A Look Inside Our Monthly Budget

Last week, a reader asked if we would be willing to share the details of our 2018 budget. Sure, I have no problem with that. We’ve shared our budget several times over the years as we’ve worked toward various goals. With that being said though, every budget is unique to the lifestyle and income of the individual or couple and ours is no exception. As you read this post, please keep in mind that the financial choices we have made, may not be right for you (and vice versa).

A few years ago, I read an article called “The 50/20/30 Rule for Minimalist Budgeting”. At first, I was excited. I thought I’d finally found a definitive guide to help me – a minimalist – create the perfect budget. Believe me, I tried to follow the rules:

  • 50% of your income for essentials
  • 20% to savings
  • 30% to personal

It wasn’t long though before I realized this budget did not fit our lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, the 50/20/30 rule is a great guideline. I highly recommend starting with these percentages if you are new to budgeting or are having trouble getting your discretionary spending under control. For us though, 30% of our income seemed a rather large chunk to allocate to personal choices, even with our love of travel and fancy dark roast coffee beans included.

Trying the 50/20/30 rule led us to an eye-opening discovery though. We found that we could successfully live off approximately 65% of our (then) income, without compromising our savings or our personal goals. This was all the permission we needed to spend less time working.

Today, we are a single-part-time-income couple (with a cat). After taxes, insurance, and other standard deductions, we will bring home $29,778.72 this year (not including any proceeds from side hustles).  Our current budget is based on this income and follows more of a 72/18/10 rule:

  • 72% of our income is spent on essentials (rent, utilities, insurance, groceries and gas)
  • 18% is directed to savings, investments, and charitable giving
  • 10% is spent on fun (Netflix, baseball games, movie nights, etc. and funding our travel account)

Our monthly budget looks something like this:

Here are a few things to note.

  • Rent is our single biggest expense and that’s not likely to change this year. We’ve accepted that in order to have a safe place to live within a reasonable distance of my mother’s house (we moved here to care for her), we have to pay a higher rent. Believe it or not, this is the mid-range rent for our area. Other apartments start at $1079 and up for a one-bedroom. Who knows what next year will bring though!
  • I have 5 payments left on my last student loan. Woo-hoo!!
  • This budget shows a “zero sum” but sometimes we have a carryover balance between $40 – $160, depending on our actual electric bill and our flexible spending categories (gas, groceries, entertainment, and cash). It is a rare month that we actually spend $80 on entertainment since most of our favorite pastimes are either free or cheap. Any money left at the end of the month is allocated to general savings.
  • Side hustle income is not counted in our budget because we don’t always want to work a side hustle. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s a hassle. When we are saving for a specific goal, like a vacation, we hustle, but only up to the point in which we reach our goal. Our side hustle income has been about $4,000 so far this year, which is unusual for us, but it has allowed us to cover some unexpected expenses, like vet bills.
  • We use an American Express Bluebird card for groceries and household spending. This is a prepaid debit card that you can pick up at Walmart for $5. There are no annual fees or usage fees. We have $250 debited from our main checking account to the Bluebird account on the 15th of every month. This has been extremely helpful to us in staying within our grocery budget.
  • Our non-IRA investments include $5 per week in micro investing via Stash. Stash allows you to purchase stocks and ETFs (exchange traded funds) in increments of just $5 or more. Since 2016, we’ve earned a little over $110 on our micro investments (plus we’ve learned a lot about investing in general by reading their weekly tips).

For better or worse, this is the budget we created for the year and the one we are trying to stick to. It’s subject to change at any time though, as we’re always challenging ourselves to find new ways to live with even less.

#5TF: Spending & Saving

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 5 – July 22 – July 28, 2017

Over the weekend we found ourselves making several minor purchases that added up to a significant little chunk of change. For minimalists who hate shopping anyway, coming home with several bags and one giant box, was enough to create a panic, even though every item was purchased with intent (well, except for the travel spork, and I just wanted that).

