work by me taking my husband to work one day a week (which was my designated “errand day”) and I used the car on his days off. If you have two jobs to coordinate, it does make it more challenging.

        One way that we have dealt with the need for a better vehicle for long trips is to rent a van when we travel. It costs much less than keeping the more expensive vehicle all year long and it’s fun to drive a different car or van. You can get rental deals through Hot Wire or other bidding sites to make it more affordable and save a little money from each paycheck for the “rental car fund”.

  • Andrea

    I just found your site from Pinterest! I’m so excited. We recently made the decision for me to quit my full time job and stay home- I am still getting used to it because we don’t have kids yet so I know what you mean about being judged as everyone’s shoes are their own and why would I stay home if I don’t have kids? lol I will be in short DIY/prepping/ overseeing our house(all those LITTLE things makes for a LONG list) to sell and keep ready for the market. I am thrilled to take all the info and put it to use on my end. My husband is a spreadsheet/finance guru nerd (thank goodness)and while he has it all figured out from that end- I feel now that I have the time and energy to do the meal planning and other saving I might as well make it worth it on my end. I see it as every $ saved is that much more towards our current/ future house is $ towards the offer we wouldn’t be able to otherwise accept and one step closer to our “new” house.

    • Kimberlee

      That’s great Andrea! It’s so important to have a goal to work toward in order to maintain your motivation.

    • Sheila

      Not sure why Stay at home folks are so frowned upon. I think it’s is a job in and of itself. Unfortunately I’m not able to join the ranks. I know way too many people working to pay restaurant, housekeeper, extra vehicles, and day care bills. I hate math but I figure unless you have to carry the insurance (I do) it pays to keep the lesser earner home esp with kids.

  • Lori

    I get paid once a month, so I pay all of our bills after payday, budget for gas, groceries, etc., & put extra towards our “debt snowball” courtesy of Dave Ramsey.

  • Laney

    Kimberlee, I’ve only read a few of your blog posts, but you have seriously opened my eyes. I just turned 21 a few months ago and got my first “real person” job. It’s so easy to just toss away all this extra money I’m making, but being faced with health insurance payments and car payments and student loans soon (ughhh) is daunting. Basically- thank you for the wonderful advice!

    • Kimberlee

      You are very welcome Laney!

  • Sheridan

    Thanks for posting!
    It’s great to get a real example and very brave to put the finances out there! (like you said in the intro post, my dad taught me that was a no go topic of conversation when very young)
    With my extra money, I like to pay extra on my car loan as it reduces the interest and if I do happen to need any extra I can redraw on the EXCESS that I’ve paid.

    • Crystal

      We live in Louisiana, and our truck insurance is 1100 bucks every six months. We only have one vehicle since my husband flys back and forth to work and I work at home. I think this is super ridiculous and I know these insurance companies can do better than this! Anyone else live in LA and have any good experience with a particular insurance company I could check out and see about a quote, we are up for renewal next month. Thanks again

      • Kimberlee

        Wow! That’s crazy!

      • Barbara

        Crystal, you may want to google “Zander Insurance” They represent lots of insurance Companies to get you the best price. We just went through a very easy process of getting life insurance for the DH. We were carrying a premium of $65 a month for $200,000. With Zanders help we are now with Midlife Ins Group and have $500,000 of coverage for $55/month! And Zander employees were super friendly and helpful. As soon as my auto insurance is due I will be looking into that too. Change CAN be good! Best to you.

  • Joy

    This series is great! I am a single parent which means I only have one income. Although its slightly higher than yours I am always broke! I have already worked out a budget in excel and it makes such a difference to see where the money goes! Thank you for sharing :)!

