In conjunction with the Living on Less Than $28,000 A Year series, I will be sharing periodic Financial Updates. I won’t always give specific numbers, but I thought it might be helpful to have a little window into the day-to-day decision making process we go through.
April was a busy month for us. We moved from the 3 bedroom condo we were renting to a four bedroom house. We’re excited about the extra bedroom (2 teens and a pre-teen in a 10×10 room presented some difficulties) and the private back yard for only $50 more per month.
The move cost us about $100 including the moving van. The distance to the new house was so short that we didn’t even have to put any gas into the truck before we returned it! I collected boxes and moving materials for a few weeks before the move, so they didn’t cost us anything and, thankfully, we didn’t have to pay any utility deposits because the move was local.
We did splurge on two Ikea shelves for the kitchen/dining area. This kitchen is much smaller than our previous one and doesn’t have a pantry. Purchasing the shelves enabled us to creatively store our dishes (purchased at the thrift store) and food items rather than tripping over boxes for the coming months.
We could have purchased cheaper shelves, but because this is the central area of our home we paid more for aesthetics. I think the expenditure balances out considering the birch table and four matching chairs were $6o total at a yard sale. The two white chairs that you see at the ends of the table were $5 each at local recycled furniture shop.
We also had a car repair that we thought would be between $500-$700. We had saved $565 (a little at a time) in the car repair category of the second account, and we knew that the rest of the money would have to come from another category or our savings toward a second car (which came from our tax refund).
It turns out the repair was $1023. Although more money had to come from our car savings than we wanted, at least we had the money and were able to get the car repaired. Having savings is so important because we do not have any credit cards to “fall back on”.
We have now had two months of above average (for us) income. Last month’s surplus went directly to savings and this month’s surplus (from commission and my husband’s second job) enabled us to purchase the shelves, pay for the move and add some money to the medical savings category in our second checking account (read more here).
Again, I am sharing private information in the hopes that we can encourage those of you in a similar financial situation. Because we live on a tight budget, it is tempting to spend extra money on something fun, but I was really glad that we saved so that we could pay for something that really helped our family. We still have fun, we just try to do it cheaply. 🙂
How did April go for you? Were you able to save any money? Share in the comments if you would like.
Crystal @ Serving Joyfully says
You’ve totally inspired me to share our own story on my blog. We’ve been budgeting for about 3-4 years now, and have a really tight budget that I feel like could inspire people as well, but my husband was always uncomfortable with sharing the exact numbers for all the world to see.
I wrote this on here before that I was going to revisit the topic with him, because I really do feel that my blog is a calling, even for the small number of people who read it and I think this info could be useful.
Well, now, he said that he’s fine with it and he must have just been in a mood the first time I asked because he has no problem with it at all 🙂
That’s great Crystal!
Tammy McClelland says
April actually ended better for us than March did even though we had some unexpected expenses.
One of my problems is justifying moving money from one account to another. (we use more of an envelope system). In March, we had 11 envelopes that were in the negative that I had to move money from other envelopes. In April, I only had 9 envelopes that were negative. So I reduced that by 2 just by paying attention to what I “justify”.
One of the other issues this month was that we had planned to go backpacking. So I had bought food ahead, cooked it and dehydrated it for the trail, using the food money for the week that we would have been home. Then the trip got rescheduled and we ended up being home. I thought about using the dehydrated food anyway but really wanted to save it for our “rescheduled” backpacking trip because I would be that much further ahead. Thankfully, God provided us with a check that we did not expect and it covered the groceries to get us to the end of the month.
The few accounts that I am struggling to get under control still are the following (along with my suggested plan):
Drugs: There are certain prescriptions that we get monthly. I get generic and have budgeted this but we end up being over when I have to purchase OTC pain relievers, allergy pills, etc. I am finding that store brand OTC medicines are way cheaper than brand name usually with a coupon. Also, going to try to start checking out the dollar store for OTC medicines as well.
Misc/Other: For some reason this envelope always is negative. The first was bank fees that were assessed to us because when an automatic payment came through, there was not enough money. (part of the downfall of swapping from envelopes) Those fees alone were $60. Then I “justified” some e-book purchases because they were 0.99 and I could not get them at the library. I spent $7 but did not figure on bank fees later. By eliminating my swapping from envelopes, that will take care of bank fees. (That amount alone makes me sick enough to stop doing it.) Then I have given myself a limit of only being able to purchase e-books up to 25% of the balance in the this envelope, thus always having a balance.
Dog: I am still working on this account and watching it. We have had to do some food/nutrition switching due to allergies and I need to find something that works but keeps us in our budget.
