We spent most of April on a cross country road trip, so I’m pretty late in getting March’s update posted. The good news is that April’s update will be posted very soon. As you’ll see in a second, we got a big tax refund in March. That will be going toward our solar goal when we budget March’s earning in April.

Income Earned in MARCH – $17,133 (includes tax refund)

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

Attorney Income – $8,823 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. March’s check also includes a few retroactive payments for 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. 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.

Tax Refund- $7,310 We seriously overpaid in taxes last year, even after taking the child tax credit payments. We weren’t sure quite how things would work out with several tax changes including significant child tax credit payments, so we left Mike’s paycheck withholding on autopilot. It turns out we could have reduced withholding dramatically and still not owed anything. All in all, given the tax questions for 2021, we’re happier with a large refund than we would be with a large amount owed. =-)

Spending in March

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


Tithing – $1,054 We always pay a 10% tithe on our income. This tithing, like all of our March spending, comes from the money we earned in February. 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.

Other Giving – $1,000 We had originally set aside this money to go towards our solar goal (see the bottom of this post), but we redirected it to an organization in Poland that is helping house Ukrainian refugees.

Monthly Bills

Mortgage – $2,521 We were assigned a new mortgage servicer who recalculated our escrow amount, which increased our payment. If you’re interested in the details of our Dec 2020 refi, you can check out all of the numbers and details.

Electricity – $374 This bill covers both our home and our rental which are both completely electric, with no natural gas or propane. 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 – $80 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 all use 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.

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 – $195 Our oldest takes piano lessons and French horn lessons.

Everyday Expenses

Food – $583 Our food budget includes both groceries and eating out, though we normally don’t eat out much. We aim to spend between $500 and $600 for our family of 8, so March was on the higher end.

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Fuel – $459 Gas was over $5 per gallon throughout all of March. Mike doesn’t commute anymore, so this is just driving around town to kids’ activities, family activities, church, stores, etc.

Household Misc – $369 In addition to regular household items and toiletries, we got two security cameras and had some domain name renewals. I also bought fabric to make Easter dresses for the girls and myself (and bow ties for the boys). This also includes a monthly Scribd subscription which is totally worth it for us!

Clothing – $103 – We made a trip to the thrift store where the kids got some clothes. We also bought three new pairs of shoes at the Adidas outlet.

Animals – $374 We stocked up on chicken feed, dog food, and cat food since we were going to be out of town for most of April. We also bought some automatic feeders for our fish tank as well as some other fish supplies and a few new fish.

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 homeschool in March.

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 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. In March we spent $565 between the dentist and the doctor. Current category balance is $652.

Car Maintenance – $0  added.  We spent $25 in March. Current category balance is $2,167.

Christmas – $0 added. We opted not to add to this category in March. We also didn’t spend anything for Christmas 2022. Current category balance is $338.

Life Insurance – $75 added. Next year’s life insurance premiums will be due in November. Current category balance is $329.

Birthdays & Gifts – $0 added. We spent $22 on gifts in March.  Current category balance is $101. 

Car Registration & Smog – $0 added. We spent $0 on car registration in March. Current category balance is $176.

Family Fun Fund – $0 added. We spent $0 on future trips. Current category balance is $1,957.

Home Projects – $104 added. We added just enough to cover the cost of finishing a project.  The category balance is currently $0.

Garden & Orchard – $59 added. We also added just enough to cover some things for the garden. 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.

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 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.

At the beginning of March we set aside $1,000 for our solar goal, but decided to donate it to Ukrainian refugees instead, so March’s goal contribution was $0 .

So far we have saved $2,239.

We still have a long way to go! I made a new 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 March?

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