Our Budget, Real Numbers

I thought I had put real numbers in the budget post yesterday, but it must have reverted to a draft before posting, sorry friends.  I’m hesitant to do this because I know that everything fluctuates, and everyone has different priorities, and our budget is by now means the be all and end all of budgeting. But, I also know it’s helpfult to see real numbers. So, I’m sharing our cash breakdown – the cost of living is different everywhere (Colorado’s middle of the road. We also didn’t get hit quite as hard as other places in the real estate slide, though home prices took a small dive, our home is valued above what we paid for it almost 5 years ago). So, for that reason and privacy reasons, let’s leave salaries and mortgage amounts out of this.

Cash Envelopes

Groceries: $300/month

Eating Out: $75/month (this allows for two less expensive dinners as a family, or one nice date night for me and Mr. B. Any leftover carries over).

Casco: $75/month (Casco’s food costs $55 a month,a nd the other $20 is saved for vet bills when they come up)

Gifts: $100/month (This is our budget for the year – extra carries over every month and this amount must cover our Christmas spending, too. January and February are big birthday months in my family, the summer in B’s family, so we have to plan accordingly).

Clothing: $75 month (for B and me – this carries over, too and becomes a savings account, and we pretty much just split it in half).

House (Decor, maintenance, etc): $50/month – carries over month to month

Personal (Shampoo, toilet paper, etc): $25month – carries over

Spending (aka Allowance – Mr. B and my monthly stipend we can spend however we want – lunches out, dinners with friends, movies, etc): $75 each/month

Diapers, Clothes and Toys: $100/month (Diapers cost us $20 a month at Target, and the rest usually isn’t spent, but allows me to buy a Spring wardrobe for T or new puzzles when I can’t take the old ones anymore).

Church Giving: Based on our income.

Stroller Fund (vacation fund, etc in other years): Any extra cash – checks from credit card rewards, Blogher income, gifts, etc.

Set Expenses (direct bill pay or credit card that is paid off every month)

Mortgage Payment: Less than 20% of our income (our only debt).
Water Bill: $35/month on the average

Electric/Gas: $75/month on the average (higher in hot and cold months, but we budget for the average because we can afford the spillover).

Cable: $150/month

Cell Phones: $100/month

HOA: $75/month

Car Insurance: $110month (paid twice yearly)

Life Insurance: $100/month

Gas (not a set expense, but paid via credit card rather than cash for safety and convenience purposes): $300/month (budgeted, but we go over and under).

Charity: We donate a chunk of Mr. B’s yearly bonus to the charities we choose to support, and B donates a percentage of every paycheck to our Catholic Charities (an organization near and dear to my heart because of my own family history) and the organization he sits on the board of (by donating out of his paycheck, we lower our taxable income, which is great, and also it makes giving a no-brainer instead of something we have to part with after having the money in hand).

This budget allows us to put a good chunk of Mr. B’s income and my entire income into savings. Our first priorities are retirment and college funds: we contribute the max to my ROTH IRA (B does the same with his retirement accounts, but with pre-tax money directly from his paychecks) yearly which breaks down to $416/month, and we put the same into T’s 529 (that will change a little bit with he addition of #2, though we’re not sure how, yet. Leftover money goes to long term (we keep it in a high interst bank account) savings for things like a downpayment on our next house (we have over a year of living expenses stocked away in an emergency fund, but before we had that amount, all extra went into that fund), short term (kept in our local bank) for vacations, etc, and other investments.

So that’s the breakdown. Any other questions? I’m always happy to answer them!

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  1. I am so glad you did the breakdown. My biggest issue with our envelope system is the grocery/personal item categories. We put those together and spend $170/week and sometimes that is not enough! I really need help in those areas. We try to eat local, organic, fresh food, but it’s just ridiculous how much it costs. Can you do a breakdown of a month’s worth of groceries and how much they cost you? This would really help me. I have a hard time finding breakdowns like that.

  2. THanks for posting the breakdown! It helps me compare my budget with yours, in a helpful way. My question is: do you really use cash envelopes for all those categories? If you don’t spend all your money in groceries, for example, what do you do at the end of the month? Do you ever transfer monies from envelop to envelope? Thanks!

  3. $75 gets you 8 meals out?? I need to start going where you’re going! 🙂

  4. Alex – Definitely not :). I had to go back to check to make sure I didn’t write 8. We can eat out twice for $75 a month if we choose two local, less expensive restaurants (entrees around $10 – 12/per person). Most of our local burger joints, etc are priced that way, which gets us out for about $35 after tip (T eats off of the Children’s menu, or sometimes our plates).