Sanitation: My bill comes in 3 month cycles. Apparently there had been a slight monthly increase but resulted in me being $13 short overall in this envelope in order to pay the bill. I have readjusted the budget to compensate for the new billing increase.
Housing Maintenance/Supplies: I made a purchase through Eversave for carpet cleaning because it was a good deal. I should have held off on that. My reminder is that needs come first even before a good deal. I also need to hold off on stockpiling things that are on sale if needs have already made the balance low.
Gifts: Decided to start purchasing cards, gift sacks and tissue paper from dollar store. Also I was able to purchase a set of 3 iTunes gift cards for $30 but this can be used for three separate gifts. Teenagers love these and that is mostly what I have along with their friends. So we gave one in a card in April to one of my son’s friends. This month, my girls were invited spur of the moment (couple of days notice) to another friend’s party and we used another gift card and we had a birthday card already in the card box. So I still have 1 card left for a future gift. This is where I need to not “justify” using them for myself because I want some music! 🙂
Eating Out: Was over again this month but not as much as March. We were able cut out about $35 just by not stopping by MacDonalds (its at the end of our road, unfortunately). We also had two different get togethers that we contributed food to that I place in this envelope. One of the eating out was a fundraiser. I will start saving the money in here for those kinds of things instead of just splurging when there is money in there. The other is convenient store drinks, which I just have to stop “justifying” because it is so cheap! I am trying to cut down on the coffee shop drinks too. In April I had cut myself back to one a week. In May, I working towards 1 every other week.
Tonight, while my children were at a youth function, I made myself spend sometime writing down long term and short term financial goals for myself. Not something I really wanted to do but something I need that I needed to do in order to be able to get a better financial mindset. I accomplished that tonight and even broke down the 5 year plan into actual years. I figure that even if I do not quite make my goals, I will be closer than I was before with no plan or finish line! 🙂
“I figure that even if I do not quite make my goals, I will be closer than I was before with no plan or finish line!”–so true Tammy. Good job!
The cable TV is a BIG one!! Totally agree. Can’t get local channels here because the new digital doesn’t travel this far. So we got a Roku and Netflix–a MUCH cheaper option than cable–and we use it more than we did Cable. Kimberly, the paper towels and napkins has been a big plus for us too. Then I moved to hankies instead of Kleenex. I like not having to try to find coupons for these items either–as we just don’t buy them. LOVE this Blog–and YES, it felt GREAT to have the cash to fix the car–having no credit cards has a great “free” feeling to it!!
Like all the other comments I LOVE your blog too!! Your post on cutting back on utilities was one that hit home for my family and I. I bought a retractable clothes line and like you I dry clothes for 10 minutes and then hang them up. I’ve seen our power bill decrease by $12.00 a month by making this change. We have stopped buying paper towels and now we use cloth napkins. We are in the process of getting rid of Directv and switching to a Roku box, HD antenna, and Netflix. I figured over the next 10 years we will save $8,096 just buy dropping cable. That is just mind blowing!!! So thanks for your practical advise…..keep it coming!!
Wow Kimberly–that figure is staggering when you look at it: $8096 that you could put into savings. I wonder how much you would make if you invested that amount of money?
The reason I figured 10 years is because that is our goal for my husband to retire. I don’t know how much we would earn on top of that amount if we invested it????
Alright, I would LOVE to ditch cable, well in our case Dish, but my husband is a big sports fan. He won’t even consider it because of this. How do you all avoid that problem? Does Roku do sports?
Crystal @ Serving Joyfully says
lol…I have this exact same problem. My husband REFUSES to give up Direct TV for the exact same reason. And to make it worse, the cheapest packages don’t include the sports channels, so our bills is like $65/month, and even that I think includes a discount.
My only option is to cut back everywhere else. I’ve tried to reason with him, I mean, paying $65 for Direct TV when your grocery budget for the month is around $150/month seems a bit ridiculous…but he is finally coming around to the necessity of a budget overall (after 3 years of being resentful toward it), so I’ve just learned to let that battle go, and pray he’ll see reason eventually! lol
Miss M! says
My husband is a big sports fan too, and I never thought I’d be able to get him to give up cable, especially after we had just gotten the big tv he saved up for! Fortunately, he realized that our financial well being was more important. Now what he does is listen to LOTS of podcasts on his phone (free!) and watch stuff online. You can hook your laptop (if you have one) to your tv and still get to watch stuff on the big screen. This is how we get around having a dvr – we just watch shows online. Hulu is free and Netflix is way cheaper than cable for the direct streaming. We also get together with friends quite often during football season to watch games. It’s awesome because it’s a good way to be social without the big expense of a party or barbecue.
