Our Budget – The Breakdown of the $27K Annual Budget

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by Alex


So, we are finally sharing our personal living expenses budget with you again this year.  Many of you have asked for us to share our 2014 budget just like we did in 2013.

Honestly, it is always a little hard to share our personal budget as it is just, well….. personal.

But after hearing from a number of you that this was a help and an encouragement to you when we shared this last year finally made us decide to post it again!  As promised, we are sharing our living expenses budget with you to show you what we budget for and changes made from 2013 and what our lowest budget 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.  We base our budget and stick to a budget with a low income in case of famine in business/work.  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.
  • We are not sharing our mortgage nor our tithe and charitable giving as these are very personal.

Monthly Bills Category

2014 Insurances

  • Term life insurance $160 (all 7 family members)
  • Car insurance for 2 vehicles $63.85 (details on our policy here)
  • Home Insurance $30

2014 Utilities

  • Phone $38.25 ($25 a month plus taxes)
  • Cell Phones $75.59 ($55 a month plus taxes and fees)
  • Gas bill $70
  • Electricity $152
  • City Utilities $96

2014 Entertainment

  • HuluPlus $7.99
  • Amazon Prime $6.58 monthly (this also covers us in our grocery, gift and household category, but easy to categorize here, and….next time we renew, it will be $99!)
  • Netflix $8.51 (with tax)
  • Sermon Audio $4.99

Medical Bills

We do have some medical expenses as well that are not calculated above as it is so random and often without planning.  But we do have an HSA that this comes out of and has covered our medical bills every year for the past few years.

Total in the Monthly Bills Category

$713.76 monthly = $8562.12 this year

Living Expenses Category (This category also shows previous years’ amounts)

Groceries/Household/Personal Care: A note, as a family, we try to live a whole, natural and even organic life when and where we can.  We modify recipes to meet this desire and we shop according to this desire without our allotted budget. We implemented this living goal last year and it was a success and so we will continue this again this year! 

  • 2014: $430 per month (about $107.50 per week). However, we usually only shop once or twice a month at the grocery store since our milk is delivered and produce from co-op and meat in the deep freezer. In addition, much of our excess $250 goes for bulk food buying for nearly all of our dry foods (cereals, grains, beans, etc.) and so just a little at the actual grocery store.   Pretty much all we buy at the grocery store are eggs, cottage cheese, cheese, sour cream, a few of the sale items that week and a few markdowns.
    • Natural fresh milk delivery $30 per month
    • Fresh produce either through Bountiful Baskets or the Warehouse/Grocery stores for $100 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 $50 per week at the grocery store/ bulk foods store on needed odds/ends.
  • 2013:$500 per month ($125 per week)
  • 2012: $300 per month or $75 per week
  • Lowest in our budget history:  $150 a month or about $35 a week (not necessarily healthy or organic)

Eating Out (one of our favorite luxuries)

  • 2014: $160 per month
    • Date Nights $60 mo.
    • Alex lunch with clients $20 mo.
    • Mom and Kids lunch outs on field trip days $35 mo.
    • Family Meals out $45 mo.
  • 2013: $200 per month
  • Lowest in our budget history:  $40 a month

Automobile Expenses

  • 2014:
    • Gasoline/Fuel $290 mo. (I commute quite a bit, but much less than last year)
    • Oil Changes for all vehicles  $40 per month (we get high mileage oil and usually a extra service every third time)


    • Gasoline/Fuel $433 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


  • 2014: $15 per month (we now only have 1 in diapers and we are using cloth during the day at home and it takes us about 5-6 weeks to get through a case of diapers that costs us around $22 on Amazon with the cloth option – Details on this here)
  • 2013: $20 per month (nearly the same)
  • Lowest in our budget history: Now – this year 2014


  • 2014: $80 per month (essentially just over $11 per person)
  • 2013: $80 per month (same)
  • Lowest in Budget History:$25 per month ($300 per year)

Health Products/Supplements

  • 2014: $55 per month
  • 2013: $50 per month (essentially just over $7 per person)
  • 2012: $20 per month
  • Lowest in budget history: $0

Hair Cuts/Salon

  • 2014:$10 per month (Just the girls get hair cuts at the local beauty college – Cassie cut bangs and the boy’s hair at home)
  • 2013: $10 per month (no change)
  • Lowest in budget history: $5 per month