    • Kimberlee

      I am so happy for you Joy! It makes such a difference when we pay attention, doesn’t it? :)

      • Joy

        Really does! :)

  • Jaala R

    Wow. The price of your rent and utilities is outrageous compared to the price here in Northwest Arkansas. My husband, my 6-month old son, and I are living on barely 8K a year, and we just bought a trailer. We qualify for foodstamps, but that’s all of the government help we receive (minus healthcare for my son and myself). We are hardly scraping by with the mortgage of $239/mo , and they recently doubled the water rate (minimum was $20, now $40), and our electricity at our old place was almost $200 in the winter. Not to mention we had to buy new tires and charge them : Things are going to be very, very though for a while. Thankyou so much for making this series, it’s helping me so much :)

    • Kimberlee

      I am so glad Jaala. Thanks for taking the time to let me know.

    • Loyda

      Wow Jaala ! I too live in NWA and our utilites are about $233 a month. And I know for the summer it will be higher using more water for our veggie garden. What I don’t like is there isn’t much option here for grocery shopping !

  • Tammy

    We throw our extra pocket change into a large jar (4 gal). We saved enough extra change one year – $600 to be exact – to help with vacation expenses. The cool thing was, the jar was only about 1/3 full: ) Something else we like to do with our extra money, is to put it back for when a wonderful family movie is projected to come out. We especially enjoy seeing a movie during the Thanksgiving weekend, so we save money ahead for these things.

  • ashley is a great insurance company, and very cheap. I have just the state minimum and I only pay $25 a month.

  • Rebecca

    My problem is always the in between. Going from free falling to a budget. For example how do I save money weekly for my power bill when every week I have a past due bill to pay because I don’t manage my money well? HELP?!?

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Rebecca-I personally had to come to the point where I was sick and tired of having money problems and I had to decide that I would do things differently. The first step is to start recording your spending for the next 3-4 weeks (EVERYTHING!) to see where your money is “leaking”. Once you see what is going on, devise a plan to address it.

      For example, one of the leaks in our budget was eating fast food. I realized that it was because I failed to plan. On the days that we were busy I put something in the crockpot in the morning so I knew dinner would be waiting. I also keep a few easy meals available like tortillas and cheese for quesadillas, pasta and frozen vegetables, etc. Hope that helps.

    • S Cast

      Thank you for your blog. Right now, my husband and I find us in the situation that is very hard. Your blog will help me make MUCH needed changes.

      • Kimberlee

        Welcome! I hope you find some good ideas and encouragement. Let me know if you have any questions. :)

  • Mary

    Thank you for sharing this! As missionaries, we live on a very irregular income. We know it will be somewhat more regular in the future as we are just in the beginnings of raising support. (emphasis on “somewhat”) Anyway, I am very good at making a budget based on a regular paycheck, but have a hard time knowing what to “get rid of” in the budget for when the income is lower. Maybe you address this in another post, but what things (besides rent, utilities, insurance, groceries and gas) would you get rid of first and what would you “pay” first. Do you have a priority list? Just curious. This is something I need to work on. Thank you!

    Also, I have been doing what you call the Freedom Account thing for a couple years now and it’s been a life-saver!

    Also, I love how positive you are! I can tell you really do live a peaceful life.

    • Kimberlee

      Thanks so much Mary! I try. :)

  • Cleo

    You’re amazing. I feel so bad after reading all these articles. I stopped working to home school our one child and am struggling to make it work on twice your income. I clip coupons, do a lot of DIY, cut cable, shop at Goodwill for clothes and we now limit going out to eat, but it’s still hard.
    Our next step is to sell our home and buy something smaller to cut our mortgage payment down. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Kimberlee

      Please don’t feel bad Cleo! It does help to have a lower mortgage payment plus a smaller house will cut your utility bills. Hang in there! :)

  • MMeeks

    Love what I have read. As a personal testimony on tithing….Tithing is an act of faith, God does not ‘need’ the money that we tithe or choose not to tithe. It all belongs to Him in the first place, and if you will trust Him by tithing before paying any other bill He will show you how much farther 90 percent will go! I am not judging anyone or trying to make anyone feel guilty only sharing what blessings I have received by having faith in the area of tithing. I have had many months that the amount we were to be short was the exact amount we should tithe and when we tithed we always ended up ahead at the end of the month. To God be the glory!! He is our provider!