J Murphy says
Thanks for your updates, you’ve moved me to get out my weekly budget kit and balance my books ( I delay as long as I can LOL)
I LOVE your new shelves BTW, sometimes, one solid purchase will look great for years to come,so it is worth it! Your whole ‘cottage chic’ look is very cute in there…..
I am happy to have stayed below my budget for groceries this month…100.00 below! (And that’s in spite of a couple of parties+food)
Thanks! I like that term “cottage chic”. 🙂 Congrats on doing so well with your grocery budget.
Kristie W. says
I just love this blog, so glad I found it last week. Often blogs that discuss finances include a stay at home, a wage earner, and babies. I have two teen girls, and it is so refreshing to hear of someone else who has kids my age and a similar budget! I’m sure you can relate to the struggles I have with teens and all of the ways I disappoint them because they share a bedroom and do not have designer clothes. LOL! They are are not that bad, I kid. But still. Thanks for sharing with us.
Yes, peer pressure can be really tough at this age. Thankfully thrift store shopping is “cool” in their circles. That helps a ton!
I’ve just started reading your blog and love it. Trying to make changes in the way we do things because I’m tired of being in debt. Another mentor that is helping tremendously is Dave Ramsey, author of Financial Peace and More Than Enough. Worth checking out his stuff if you haven’t already.
Thanks Anita, we actually led Financial Peace a couple of times–very helpful information. Way to go for getting out of debt!
My aunt just introduced me to your blog last week and I LOVE it! Thank you so much for posting what you do. I am 29 and I am getting married in 2 weeks (yikes!) and we are blessed that we have been able to pay for the wedding without using a single credit card. My fiance is a teacher and he worked last summer and winter/spring camps to get extra money for the wedding. Also, I was jobless for about 2.5 months while trying to pay for the wedding on top of normal bills. It was stressful, but I give the glory to God for getting us through it all. I’ve learned to be content with what I have rather than seeking what others have. I used to have a shopping addiction (racked up about $12,000 in credit card debt on clothes and purses) and paid off my last credit card in April 2011. Seeing blogs like yours really help me to understand how to be wise and truly apprecite what I have. I don’t need that new $80 shirt to feel beautiful… I don’t need that $200 Coach purse. These are the things I have to repeat to myself on a daily basis, but I will never again use a credit card thanks to reading your blog, and others like yours. 🙂 I am comforted by the fact that everyone here struggles with the same things (unexpected car repairs, trying to meal plan, etc.) What a great place to find my motivation! Thank you so much, and I pray God continues to bless your blogging endeavors! 🙂
Thank you so much for your encouragement Katie. I am really proud of you for overcoming your shopping addiction. Way to go!!!! 🙂
…and paying for your wedding with cash!
My husband and I have also been working towards being more financially sound and have zero debt. We are using the only cash method and it’s tough but working well. We recently decided to not take a summer vacation with his family because the money we had set aside for it would really help us get other needs met. Such as brakes on our car, a new sliding glass door we need, paying down a credit card, ect. I am proud of us for making this decision even though it was hard to tell his family we were backing out. I think it made us stronger because we faced one of our fears which is having to face others and be honest with our situation. Thank you for being inspiring!
That’s great Molly. It is really hard to disappoint others, but you did what was right for your family. Great job!
And I love the new shelves, too. 😀
April was great for us!
We paid off our margin account tied to our stock portfolio with our tax returns AND were able to put money into a real savings account; not one for car repairs or medical, etc; a real life savings account!!!
The banker told me I would need to start with at least $50 and then build up to at least $100 in the next thirty days and then that balance would have to be maintained. I was able to deposit $1000, because of the cuts we have made, having a budget per payday, using cash only and not having a credit card!
thank you for sharing your life with us and being an inspiration!!!!!
Hi! I’ve been visiting your blog and find your fiscal discipline very inspiring. My husband’s a teacher at a Christian school and I’m a stay-at-home mom so we really need to count our pennies. Unfortunately, neither my husband or I find that it comes naturally and I’ve come to understand that my husband needs me to help him by becoming a better manager of our finances. That being said, I’m curious to know how you afford healthy food. It seems that junk food is so cheap but fruits, veggies, and proteins cost a ton. Food seems to be our #1 expense mainly because we eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies and avoid inexpensive carbs. So, any tips or ideas for healthy eating on a budget??