  • 2014: $20 month
  • 2013: $20 month (Same)
  • Lowest in budget history: None – $0

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

  • 2014: $108 total
      • Alex – $20
      • Cassie -$20
      • 10 year old – $20
      • 9 year old – $18
      • 7 year old – $14
      • 5 year old – $10
      • 3-year old – $6
  • 2013: Same formula but $96 due to younger ages
  • Lowest in budget history: none – $0 (not a good idea as we couldn’t stick to it – give yourself something)


  • 2014:
    • $150 per month for supplies, books, curricula, etc.
    • $198 Tutor fees ($2375 annually in tutoring fees for 4 kids)
  • 2013: $160 per month (covers supplies, books, curricula, etc.)
  • Lowest in budget history: none as it wasn’t needed with 2 babies

Totals in Living Expenses:

2014: $1,556 per month (it is actually $1,600 as we also give ourselves nearly a $100 incidentals) – which is $19,200 this year

Past years:

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

Lowest in budget history for living expenses category: $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!

The GRAND total of both bills and living expenses category = $27,762.12 this year

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 and other charitable giving

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!

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Alex & Cassie

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna May 5, 2014 at 2:28 pm

First of all I am impressed and amazed at your dedication and discipline. It is inspiring and at that same time, convicting. The one item on your list that I was really surprised by, though, was the babysitting. I don’t know of anyone that I could get who would watch 5 children for $20, unless I was only going to be gone for 30 minutes. The best rate I can get is $10 an hour and that is for 2 children, 1 of them in diapers….
Congrats to you and your family, I think you guys are awesome!


Cassie May 5, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Hi Donna, Thanks for your comment and that made us realize that we probably should clarify that this is what our budget each month is, but that doesn’t mean we do this activity each month. But rather, we set the funds aside for that purpose. Babysitting would probably need to be a lot more, but we have lots of family (grandparents and siblings) close that watch our kids. However, every few months, we do need a sitter when family is not available. And so we will have $40+ set aside for that occasional need. Our sitter charges $10 an hour. Anyway, I hope that clarifies for you! Thank you again!


Elizabeth May 5, 2014 at 7:23 pm

So inspiring and organized!! I am trying hard to get ourselves on a realistic budget, but my husband is self employed, which means a very irregular pay schedule. Any recommendations on how to successfully budget when your income is irregular? Also, I didn’t notice mortgage/rent on your budget… Just wondering how much that adds to your total expenditures for the month. I am in CA and my mortgage is more than the suggested 26% of your income…


karYn A. May 5, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Does the savings you mention include retirement savings?


Alex May 6, 2014 at 10:46 am

Hi Karyn,

Yes, anything and everything from retirement to investments, etc.


Rosemary Doran May 5, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Thanks form the treat website. I have always thought I was fragile but I am learning so much. I am currently unemployed and living off savings until I can return to work.


Joshua May 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I was wondering how you are able to get your home insurance to only $30 a month. Thank you for your time and advice!



Cassie May 5, 2014 at 10:17 pm

Hi Joshua – First, here’s an article on 10 Ways to Save on Home owner’s insurance: http://thethriftycouple.com/2013/11/06/10-ways-to-save-on-your-homeowners-and-auto-insurance-premiums/

Second, there are many factors that contribute to your insurance – cost of home is a big one. In addition, here’s other factors that have contributed to our rate: we’ve had no insurance claims in several years, nor with this company, we selected a higher deductible, we don’t live in a place of normal natural disasters and a safer zip code and professional’s discount. Also, we have bundled all of our insurances with one company which gives us an additional blanket savings. These factors along with the tips we share in the article has helped us. This is the lowest our home insurance has been in the home we have right now.


Rosemary D. May 5, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Darned auto correct! I meant great website and have always been frugal. Thanks.


Lorean Stanfield May 5, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Hi, I noticed you didn’t include health insurance in the monthly expenses. Since you all have home businesses, do you pay for that yourselves or forego insurance? Thank you!! Loving all the tips!


