It’s time to share November’s complete budget update. Getting these numbers all together has me really excited to share the cost breakdown from the big trip we took in November. I can’t wait to tell you all about it and share some really great tips for affordable family trips!

In other news, my course Grocery Budget Hero will be opening up again January 1st! If you’re wondering how you’re going to manage (and lower!) your grocery budget with rising food prices, then this course is for you. Be sure you’re on the waiting list so you don’t miss it!

UPDATE: Grocery Budget Hero enrollment is now open!

In the meantime, here’s our real numbers budget report for November including what we earned, spent, and put toward our big goal.

If you’re looking for some frugal holiday tips, check out my 25 Days of Christmas Cheer on a Budget posts.

Income Earned in NOVEMBER – $10,282

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

Attorney Income – $7,782 Mike works as an attorney for the state of California. This is his take-home pay after taxes, social security, 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 year. 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. I figured I would hold off on paying myself since I wasn’t doing much work and wasn’t earning very much. I paid myself in July and I probably will pay myself again in December.

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.

Child Tax credit – $1,500 In November we received another child tax credit payout. It’s actually supposed to be $1,600, but that will get all straightened out at tax time. We are putting it into the budget like normal income, but most of it gets funneled right into our family fun fund.

Spending in November

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


Tithing – $1,121 We always pay a 10% tithe on our income. This tithing, like all of our November spending, comes from the money we earned in October. 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 charity program that helps provide for the local poor.

Monthly Bills

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 – $216 This electric bill covers both our home and our rental. Both are completely electric, with no gas or propane.

Car Insurance – $116 Our auto 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 – $60 Our internet bill is supposed to be $70 per month, so I’m not sure why last month they charged us $65 and this month $60. I like the trend though! 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 – $81 Our bill comes every other month, so we estimate about half of what we expect it 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 – $50 We have two phones with Visible, a Verizon subsidiary that offers wifi calling and unlimited cell calls and cell data on the Verizon 4G LTE network. Each phone is $25 a month! We’ve been using them for about two years now and have no complaints at all.  If you’re interested, right now you can get the first month for just $5 to give it a try!

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

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.

Piano – $0 Our oldest took the month of November off since we were on our trip to Washington DC for half of the month.

Everyday Expenses

Food – $476   Our normal monthly food budget is around $500 for our family of 8. We don’t typically eat out besides getting pizza maybe once a month. We eat and home and cook most things from scratch. On January 1st Grocery Budget Hero will finally be opening up again!! If you want to learn the exact strategies I use to rock our family’s grocery budget (even with rising prices), then be sure you’re on the waiting list so you’re first to know when enrollment for my online course opens. UPDATE: Grocery Budget Hero enrollment is now open!

Fuel – $284 Gas is super expensive around here, but we were gone for half of the month, so we didn’t have to drive as much.

Household Misc – $179 We stocked up on some essentials like toilet paper and laundry detergent. I bought a return address stamp which is going to come in really handy in Christmas card season. We also renewed a couple of magazine subscriptions.

Clothing – $84 – Some of the kids needed some shoes and clothing items that couldn’t wait until Christmas.

Animals – $28 We bought a bag of dog food, but were otherwise still stocked up from last month.

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 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.

Sinking Funds

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 – $500 added. In November we spent $462. Current category balance is $76.

Car Maintenance – $0  added.  We spent $0 in November. Current category balance is $3,231.

Christmas – $200 added. We spent $____ on Christmas 2021 in November. Current category balance is $___.

Life Insurance – $75 added. In November we paid our life insurance premiums which were $946. Current category balance is $29.

Birthdays & Gifts – $0 added. We spent $0 on gifts in November.  Current category balance is $210. 

Car Registration & Smog – $40 added. We didn’t add to or spend from this category in November. Current category balance is $226.

Family Fun Fund – $1,650 added. We spent $643 on our big trip in November. I will be doing a whole post on the cost breakdown for our trip. I think it will surprise you! We are still actively adding to this category 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 $1,009.

Preparedness – $0 added. We spent $70 on adding to our emergency supplies with some bulk foods. Current category balance is $169.

Home Projects- $0 added. We spent $0 on projects.  The category balance is currently $560.

Garden & Orchard- $0 added. We spent $0 in November. The category balance is currently $34.


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 $800 each month deducted directly from his paycheck into a pension fund.

Mortgage Payoff Goal Progress

Our big financial goal right now is paying off our mortgage. At the end of 2018 we made a goal to pay it off in 5 years. You can read about our mortgage-payoff goal here and see the numbers for our most recent re-fi here.

This month paid $1,344 of principal in our normal November mortgage payment.  We also put $1,500 extra toward our mortgage principal. 

Current mortgage balance: $222,110

For reference:

Original balance of 15-year mortgage: $372,700
Balance at start of 5-year goal (Nov 2018): $363,171

Percent of 5-year goal reached: 38.84%
Percent of 5-year time elapsed (37 mo): 61.67%.

We’re not on target now to pay off the mortgage in our goal of 5 years, but we’re a whole lot closer than if we had not set the goal in the first place. And we’re really not heartbroken about our progress.  We’ve been making decisions together and intentionally, trying to balance how much focus we put on our financial goals with how much time and money we want to spend with our family as they’re growing up so quickly!


You can get this hand-drawn brick house printable progress chart here.  I love that it has LOTS of spaces (365 in total) so that we can color it in often and celebrate our progress!  It would work great for paying off your mortgage OR saving for a down payment.

How About You?

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

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