Have you downloaded my free e-book on saving on groceries? Here’s a link: https://thepeacefulmom.com/2011/08/19/free-e-book-save-more-clip-less/
I have found a local produce stand where we can get great deals on whatever is in season and whenever I find meat on sale, I buy extra to stick in the freezer so I never have to pay full price. Those are my two main strategies, but you will find other ideas in the book. You can also see what I buy each week here: https://thepeacefulmom.com/category/fun-friday-totals/ and my corresponding weekly menus here: https://thepeacefulmom.com/category/menus/ . Hope that helps. Feel free to ask any other questions you have. 🙂
I’ve really enjoyed this series. We live on a similar income, because my husband is a bivocational pastor. He has his regular monthly pastor’s salary and then he also has a supplemental job, the income from which varies GREATLY from month to month with no way to know ahead of time, so we try to live on his pastor’s salary much as possible. Anyway, we have 3 children with one more on the way and I am a stay-at-home mom, too, so I’m always looking for ways to make a little go a long way! I have found, in my experience, that wishing you had more money doesn’t help. It seems that however much money we make, that is the amount we will spend. It is better, instead, to find a way to live within your income!! We too have no credit cards and actually paid for birth of our 2nd child totally out-of-pocket because we had no maternity health insurance coverage at the time. Your blog is quite inspriring!! Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone on this frugal and fruitful life journey!
You are very welcome Audra. Sounds like you have exactly the right attitude. 🙂
I have found the best way to live is BELOW your means!
I would like to learn more about paying for the birth of a child ou of pocket. I have just found out that I am pregnant with our 3rd, and we have some insurance decisions to make (like I am due in Jan and our COBRA runs out in Dec…trying to decide if we get inexpensive individual policies and pay for maternity out of pocket or ride COBRA out.) If you have any insight that you would be willing to share, I would LOVE to hear about it!
hmoore04 at hotmail dot com
I would recommend reading Kimberlee’s e-book. It has a lot of great tips for lowering your grocery budget. What I have done is figured out the lowest possible prices at various stores for items that I buy frequently. Kimberlee suggests making a price book. I focus on fruits and vegetables and the best prices I can purchase them at. I think that 99c/lb or less is a good price. Check out local farmers markets and healthfood stores. I was astonished to find excellent prices on fresh organic produce at my local healthfood stores.
For protein, I eat eggs in a variety of ways for breakfast every morning. I like canned tuna/salmon in sandwiches or on a green salad. Peanut butter is another inexpensive source of protein as well as beans and legumes. I also purchase extra meat when it is on sale and freeze it in marked ziplock bags.
My best advice is to really know the prices of the items you purchase most frequently. Then find which stores sell them at the lowest prices.
I LOVE the shelves!!! They look fabulous in your new kitchen! I hope you enjoy your new home!!!! Thanks for being such an inspiration to all of us!!!!
Thank you so much Holley. They are actually one of my favorite parts of our home. It’s refreshing to have something nice to look at when we sit down to eat or while I’m cooking. 🙂
I really thank you for these posts. We are living on a similar budget (a littler more) per month and our family is smaller (me, hubby and our 3 year old) and we somehow struggle every month….but after seeing how well you make it work with your family and in your situation you’ve inspired me to think outside the box. We just set up our own Freedom Account in the same way you did after your tutorial and it has really helped us. For the first time EVER we paid the bills and the extra was set aside for future expenses. Not much, mind you, but that was a big thing. Usually extra went to takeout, new clothes, cokes out and about, lunch with a friend, ya know….stuff that doesn’t really matter. We have really buckled down and challenged ourselves and gosh it feels good. We are doing some “extreme” things and reaping the rewards. We’ve decided to go back to cloth diapering temporarily (although I never had a full stash…just flats and a few covers)…we couldn’t find the little bit of a stash we had, so instead of buying diapers this time around we bought some diaper pins, some Gerber plastic pants to use as covers, and some flour sack towels (we learned about these via online diapering communities…they are sold in the dishtowel section and make GREAT flats!), and we are using a bag of old socks destined for rags for doublers and a white sheet cut into squares for wipes. This may seem extreme but my little one hopefully will be potty trained soon (he just turned three..but we just moved and things have been extremely chaotic so I’m not pushing it) and diapers were eating us alive. We decided since we don’t have any “real” diapers or covers this will just be our at-home system, and the half pack of diapers or so that we have and the half full tub of wipes will just be for outings. They will last so much longer this way. It is working beautifully. We are also on a “pantry challenge” in order to avoid spending $$ at the grocery store and we’ve done beautifully. We are having yummy (mostly…some just strange lol) meals and that money is being banked. We had gotten behind and this is allowing us to catch up and get a good system going. I used to think splurging on takeout when I wasn’t feeling well or was tired was necessary. I’ve been battling a yucky sinus infection, but decided last night with dh’s help to just suck it up and get dinner on the table…we did it together…and dinner turned out strange and pretty gross (new recipe) and neither of us ate much (toddler gobbled up two helpings though..go figure!) and rather than saying ughh..I’m too tired to cook AGAIN..now lets grab takeout…my dh made us some grilled cheese sandwiches. We spent no $$…and it felt good! Thanks so much for being so open! It has really been a huge motivator!