Cassie May 5, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Hi Lorean, yes, you are right. First, we are not completely self-employed this year. Alex is working for a company that provides insurance. So we don’t count it as part of our bills as it automatically happens from his paycheck without us even thinking about it. So we calculate our budget based on his take home pay and the bills we are actually paying. However, in past years, we have been entirely self employed and we used Samaritan Ministries (http://samaritanministries.org/) for health sharing coverage and it was around $325 a month for our family. In addition, we did have a small monthly amount to stow away in savings for dental and eye (Samaritan doesn’t cover this). Hope that helps! ;)


Michelle May 5, 2014 at 10:05 pm

In what section of your budget do things like toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, etc. fall all into?


Cassie May 5, 2014 at 10:22 pm

Hi Michelle,

That is included in the $430 grocery budget (also personal care – but we make a lot of personal care products and all of our cleaning products, so this saves us tons!). We primarily just buy toilet paper from your list and occasionally the other items (we use cloth napkins a lot). However, we rarely buy TP from the grocery store and get it from Amazon with Subscribe and Save (details here: http://thethriftycouple.com/2014/04/11/maximize-amazon-subscribe-and-save-to-receive-even-better-discounts/) on deals like this Angel Soft one: http://thethriftycouple.com/2014/02/04/super-price-angel-soft-toilet-paper-only-33-each-double-roll-17-each-reg-roll/


Jan Jacobs May 5, 2014 at 10:15 pm

I am mesmerized by your budget! How do you get by with such lo e
Cost with insurance? Amazing. I’m trying very hard to become more disciplined. Sign Mr up for your newsletter. Thanks and God bless!


Kelly May 5, 2014 at 11:29 pm

This is amazing. How do you guys get your life insurance so low? I’m guessing part of it is the area you live but every place I looked at around me it’s that much for just a policy on my husband! BTW, I LOVE your guy’s blog, I found it someone on Facebook and have been reading it ever since!


Alex May 6, 2014 at 7:38 am

Hi Kelly,

As far as life insurance goes, it is probably because we did try to get it when we were younger to not have to pay as much and we don’t smoke (which we understand could be a big rise in cost). We also have all of our insurance bundled under the same company for additional discounts on all of the insurance and term life insurance is always the cheaper route. I hope that helps give some idea!


Michelle May 6, 2014 at 12:48 am

Rent and car pymts….weren’t mentioned…..that’s an add 18000 a year for me.


Marlene May 6, 2014 at 4:06 am

What about property taxes?


Alex May 6, 2014 at 7:32 am

Hi Marlene,

Our property taxes are automatically included in our mortgage payment. We aren’t sharing our mortgage as this was already really putting ourselves out there. In addition, the housing costs have the widest range of expenses for families across the globe and so it is some what irrelevant. We hope to use our budget as a sound board on writing articles on how to save in different areas, but the mortgage is a mortgage. We do have tips on what you should and shouldn’t do with a mortgage, but as for as “saving on a mortgage” there’s not really much besides paying it off early. We will be sharing details of our home and mortgage in a future article in our Deep in Debt to Debt-Free story, so be watching for that. Here’s the story so far: http://thethriftycouple.com/about/

Finally, once our house is paid off, our property taxes will be included here. :)


Dana L May 6, 2014 at 9:33 am

This is great, thank you! May I ask why you have term life on children? I have heard of people doing this but I have never heard a good reason for holding a life insurance for children.


Alex May 6, 2014 at 10:36 am

Hi Dana,

Their life insurance is very minimal. In fact, it’s just enough to cover funeral expenses. That is pretty much the only reason why, at least in our case. I pray and hope with all that we have that we never have to use it. But if something happened, we don’t want to use our savings set aside for other purposes and other children to cover the funeral. It is utterly amazing how much funerals cost, even with the “lower” options. It’s ridiculous! Life insurance for children is smart as it is only about $5 of the $160 per month in our case. I think that most life insurance companies do have options that are about this low for children to add to a family policy. So it is $5 well spent to have peace of mind in times of trial. Hopefully that answers your question!


Dana L May 6, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Thank you.


Alex May 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm

No problem! Thank you for asking!

Amy W May 6, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Thank you for sharing this! There were a couple expenses I have, which I didn’t notice you mention. Do you have a city water, sewer, trash bill or HOA dues? My water, sewer, trash bill averages about $100 per month. What about vehicle registration taxes and emission tests? Also, may I suggest (if you have not already done so) purchasing disability income insurance? Thanks again, and regards to both of you!


