April was definitely not a normal month for us. We spent three weeks on a 6,000-mile cross country road trip. We drove as far as Niagara Falls with lots of stops to see sights and visit friends and family along the way. Mike used accrued paid time off so he didn’t have to work at all on the trip. We still did some homeschooling in the car, which added another layer of drama to squeezing 8 people into a car for extended periods of time. All in all it was a great trip! As for the budget for our trip, most of that came from our “family fun fund” sinking fund, as I’ll explain below.

Another exciting part of April was making some great progress toward our goal of paying for solar. You can read all those details below!

Income Earned in APRIL – $9,651

We live on last month’s income. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, check out the video explaining how living on last month’s income changed our lives or the post explaining how we got to that point.

This income section shows the money we earned in April, which has all been set aside to use in our May budget. The spending section below shows the money we earned in March and spent in April.

Attorney Income – $8,651 Mike works as an attorney for the state of California. This is his take-home pay after taxes, social security, pension contribution, and health insurance premiums. It also includes a small “work-at-home” stipend that he started getting from the state.

Blog Income- $0 I haven’t been giving myself a paycheck every month for two reasons.  First, I haven’t done much work on the blog in the past two years. Homeschooling my kids has been my priority and I haven’t figured out the best way to balance my blogging work with my family, which is my most important work.  Second, while my blog does produce residual income even when I’m not working on it, it declines every month and no matter what I earn, I have about $500 in blogging overhead expenses each month. Right now I’m holding off on paying myself as I’m reinvesting a chunk of what I’m earning back into the business.

Rental Income – $1,000 We rent a one-bedroom apartment on our property. We had it listed on Airbnb for a few years, but have a long-term renter now instead. Though we don’t earn as much as we did with Airbnb, there are some big perks. Not having to clean and turn over the apartment regularly has been nice since I’m super busy with homeschooling. Also, our renter helps take care of our animals and property when we go out of town. We expect that we’ll go back to Airbnb after our current renter moves out. If you’re thinking about renting out your space on Airbnb, check out Mike’s post about dealing with insurance for your Airbnb rental or our explanation of how we handle our Airbnb finances.

Spending in April

Each month we budget the previous month’s income down to zero. This is how we spent the money we earned in March.


Tithing – $1,806 We always pay a 10% tithe on our income. This tithing, like all of our April spending, comes from the money we earned in March. You can read our thoughts on paying a 10% tithe here.

Fast Offering – $100 Each month we take one day to fast (go without food and drink) for two meals and contribute to a program that provides assistance for local folks who need it.

Monthly Bills

Mortgage – $2,369 We have a 15-year mortgage on our house. If you’re interested in the details of our Dec 2020 refi, you can check out all of the numbers and details.

Electricity – $277 This bill covers both our home and our rental which are both are completely electric. That will be great once we have our solar installed, but right now the price of electricity keeps going up and up.

Car Insurance – $116 Our insurance is through USAA and we love them! If you, your parent, or your spouse were/are in the military, you’re probably eligible for USAA too!

Internet – $70 Having good internet access is super important with everyone at home for work and school. We’re so glad we invested in bringing internet access to our property when we first bought our house. That $5,000 investment was worth every penny!

Water – $70 Our bill comes every other month so we try to set aside about half of what we anticipate the bill to be.

Garbage- $42 The bill for our curbside trash pickup also comes every other month so we set aside half of the bill each month.

Cell Phones – $75 We have three cell phones: one for me, one for Mike, and one we use as a home phone for when the kids are home without us (or that the older kids take when they babysit at someone else’s house). They are all through Visible. Visible is a Verizon subsidiary that offers wifi calling and unlimited cell calls and data on the Verizon network. We’ve been using them for over two years now and have no complaints at all. It is $25 per phone, but right now you can get the first month for just $5 through my link.

We used to use Republic Wireless, which costs a little less, and some readers rave about Mint Mobile’s great service and even lower costs, but neither of those use a network that provides cell signal at our home.

If you’re paying more than you want for cell service, check out one of these three great and affordable companies: Visible, Republic Wireless, Mint Mobile.

Music Lessons – $0 Since we were out of town the entire month we didn’t have any piano or french horn lessons.

Everyday Expenses

Food – $629 Though the amount we spent on food looks pretty close to what you would expect (if you’re used to seeing our budgets), it was anything but standard. We didn’t do our normal monthly grocery shopping trip. We brought most of our road trip snacks from home, but went shopping at grocery stores on the trip for fresh food and ingredients for cooking at our Airbnb stays. We visited and ate delicious home-cooked meals with eight(!) different families, some related and others just dear friends, on our trip. My mom cooked when we were in Ohio. We ate out a couple of times, got pizza/fast food several times, and enjoyed some great (and not-so-great) continental breakfasts at hotels/motels.

If you are ready to get your family’s grocery spending under control, you’re going to want to sign up for Grocery Budget Hero! You will learn the exact strategies I use to rock our family’s grocery budget (even with rising prices). Enrollment is open now! Get $20 off with the coupon code STARTNOW.  That puts your total cost at $59, and I promise you’ll earn many times that back as you stretch your grocery budget hero skills.