I hope this doesn’t sound too “motherly”, but I am so proud of you for making sacrifices so that you can live your priorities. WAY TO GO!!!!
Not too motherly at all! Very sweet! And if it was motherly, well then that’s ok. I am close to my mom, but not in a mother/daughter way…if that makes sense. I don’t get much encouragement like this from her…she mostly just thinks the sacrifices we make are strange.
I have a few family members who think we’re strange too– LOL!
Being strange is a good thing sometimes, lol. 🙂 Sounds like you are doing well, Amy. It’s nice to see young adults doing all that they can to get ahead. Sometimes it is in baby steps, but that’s okay. You’ll be happy down the road too, seeing the choices that you made. I thought your post was very encouraging too.
YOURS IS MY FAVORITE BLOG!!
Because you are (still) in the “trenches” with us, your advice is easy to accept and never feels patronizing. Thank you for keeping it real, and for your encouragement and leadership!
Thanks so much Deanna. It’s so encouraging to hear that. I really try to just give the information from my perspective, not be too “preachy” (believe me, I can get that way 😉 ).
I agree with Deanna. I’m tempted to start a blog myself because I don’t feel that there are a lot of blogs out there that I can relate to. Yours is definitely the first that comes to mind. I’m all for success and I certainly wish that to your family too. However, sometimes it is nice to know that there are others in the same boat who understand what you might be going through. With my husband losing his job recently and it being unexpected, the world feels a bit out of control right now.
We are trying to stay afloat and “survive” so blogs that talk about lofty goals and saving tons of money just don’t apply to my life right now. We made a lower income to begin with before this happened. So what I need at the moment is hope, not a feeling of “I’ll never accomplish this.” Thanks for being real with your life.
I remember your saying that your husband lost his job recently. I am so sorry that you are in this position, but I am glad that the blog is encouraging you. I pray that you will find work soon!
Samantha Wagoner says
We also have no credit cards to fall back on so savings is a priority for us. I was able to put $550 in the emergency fund in April. I want to have $1000 in there before I begin focusing on paying off the few debts that we have.
Sorry that your car repairs were so much but I’m glad you had the savings to cover it. It makes something like that an annoyance rather than a crisis.
I’ve also been much better with the grocery budget. I spent $460 in April (which also counts the first week in May). I’m very happy about that. For a while we were spending $800 or more on groceries in a month’s time. Yikes! Thanks to your blog that has changed significantly.
I’m also setting aside money for the couple of non-monthly bills that we have (life insurance for David and me). It’s nice to know that I won’t be blindsided by those coming due.
Overall I’d say that we are moving in the right direction. I’ve even joined Weight Watchers again and started going to meetings this week. It’s nice to have so many areas of my life under “control”. It all works together.
Thanks for sharing your financial situation in order to help all of us who struggle. It is very much appreciated!
Way to go Samantha! You are right, it does all work together.
Rach merritt says
same thing here on car. We had a $400 car repair bill. Once upon a time it would have been on a credit card. We had cash.. we are spending a little extra right now to try to get away from having to have cash. So, we have purchased and planted a lot, bought chickens, and are building a coup for them and goats down the line for milk. All in all, we stayed within what we have, and we still have savings set aside. LOVE the shelves–they look GREAT!!
Doesn’t it feel great to use cash instead of a credit card?
We were able to get new tires for my husband’s car, our dog’s check up and vaccinations… and pay a few of our medical bills (had a baby 2/28) through our HSA. We also finally set up our 401k! Pretty successful month considering I can barely remember anything right now!
Congratulations on your new baby! 🙂
Rachel Morehouse says
Boy, I can relate about wanting to spend extra money on something fun! Since our savings account is lower than we wish, my husband & I decided to bank our tax refund. We have really wanted to buy a new TV & have been putting it off for 2 yrs while paying for more important things. Then our basement started leaking & I had to pay out $1500 today for the repair! (ouch!) That hurts, but at least we had the money in savings. Being responsible is tough! But it’s the wise thing to do!
Fun is fun, but being able to pay a bill is more fun! 🙂