  • Lisa

    I’m assuming you must have cell phones or internet… is that included in utilities? with electricity? or gas? do you have medical insurance? I am trying to figure out a way to stay home with my children but I am the one with the insurance, my husband’s job doesn’t offer any and one of my children sees a specialist…not having medical coverage is just not an option. But the private insurance is just SO expensive…. great site

    • Kimberlee

      Hi Lisa! Yes, we have cell phones (although they are not smart phones) and internet, and we include those in the utilities category. The insurance issue is difficult, especially with a child with medical needs. The only option that I know of other than private insurance is to check with your state to see if you qualify for a program because of your child’s medical needs. I hope you can find somerhing. :)

  • Loyda

    Great conversations ladies !!

    I live in NW Arkansas and have found a morning show called
    Till Debt Do Us Part ! GREATTTTT show ! If you don’t get it where you live then youtube it. In fact I just bought Gail Vaz-Oxlades book. Debt-Free
    Forever. I have read DRamseys books and they were great but she is way more down to earth. (laymans terms) The show here is at 8am Mon-Frid.
    You will get hooked once you start watching her ! I’m warning you now ! :)

  • Chelsea

    We live next to a community college where I live that has a wonderful dental hygienist program. You can get your teeth cleaned for $10! Anyone who doesn’t have dental insurance knows how expensive even the simple stuff is. Very good way to keep up with health at low cost.
    As far as what we do with extra money…we pay an extra bill so we can get ahead. Although we have a bad habit of eating too much fast food. Trying to follow all this advice and save save save.

    • Kimberlee

      Great suggestion Chelsea– thanks!

  • Tina

    It’s been great reading a blog/comments with a real take on spending. My dad was great with money, but never taught us kids, and I had a crazy young life and never took any responsibilities seriously and blew all my paychecks. It wasn’t until about 10 yrs ago that I finally took control and tried to get my act together and was able to buy a house and finally be at peace financially, and then I had a major financial set-back when I lost my great paying job 4 years ago. I finally got a new job and I make double what you are trying to live on with 6 people and I’m a single, empty-nester who is still living paycheck-to-paycheck and am always behind, have no savings and I’m basically “broke” all the time. Reading this makes me wonder WTH I’m doing with my money. My car is paid off, I have no credit cards and I feel I have maximized all savings where I can (I constantly call companies to get discounts on what utilities I can, no land line, etc.), and I’m still not making ends meet. Definitely going to sit down now and figure out where it’s all going. If I continue on the path I’m on now, I’ll never be able to retire or live in financial peace.

    I also shared this blog with my daughter who just got married and graduated college. Hoping this helps get them on the right track as they start out. Unfortunately, she has my bad, bad money habits. Maybe this will help her see the light.

    thanks again for sharing your personal struggle.

    • Kimberlee Stokes

      My pleasure Tina! Good for you for taking control of your finances and figuring out what is going on. Let me know how it goes. :)

  • Courtnie

    I always love referencing back to this post when I am revisiting our budget. It helps keep me grounded. I wanted to share one tip that I learned, and that is having a literal “piggy bank.” We do not usually use cash, but we have been saving our coins for a few years now. A couple of months ago, we had some unexpected financial things come up, and we had $10 to our name until the next payday. We had no groceries, and no gloves or hat for my son to play in the snow. I know…that is not a “necessity” but it was his first snow 😉 So, we gathered our change, and it came about to be about $65. We had enough to get some gloves and a hat on clearance for a few dollars, and enough groceries for the week. We even had a few dollars left over. Like I said, we almost never use cash, but the handful of times we have, we saved the change, and it really came through for us in a pinch. :-)

  • The Peaceful Mom

    I love that Courtnie! We have had so many times when we didn’t have the money for something we needed and God always provides. Thanks for being a faithful reader. :)

  • Janice

    Oh to be 21 again. Laney, I am so happy you are paying attention to this now. If you keep a good head on your shoulders you will have so many more options in life. Good for you.