Cassie May 6, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Hi Amy,

Thank you for your question! The city utilities are included above and includes all of the items you mention. Also, our extra vehicle expenses come out of savings as the cost is so random each year based on repairs/tests needed each year, so we haven’t itemized it. The insurance does include disability as this is just as important to insure :) Thank you again and hopefully that answers questions!


Laura May 6, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Nice post. I was also wondering about vehicle registration/emissions tests and even driver’s license renewal fees (mine expires this year). We also have to pay quarterly water and sewer fees which run about $180 per quarter. Do you pay for high speed internet? Our family had to budget for orthodontia for three kids and two who wear glasses. We also budget for a dog (not cheap). Each family has its own unique expenses. We’ve been debt free (including no mortgage or car payments) for 8 years now and it’s great!


Cassie May 6, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Hi Laura,

Thank you for your questions! I did clarify the vehicle question above to Amy, but will repeat for you here – our extra vehicle expenses come out of savings as the cost is so random each year based on repairs/tests needed each year, so we haven’t itemized it. Also, the internet is a GREAT question! We actually have free high speed internet through Alex’s work. Which is a HUGE blessing. I know that we will have orthodontia in the near future. Our oldest just turned 10, so I am hoping we have another year or two. :) GREAT JOB on being totally debt-free. It is such an amazing feeling! Keep it up!


tagamor May 7, 2014 at 5:55 am

As soon as ones tries living like this, no debt, no luxuries like iPhone, no expensive cable, no car payments (driving older car is Ok), one gets free to do whatever they want to do. Live your dreams! We do!


Cassie May 7, 2014 at 6:48 am

That is so very true! We got into over $100K of consumer debt trying to chase after the “American Dream” and we were so unhappy, stressed and discontent with the “stuff” we had. But once we sacrificed and worked hard to pay it all of and live free from debt, our lives became that dream :) There is freedom in contentment too with where you are at! Thank you for sharing that! In case you didn’t see our story, it’s here: http://thethriftycouple.com/about/


Julie May 8, 2014 at 8:28 am

Can you tell me how you get HULU etc and I do not see an item in your budget for internet service, did I just miss it?


Cassie May 8, 2014 at 8:42 am

Hi Julie,

Here’s an article on replacing cable and saving $500+ per year: http://thethriftycouple.com/2014/03/24/why-we-invested-in-a-roku-streaming-device-and-how-we-save-500-each-year/

Also, just as a previous reader asked – the internet question is a GREAT one. But we currently don’t pay for internet as Alex’s work pays for our high speed internet as he works from home a lot and is on call at night. So that is a big blessing as high speed in our area runs about $30-$50 a month.


Jenny May 8, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Ugh, it just proves how medical expenses can make a HUGE difference in budget and lifestyle.
We pay roughly a thousand a month in medical insurance (we don’t even have any vision insurance), plus about another $350/month for prescription meds and doctor visits. Then we almost always have another thousand or so every year because someone was hospitalized, broke a bone, whatever.
Medical costs are a huge, huge chunk of our expenses. We wish we could save money regularly and take family trips, but there just isn’t anything to spare. It’s very frustrating.


Cassie May 8, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Hi Jenny,

I am so sorry to hear about the plague of medical bills and insurance. It is such a discouraging thing when you know you need to protect yourself in this area, but it is draining you. That is a different experience than debt for sure. I don’t know what your situation is, but we know many that are in the same exact boat as you (in terms of medical insurance draining them). There are many different factors that are a part of a family’s medical budget, but maybe some of the tips in one of these two articles can help: http://thethriftycouple.com/2014/03/31/5-easy-and-quick-steps-to-save-big-on-medical-bills/ and http://thethriftycouple.com/2013/12/31/8-alternative-ideas-for-healthcare-coverage-outside-of-the-affordable-healthcare-act-obamacare/

When we were entirely self-employed, we used a healthcare sharing ministry called Samaritan Ministries. This will also cover you to avoid fees and penalties under the ACA. It cost us $325 a month for a family of 7. They also have an additional program for “high end coverage” in case of a medical situation that covers bills $250K and above that was an additional $325 a month. This does not cover dental or vision, but healthcare. I know that there are similar healthcare sharing ministries too, so it is something to look into! Here’s the link to Samaritan Ministries: http://samaritanministries.org/


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