Planning Ahead to Succeed: September 2016 Budget Outlook


MAY Budget

I know, it’s already mid-September! It’s been pretty hellacious with my grad school homework and travel, so I am finally sitting down to write this. 

How did we do with our August budget?


  • I was able to pick up 8 shifts, which is twice what I expected at the beginning of the month.
  • We had our pricey date night for $100, and I went out with friends to dinner and one of those new breakout rooms. That was a lot of fun and I would absolutely do it again. It was about $25 per person to do it though. We also stopped for donuts at a popular local donut spot. It was my only night out, so I only spent about $45 of my personal $100 entertainment spending for August.
  • We spent $420 in child care. My mom babysat for free one day and I was able to get my friend’s teens to babysit one day when our sitter was not available. They cost the same as our sitter however.
  • We traveled to Cleveland to see my in-laws and celebrate their 50th anniversary. We stayed at their house. We used 3 tanks of gas, for a total of $120, and took a trip to a beach on Lake Erie, which was free. We spent about $90 in meals out on the way there and back.
  • Our 5 year old passed her shrimp challenge at the allergist’s office and is 100% food allergy free! That means no more Epi-pens and we don’t have to drag Benadryl around with us either.
  • I put $250 in my Roth account.
  • We haven’t had the driveway lifted yet. We are still fighting with the insurance about our roof. It was patched, and the shingles don’t match, so our roof looks like a patchwork quilt. We are hopeful it will be replaced though- our HOA won’t stand for a patchwork roof.
  • August was a five-week month for grocery purposes. We spent $504.98 in food, including the food we were responsible for bringing to the 50th anniversary party.
  • I got $10 in Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks.
  • I only bought gas for the van once to account for my regular non-vacation trips.  In fact, I am still milking that same tank, and it’s mid-September.
  • I earned about $1.50 through Google Ad Sense. Whoo hoo? I won’t see any of that until I reach the threshold though.


  • Our 2 year old was scratched in the eye by the grandparents’ cat while on vacation. We spent the expected $160 in medical copays, but had to pay an additional $95 in urgent care, extra follow-up visits, and medications. Darn cat!
  • My Toys R Us gift card was empty, so I spent about $50 on a baby gift our of pocket.
  • The cheap sheets we got for our girls’ twin beds were already falling apart. This time we bought quality ones from Land’s End, as well as comforters, using Ebates and a coupon code. We spent $286, and these better last at least a decade, if not more. I always regret not buying quality. (The Ebates link is my referral link. If you try it for the first time, you’ll start off with $10 cash back after your first purchase. If you buy online a lot, it is worth using.)
  • Lots of clicks, but no earnings for my Amazon affiliate. I haven’t added any more affiliates yet, as I’ve not had a lot of time beyond school, work, kids, and textbook writing work.
  • We got notice from our HOA that everyone’s yearly fee will increase over the next few years to pay for repairs to the swimming pool and other common areas.

How is September looking?

  • This month changes have started at work. We are moving from business days only to 365-days coverage. I have agreed to cover some weekend days over and above the weekday shifts I take. I will generally be doing every other weekend (Saturday and Sunday), but have not agreed to cover any weekends that land on holidays. I am a contractor, so I can opt out of any weekend days I want. Right now, that is going to be Thanksgiving and Christmas, and some days next June. I have picked up 14 days in September, the most I have worked since dropping to part-time. This will help me aggressively work towards my Roth goal.
  • I already put $450 extra towards my Roth last week, and I expect the usual $250 to put towards it at the end of the month. This should put me at $3200 towards my $5500 goal by end of month. I’ll have to put $766/month towards my Roth through the end of the year to meet my goal. I have already agreed to pick up quite a few days through the end of the year.
  • I expect to fill my gas tank only once, sometime this week. That should be about $35-40.
  • I made an extra $75 by doing a study, and I will use it for groceries. I hope to come under budget for food this month. There will be $31 of food in our Amazon Subscribe and Save order. After this week using cash and using the $75 gift card at end of month, I think we may be $300 or less.
  • I anticipate $135 in office copays , $40 in medication copays, and $40 of OTC meds.
  • Vacation: the mister and I went to a Star Trek convention in Chicago last weekend. We already paid for tickets and a William Shatner photo op, but we needed to pay for hotel, travel, and food. The hotel was $442.32 and the cost included parking and meals in the hotel. We spent $80 in gas to drive there, and $200 in meals out (out with friends one night, a fancy dinner to celebrate our anniversary, and two stops at Cracker Barrel there and back. We also bought Starbucks (a rare treat) and candy for the kids. In all, we spent $757, not including tickets and photo op, which were $300. Yep, $1000 is a lot. The last time the mister and I took any kind of vacation together was 5 years ago for a weekend trip to see friends in Chicago (a much cheaper jaunt) and then 10 years ago for our honeymoon to Maui. We’ve been in baby jail a loooong time.
  • We are having three family outings this month, to the zoo and apple orchard. We’ll have to pay admission to the zoo, and will pay for what we pick at the orchard. I plan on making applesauce and freezing. Our son will probably do the Cub Scout’s Spook-o-ree too, though admission should be low.
  • We’re working on landscaping more this year, and I am budgeting for planting mums (already done) plus a couple fall decorating things (maybe some hay bales and a reusable wooden sign?). I’m looking for deals on those. Can you reuse hay bales, or do they rot? I want to keep them out through Thanksgiving. We’ll get pumpkins at the patch in October.
  • We are ignoring most PTO fundraisers, but are buying wallets-only for kindergarten and 3rd grade pictures and are doing one night of Pizza for the PTO this month. I anticipate $58 for pictures (crazy, I know!) and $45 for pizza.
  • I’m going to have very little time to spend my own fun money, but I am having dinner with a couple friends at the end of the month and we are having lunch with my dad and a cousin after apple picking. I usually pay for dad, since he is retired and on a fixed income.

