I know January sounds like forever ago, but for the sake of not missing a monthly budget update since September 2013, I’m going to still share it, even though it feels a little stale! I’ll have February’s budget update posted shortly as well.
If you’re new here, we have a family of 8 and we live in Northern California. We started sharing our finances back in 2013 when we had six figures of student loan debt that we were working hard to pay off. At the time, our finances looked very different than they do today. Still, even though the numbers have changed over the years our habit of budgeting has not. Being acutely aware of and actively involved in our finances has allowed us to have money for our priorities and make progress toward our goals. We share our real numbers so that you can see one example of how a family budget can work.
Okay, onto the January numbers!
Income Earned in JANUARY – $8,717
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 January, which has all been set aside to use in our February budget. The spending section below shows the money we earned in December and spent in January.
Attorney Income – $7,717 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.
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. We don’t have to clean and do a full Covid-disinfect and airing of the apartment between stays, for one. 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 January
Each month we budget the previous month’s income down to zero. This is how we spent the money we earned in December.
Tithing – $1,121 We always pay a 10% tithe on our income. This tithing, like all of our January spending, comes from the money we earned in December. 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.
Mortgage – $2,369 We re-financed our 15-year mortgage to a 2.375% rate in December 2020 and this is our current monthly payment. If you’re interested, you can check out all of the numbers and re-fi details.
Electricity – $352 This bill covers both our home and our rental which are both are completely electric, with no gas or propane. We use our wood-burning stove to heat our house pretty much exclusively even though central heat is installed.
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 – $85 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 – $11 Our bill comes every other month and since we had put aside $80 in December, we only needed $11 more to pay the bill. We were thrilled to have such a low bill!
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 – $35 We got a new phone in January (a third one with 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. The referring line gets a $20 off for the referral, so in January we only paid $35 for our three phones, though it will normally be $75.
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.
Disability Insurance- $185 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.
Music Lessons – $165 Our oldest takes piano lessons and French horn lessons.
Food – $515 Our food budget includes both groceries and eating out, though we normally don’t eat out much. We aim to spend around $500 for our family of 8.
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.
Fuel – $252 I’m so thankful that Mike isn’t commuting anymore. I feel like I’m driving all over the place for kids’ activities, but it could be so much worse.
Household Misc – $357
Clothing – $103 –Most of this was actually buying gift cards for future clothing purchases. Sam’s Club had a deal where you could get a $50 Old Navy gift card for $40, so I bought two, which was the maximum.
Animals – $256 We spent $45 on three bags of chicken feed. The rest was getting our new fish tank from Christmas set up.
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 – $32 We get funding through our homeschool charter that covers most everything for homeschooling our 4 oldest kiddos, but occasionally there is something we want that isn’t covered.
For most of our budget categories, we zero out what is left at the end of the month and send it to our mortgage payoff goal, but in our sinking funds we set aside money each month for 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. In January we spent $6. Current category balance is $779.
Car Maintenance – $300 added. We spent $155 in January. Current category balance is $2,303.
Christmas – $200 added. We spent $62 on Christmas 2022 in January. Current category balance is $138.
Life Insurance – $75 added. Next year’s life insurance premiums will be due in November. Current category balance is $179.
Birthdays & Gifts – $0 added. We spent $24 on gifts in January. Current category balance is $122
Car Registration & Smog – $40 added. We renewed the registration on one of our vehicles in January which cost $130. Current category balance is $136.
Family Fun Fund – $1,000 added. We spent $272 during January which includes $80 for the upcoming year of Disney+ and $40 of Coldstone gift cards for future use. We add to this category regularly because we have a road trip coming up in the spring, plus the cost of swim team for the three older kids will come out of this category in February. Current category balance is $3,137.
Preparedness – $0 added. We transferred the $169 that was in this category over to the garden/orchard category so we could buy some more fruit trees. Current category balance is $0.
Home Projects- $100 added. We spent $119 on supplies for home repair projects. The category balance is currently $278.
Garden & Orchard- $288 added. We spent $322 in January to buy some additional fruit trees (2 peach, 2 kiwis) and garden/orchard supplies. The category balance is currently $0.
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.
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 will have to start making payments on the $50,000 loan in April.
Until then we’re saving up the other $20,000 to cover the $70,000 total cost.
In January we paid a $1,000 deposit upon signing the contract and set aside $181 more.
So far we have saved $1,181 of $20,000.
Side note: Did you see how we put $7,500 extra toward our mortgage in December? It was literally just days before Mike said he wanted to revisit the idea of getting solar. That would have been really helpful to have that chunk of money right now. Ooops!
How About You?
- How did your budget and/or debt repayment go in January?
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