Our Living Expenses Budget – The Breakdown of the $20K Annual Budget

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

Just as promised, we would share our living expenses budget with you to show you what we budget for and changes made from 2012 and what our lowest was historically. We encourage you to read our post HERE regarding setting your budget.  It also includes a free download to fill-out for your high level budget view.

A few points to make:

  • We are out of debt, so our budget could look a lot different than yours
  • When our budget was the lowest, we had the two of us and 2 babies (who don’t eat a lot), and I (Alex) worked 1 mile from home.  All factors that make food/gas (the biggest expenses) a lower option.
  • We are a family of 7
  • This is a base bottom budget.  Because we have home businesses, we base our budget and stick to a budget with a low income in case of famine in business.  But when business is booming, we still stick to this budget, but it means that we can add to our home improvement, Christmas and travel/fun fund as well as our savings. But we have learned to live off of this in case we lose some of those extra income outlets.
  • We also have a savings as this budget is less than our normal income and so the excess from our normal income and from our extra businesses goes into savings to pay cash for future purchases like a new mini-van, basement finishing, etc.

Groceries/Household/Personal Care: A note, we will go into more detail about one of our 2013 goals in another post, but we have decided to make 2013 the year that we eat whole, natural, organic and foods with simple ingredients.  This means we will not be buying or eating processed foods or foods with enriched grains, MSG, trans/saturated fat, high fructose corn syrup or sugars in the first 5 ingredients of anything we buy. We have also eliminated other ingredients including Sodium Nitrates.  Again, we will share more on this later – that is just a super quick summary to explain the big jump in our budget.  We are committed to trying this for at least a year and do it on a low budget too and see if we can live a whole natural life on a tight budget for 7 people!

  • 2013: $500 per month ($125 per week)
    • Natural fresh milk delivery $50 per month
    • Bountiful Baskets orders for $150 per month
    • Meat Savings for our bulk grass-fed beef and natural chicken orders twice per year $50 per month (this is $600 per year.  Our 1/4 cow usually costs around $400-$450 and chicken is just over $100 – $150)
    • Everything else is $250 per month or about $58 per week at the grocery store on needed odds/ends.
  • 2012: $300 per month or $75 per week
  • Lowest in our budget history:  $150 a month or about $35 a week

Eating Out (one of our favorite luxuries)

  • 2013: $200 per month (this adds up to $195, with a $5 buffer)
    • Date Nights $80 mo.
    • Alex lunch with clients $35 mo.
    • Mom and Kids lunch outs on field trip days $35 mo.
    • Family Meals out $45 mo.
  • 2012: $200 per month (no change)
  • Lowest in our budget history:  $40 a month

Automobile Expenses

  • 2013:
    • Gasoline/Fuel $433 mo. (I commute quite a bit)
    • Oil Changes for all vehicles  $40 per month (we get high mileage oil and usually a extra service every third time)


    • Gasoline/Fuel $400 mo.
    • Oil Changes for all vehicles  $40 per month (we get high mileage oil and usually a extra service every third time)
  • Lowest in our budget history: 
    • Gasoline/Fuel $100 mo.
    • Oil Changes for all vehicles  $15 per month


  • 2013: $20 per month (we now only have 1 in diapers and we are using cloth during the day at home)
  • 2012: $40 per month
  • Lowest in our budget history: Now – this year 2013


  • 2013: $80 per month (essentially just over $11 per person)
  • 2012: $75 per month
  • Lowest in Budget History:$25 per month ($300 per year)

Health Products/Supplements

  • 2013: $50 per month (essentially just over $7 per person)
  • 2012: $20 per month
  • Lowest in budget history: $0

Hair Cuts/Salon

  • 2013:$10 per month (Just the girls get hair cuts – Cassie cut bangs and the boy’s hair at home)
  • 2012: $10 per month (no change)
  • Lowest in budget history: $5 per month


  • 2013: $20 month
  • 2012: $15 month
  • Lowest in budget history: None – $0

Allowances: for the kids, we give them .50 per year per week

  • 2013: $96 total
      • Alex – $20
      • Cassie -$20
      • 9 year old – $18
      • 8 year old – $16
      • 6 year old – $12
      • 4 year old – $8
      • 1-year old – $2
  • 2012: Same formula but $89 due to younger ages
  • Lowest in budget history: none – $0 (not a good idea as we couldn’t stick to it – give yourself something)


  • 2013: $160 per month (covers supplies, books, curricula, etc.)
  • 2012: Same no change
  • Lowest in budget history: none as it wasn’t needed with 2 babies


2013: $1,609 (it is actually $1,700 as we also give ourselves nearly a $100 incidentals) – which is $20,400 this year

2012: $1,349 (Actual amount we budgeted $1,450 to include incidentals and the biggest change was in the groceries from $300 to $500) – which is just over $16,000 per year

Lowest in budget history: $335, but we had it at $400 to cover incidentals and Christmas.  BUT… we really, really struggled to stick with this and found it nearly impossible.  This was in our unsuccessful 3 years of only paying off $15k debt.  It wasn’t until we became realistic and started our 2×2 plan that we were successful in sticking with our budget and seeing big debt changes by paying off $85k the next 3.5 years.   The 2×2 plan is how we would recommend making and sticking to a budget and you will get to your rock bottom budget soon and much less painfully!