  5. @yllekelly – We take out cash for the first set of expenses – anything after Mortgage is direct bill pay or paid via credit card. At the end of the month, any leftover carries into the next month (especially groceries). Our $300 covers any beer or wine we buy throughout the month, so when there’s surplus, B gets excited about getting a better beer the next month :).

  6. You are amazing…I am so impressed with this! 🙂

  7. Probably a silly question but I’m so confused as to what to do if i’m shopping at a place like target, and i buy some food, clothes, diapers etc. Do you take cash out of each envelope at the register?

  8. Kristy – It sounds more complicated than it is, but it does take some getting used to. We don’t carry the envelopes themselves with us, we take money out of them before we go to the store based on what we need to buy. Basically, I plan out those big shopping trips really well in advance. If I need diapers, paper towels and want to look at lamps, for example, I take $20 from the Thomas envelope, $10 from the personal items envelope, and all of the house budget – then I pay at the register, and if I didn’t buy a lamp, the house budget goes back when I get home.

    I will say, we don’t do a lot of envelope mixing while shopping – out here, Target is kind of a rip off for groceries, so we only buy groceries at the grocery store, and I have a pretty good handle on what the things we do buy at Target cost so I can take the exact amount I need from each envelope before I go to the store, then I stick to my list.

  9. Thank you for sharing the breakdown. Some of our categories are very similar – but I’m terribly embarrassed about our eating out budget after seeing yours. (Although I completely agree that every family is different.)

    We usually include our “personal” eating out in the eating out category, but I like the idea of adding that into the personal spending. It may cut me back from eating out for breakfast and lunch if it was coming out of my allowance.

  10. It’s still really impressive! Well done.

  11. I’m curious about childcare expenses. I gather that you’re able to keep T at home during the day – do you never have to have a nanny or someone watch him? What about babysitting expenses if family isn’t available? But mostly, I’m interested in childcare so you can work. I have twins and we’ve found that our childcare expenses ($1600/month) are a major factor in our budgeting.

  12. Jenna – We no longer have T in daycare, but when he did, my income paid for daycare, and what was leftover went to savings/retirement/college fund. When we had a nanny last summer, she was paid out of my income – our savings was less, definitely. Now we don’t pay for childcare – we have a mutual childcare arrangement with a friend, I watch their daughter, they watch T.

    We are incredibly blessed with family that love Thomas and offer to watch him for date nights. I’m a BIG believer in the benefits of a non-family babysitter for kids on nights out and had and have every intention of finding a great one, but recently my trust in that department has been shattered, so we’re not ready for that step yet. But when we are, we’ll budget about $75 a month for babysitting (going rate being $12 -15 an hour here for babysitters).

  13. You may not want to answer this (so feel free not to!) but if you donate directly out of a paycheck and you have less taxable income, are you able to still take the donation off as a tax deduction?

  14. Hey Sarah – I’m not a tax expert, so don’t take my word for it, but no, we don’t take a deduction on donations made with pre-tax dollars (we make donations that are paid with taxed dollars and then we do take the deduction, but contributions directly from the paycheck we don’t claim). The benfit in our eyes is that we get less taken out in taxes (so more money all year long that we can invest throughout the year), rather than a big tax refund, but I *think* it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other – but again, I’m not an expert, so this isn’t advice, just what we do 🙂

  15. You are such a blessing to put this out there!

  16. Ok girl- I have to know how you only spend $20 a month in diapers! I read this to my husband and he about died, so I promised I’d ask 🙂
    Also, thank you so much for sharing this. We have very similar goals (savings, college, etc) and often feel like we’re the only people our age not spending every penny- it’s wonderful to hear of others with similar priorities and how they make it work.

  17. @JMMarden – We buy the Up & Up brand (Target generic diapers) and at least at our local Targets, the Club Pack is $19.99 for 134ish diapers. Those last us one month with Thomas. We spent a little bit more when T was younger and went through more diapers in a day, and when #2 comes along, we expect our diaper budget to double until T is potty trained (which I’m not in any hurry to get to! I love diapers!)

  18. We have a very similar system and love that you put this out there. It’s scary sometimes to use real numbers, but much more helpful for the rest of us! One thing we do that I find helpful is for things that we need a fund to carry over from month to month – insurance premiums, gifts (birthday/Christmas/etc), car repairs – I put a set amount of cash in an envelope in a safe spot in our house. Some would keep it in the bank, but I’d spend it. By keeping it in cash, I always know exactly what is in there. By keeping it hidden, I don’t get the urge to spend it on wine and ice cream. 😉

  19. That was really helpful Emily! Our food budget (both groceries and eating out) and “house projects” costs are what’s hurting us. I’m trying hard to go out less and eat what we have in the house (which is plenty…we just aren’t always in the mood for it). And the house projects cost seem seasonal. Right now we are doing a lot in our yard but I’m sure that will die down as soon as it gets too hot.