Fuel – $1,455 All but about $200 was for our three-week road trip from California to New York and back. The best part about the crazy gas prices in California is that the prices everywhere else look awesome! I wanted to keep the gas cost separate from our other trip spending, so I kept it all in our fuel category in YNAB, then moved money over from the Family Fun Fund to cover our gas spending.

Household Misc – $166 We bought normal household things like laundry soap and toothpaste. We have a Scribd subscription which came in handy for listening to audiobooks on our trip.  We also picked up a few things at Cabela’s in Nebraska.

Clothing – $13 – When you squeeze 8 people into a mini-van sometimes things like shoes fall out when you open the side door. Sometimes you don’t realize you have a missing shoe for hundred of miles. We got a pair of church shoes at the thrift store for this reason. We also grabbed Mike a pair of slides because he didn’t bring any.

Animals – $0 The unusual lack of spending on animals was made possible by March’s extra spending in this category.

Allowances – $84 Because our allowance system is age-based, we increase this monthly amount as kids have birthdays. We give our kids “practice money” as a weekly allowance.  You can read all about why we decided to pay our kids allowance that’s not directly tied to chores, as well as all the details of when and how much in this blog post.

Homeschool – $0 We didn’t spend anything on homeschooling in April.

Sinking Funds

For most of our budget categories, we zero out what is left at the end of the month and send it to whatever our big financial goal is at the time, but in our sinking funds we set aside money each month for periodic expenses and let it build up until we need it.

The amount in bold is the amount we added to the fund this month. Any spending is noted in the comments along with the current balance of each fund.

We do not have separate bank accounts for these funds. All of the money sits in our checking account. We’re not worried about getting the money mixed up because we spend according to our budget category balances, not our checking account balance. We seriously never even look at our checking account balance unless we’re reconciling the account. We track our budget categories and spending in YNAB.

Medical/Dental – $400 added. We didn’t spend anything on medical/dental during April, but we did have an ER visit for a broken wrist in Ohio, so we’ll have some bills soon enough. Current category balance is $1,052.

Car Maintenance – $300  added.  We spent $0 on car maintenance in April. Current category balance is $2,467.

Christmas – $200 added. We didn’t spend anything for Christmas 2022. Current category balance is $538.

Disability Insurance- $190 This will replace about 2/3 of Mike’s current income if injury or illness leaves him unable to work as an attorney. Our income potential is our greatest financial asset right now and disability insurance helps us protect it. I moved this down to the “sinking funds” portion of the budget update, since that is how we treat it now. We actually just paid the premium, so we’re starting over. Some of this month’s contribution went to the previous premium. Current category balance is $159.

Life Insurance – $75 added. Next year’s life insurance premiums will be due in November. Current category balance is $404.

Birthdays & Gifts – $40 added. We spent $0 on gifts in April.  Current category balance is $141. 

Car Registration & Smog – $40 added. We spent $156 on car registration in April. Current category balance is $60.

Family Fun Fund – $0 added. We technically didn’t add anything here because the $1,000 that we added at the beginning of the month was moved to the fuel category to cover the gas for our trip that went beyond our normal gas budget. We also spent $1,042 of non-fuel expenses on our trip. Most of that was for accommodations (some of our accommodations were prepaid) and entrance fees for some of the places we went. Current category balance is $914.

Home Projects- $0 added. We didn’t do any projects before our trip (but we had some waiting for us when we got home).  The category balance is currently $0.

Garden & Orchard- $250 added. We spend $210 on some automated watering system supplies so the garden and greenhouse would be taken care of during our trip. We also purchased a large bulk batch of sweet potato slips. Some of those we’ll plant and the rest we’ll resell to local gardeners. The category balance is currently $40.


Kids’ 529s – $150 We know that $25 per kid per month invested for college isn’t much, but college costs are not our highest concern. Scholarships, grants, loans, and jobs during school worked for us. We may accelerate this savings later, but we’re ok with small, consistent payments right now.  The kids like to see their balances growing, and it adds up and teaches them good savings principles, even if it won’t entirely pay for school. You can read about our decision to start saving a little for college in this post.

IRA (Steph) – $500 With $500 monthly, I’ll max out my $6,000 IRA contribution for 2021.  Mike has about $950 each month deducted directly from his paycheck into a pension fund.

Goal Progress

We are pausing our mortgage payoff goal for the next two years to tackle a new goal. Mike and I shared all the details here about why we are getting solar, how much it costs, and how we’re planning to pay for it here in this recent post.

We started making payments on the $50,000 loan in April.

We also have another $20,000 that will be due by the time everything is done. The total cost is $70,000 (plus about $3,000 of interest on the $50K loan if we pay it off in 2 years).

Thanks to the tax refund we got in March, April’s contribution to our solar goal was $7,812.

That brings the total we’ve saved toward paying for solar to $10,051.

I made a chart to keep track of our progress. I color in a little square for each $250 we put toward our solar purchase.

How About You?

  • How did your budget and/or debt repayment go in April?

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