So you may be asking about…… Christmas, Travel, fun and home improvement. Well, we have saved for Christmas before at $5 – $15 per paycheck ($5 x26 = $130 at lowest and $15×26 = $390) but we have done something different the past 2-years.  We’ve mentioned many times that we run our own home businesses and so we now save a percentage of our excess income to pay for these extras.  This would be a fun way to motivate you and your family to earn extra for travel and Christmas if you wanted. Check out our Over 100 Ways to Earn Extra Income post HERE. If you don’t want to do this, we would highly recommend saving monthly for those events in your normal budget.

Here’s what we do with our extra income:

  • 10% tithe
  • 30% Home Improvement (we have a lot of projects we want to complete)
  • 5% Christmas fund
  • 15% Travel/fun fund
  • Remaining in Savings

So for an example, between our extra businesses (we have about 4), we could bring in $1,000 extra per month.  $300 goes into home improvement, $150 for travel/fun and $50 for Christmas.  The rest is savings and tithe.  Some months are more and some are less, but that gives you an idea of what we do! It is also a great motivator for us!

As far as mortgage and utilities… that is on top of this amount.  And we don’t have any debts, so that helps tremendously!

Extra links:


  1. melissa says

    what about health insurance, doctor bills, life insurance, retirement plans, car insurance?

    do you have any pets? what about their costs?

    does anybody take any medication? what about those costs?

    what about internet costs? I’m assuming you have internet since you have a blog.

    id love to see a breakdown of everything.

    • says

      Hi Melissa,

      Just like we posted and talked about in a budgeting post last week, we encourage and break down budgets in three categories:
      1. Bills (fixed payments that you have as a normal part of life). This is where your rent/mortgage, insurances, utilities, cell phone, gym membership etc. go.
      2. Debts (payments that you make and once it is paid for, you no longer have this payment) this would be car loans, credit cards, other loans, etc.
      3. Living Expenses – payments that vary and that you have control over and that you set and spend as needed. This is especially where couponing, saving money and many things can change to great extent depending on your financial situation as you have complete control over it. If needed, you can stop eating out – but you can’t stop paying insurances, etc. This is what we are sharing above, and we probably will also share bills budget sometime too but this is the category that we all have a lot of control and say over and so it is a good one to get under control. There are tips to save money in the bills category, but not like living expenses where there is a lot more flexibility. Hope that clarifies it more 😉 And here’s the link to the budgeting post that we talk about these things: http://thethriftycouple.com/2013/01/23/be-intentional-challenge-17-create-your-budget-with-free-download/

      As a couple of specific answers:
      1. When we were entirely self-employed, we did pay for a health sharing plan through Samaritan Ministries. But as of a few months ago, Alex currently has coverage through his employer and it is taken out of his paycheck. So we set the rest of our budget based on his take home pay and health insurance is no longer an issue at that point. We do a number of things for retirement – but again part of our fixed and investment plans, not living expenses budget. We do have a daughter that takes a medication for allergies, but that is a fixed payment in our bills since we have to have it and can’t do with or without it and it is the same cost every month.

      2. Because of severe allergies, we do not have any pets. But if we did, their expenses would be a category on the living expenses budget.

      3. Internet is a utility and so it is under the bills section :)

      When we were working on getting out of $100K debt, our living expenses budget was less than $10K per year. We have a much more generous living expenses budget now. The food was the biggest change with the goal that we have for 2013 with natural, whole, organic living. In addition, the $160 a month for education is another big factor which is nearly $2k per year. But since we are out of debt now and we have the ability, it is not a category that we want to spare expense.

      Thanks Melissa for asking in case anyone else had the same questions.

  2. Kim in Cali says

    Thanks for clarifying like that Cassie, it just makes so much sense to do it the way you do :) Will you be/have you shared your budget in the other 2 catergories somewhere here and I’ve missed it? I too would love to see the whole breakdown.

    When did Alex go back to work? Have I been sleeping through posts LOL! :)


  1. […] One of them is the Hormel Naturals.  I will only buy this one and ones like this.  Yes, it is more expensive than other bacon, but that is why we increased our grocery/household/personal products budget from $75 a week in 2012 to $125 a week in 2013.  You can read all of the details on why we decided to do this for 2013 on our previous post HERE. […]

  2. […] Finally, if you are wondering… yes that is a bidet attached to this toilet.  The french have it right with natural cleaning that way too….. but it is actually a cloth diaper sprayer (the box says “diaper sprayer bidet”) and so although that is it’s primary purpose, it can be both if you want to easily install one yourself!  We try to use cloth diapers when we are at home during the day and disposable at night or while we are out and the sprayer is a huge help.  Between Amazon’s cheap online diapers and the cloth diapers, we only spend $20 a month on diapering! […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>