We’ve walked/hiked 328.4 miles so far this year (not counting general walking about the house, yard, stores, etc.) and our shoes were clearly beginning to show the effects of that travel. The inside of my left shoe was so bad that it was starting to wear holes in my socks…my wool summer socks! And those things are supposed to be nearly indestructible. So first up on our list of purchases was new walking/hiking shoes.

The next purchase was new camping gear – specifically a small tent and tent light. We sold our large 8-person tent on OfferUp a few months back and have been debating on getting another ever since. With a rafting trip planned for next month, we thought it might be a good time to look for something compact and easy to set up. Believe it or not, we bought a kid’s tent. It was actually 12 inches longer and 6 inches wider than the smallest 2 person adult tent and a full $20 cheaper.

And finally, a larger freezer. Our biggest downsizing regret ever was selling our chest freezer when we left Florida. We’ve missed it terribly. The little one we bought on Craigslist last summer has been great but it is too small for any real attempt at storing food for winter. For now, we have two freezers, though I think the little one may be re-homed soon. My mom seems particularly interested in adopting it.

Big enough for food, yet small enough to fit in the Peanut…it’s our new freezer.

Spending money for stuff (even necessary stuff) is often very difficult for us. We usually talk ourselves out of most things or debate about them for so long that we forget why we thought we needed them in the first place. But there are times when you have to spend money to save money later on. This was one of those times…and I think all in all, we did alright.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was (definitely not shopping!). Instead, the highlight of my week was Wednesday…the whole day was about as close to perfect as it could possibly get. We had breakfast in the park, picked blackberries, took a walk at Bicentennial Mall State Park, picnicked outside the Nashville Farmer’s Market, and went to our first Nashville Sounds baseball game (on free hat night!). We even managed to make running errands fun that day…and we picked up a great CSA basket full of peaches, cantaloupe, and corn. I don’t think I could have asked for a better day.

Enjoying the “cheap seats” at the Nashville Sounds game…in our new shoes.

I am grateful for whatever it was that sparked my mom’s sudden interest in her own health this week. She didn’t say why or how she plans to do it, but she has finally decided to quit smoking. Though I have never smoked, I know how hard it is to quit and I know not every day is going to be a good one but I’m here to help in whatever way I can. Just making the decision seemed to lift a great weight off of her and she was much more active this week. She played outside with the little one on Tuesday and even helped us in the yard yesterday.

I need to let go of my obsession with minimizing our shoe collection. As much as we’d love to wear flip-flops or go barefoot every day, that’s not always appropriate (or allowed), so shoes are a must have item. The average woman in America owns 27 pair of shoes, the average man, just 12. We each have 7 pair (including our new ones, flip-flops, water shoes, bowling shoes and winter boots) and I still think that’s too many. As I put the new shoes in the closet on Sunday, I stood there staring at the rest of them, questioning their necessity until I nearly had a headache. That’s not minimalism. It’s just silly. There are no arbitrary limits to what one can own as a minimalist. The point of minimalism is that everything you own has a purpose. Every single shoe in our closet does so I give myself permission to leave them alone…for now.

We made progress on saving money…despite our little shopping spree. We managed to stay in budget on groceries and household goods, spending less than $150 total for the month, and we added $425 to our savings and investment accounts. Our CSA basket and garden are really helping on that front. Speaking of which, we put away 4 quarts of blackberries, another 1/2 dozen ears of corn, and 2 gallons of snack peppers. Angie also canned 2 more jars of pickled jalapenos and I made 2 more quarts of spaghetti sauce (though we ate most of it already). And we continued our technology time-out, leaving the phones behind for several enjoyable hours of hiking and picnicking this week.

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The funniest thing that happened this week happened at the Sounds game. Angie has such a small head that the free baseball cap didn’t fit her, even on the smallest setting. She looked kind of forlorn sitting there in our grass seats with that giant cap on her head, so she set it aside. Though I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it happen, I promised to fix the hat when we got home. (I would literally have sewn a brand new hat if I’d had to, just to keep her from making that sad “my head is too small” face.) As it turned out though, in the 3rd inning, a random guy stopped by our blanket with a wad of money in his hand and said these magic words, “I’ll give you $10 for your hat.” Sold! I guess it pays to have a small head after all.