What are you doing to meet your goals?

Planning Ahead to Succeed: August 2016 Budget Outlook

MAY Budget


How did we do with our July budget?

Thumbs up:

  • We spent $413.24 in groceries, just slightly over our $100 per week budget.
  • I was able to pick up 16+ work days. This includes regular work days covering for people who are off and time doing discharges, which can be done on the weekend to save us child care expenses. This is the most I have worked since I dropped to a contract position, and it was a little rough. Our regular sitter has been on vacation since mid-July, and most of those extra shifts happened the last two weeks of July. I cobbled together a couple of sitters and we paid $1220 in child care overall, which included a little bonus to my friend’s teen daughters who basically stayed with us an entire week while I worked. Even with the child care expense, plus a couple extra pizza nights, my net income for the month will be about $2400. Part will have to cover me while I take the first two weeks of August off, but I hope to have a little extra to put toward my Roth.
  • I filed for unclaimed funds back in January. Apparently I never picked up my last paycheck from Kmart when I was 17. I finally got a check in the mail for $104. Yes, 32 hours of work got me $104 after taxes back in 1995. I’m so glad I no longer earn $4.35 an hour.
  • Our insurance inspector came and we were told they will cover the fallen tree, about 20 shingles on our roof, a window screen, and part of the gutter. After our deductible, the check we got was for $2400. Our roofer will come and try to patch with the shingles the insurance database says will match. If we aren’t happy with the look, we go back to insurance and ask for a full replacement. It will be a few weeks before we see how it turns out.
  • In the continuing saga of things breaking down, the ice maker in our freezer croaked and flooded the freezer. We aren’t really going to fix it, and will just leave it off. We don’t really use ice anyway, except for parties.
  • The plastic handle of our microwave broke off spontaneously. Really. I tried duct taping it, but it was a no go. The mister is going to try to glue it, but isn’t certain it will work. Right now I am using a fork to jimmy open the door. We might end up buying a new one :(.
  • I was able to save $250 towards my Roth IRA from my salary.
  • We paid $4317.67 in cash for my tuition.
  • I spent about $200 through Ebay and Amazon replacing my too small boots and dress shoes (original prices were$400+). We spent about $36 in pull-ups for the toddler, who is now back on a potty training strike.
  • I earned about $1-2 from Google ads and $6.79 from my Amazon affiliate. I won’t get either until I reach a threshold of $100 though.

Thumbs down:

  • The final bill came for the dental implant I got this month, and we owe $361. We paid much less than we expected to pay for it though, so no big deal.
  • We spent more than we planned on entertainment. We decided to pay for everyone’s meal when we took our dad out for his birthday. Our friend unexpectedly decided to visit from Quebec, and we treated her and our sitters with one of her local favorites. We went to the movies twice (matinee prices+ Ebates).  We are tightwads, but we aren’t poor. Spending money on the people we love within reason is not really a thumbs down.
  • I paid about $80 in gas for my van this month, which is twice my normal.

How is August looking?

  • We will have extra gas expenses thanks to a road trip coming up this month (estimating 3-4 tanks of gas in the van, or about $120-160). School starts the second week of August however, and my normal usage will drop. Two of our three are school age and both will ride the bus.
  • I only have 4 work shifts lined up so far, and my mom is babysitting for one of them, as our usual sitter is not available that day. I plan on working extra time doing discharges when child care is not needed to boost the hours. There was talk of weekend shifts, but nothing has come to fruition yet. Once the first week of school is over, both our sitter and I will be more available, and I hope to pick up a few more days. I estimate around $500 in child care expenses.
  • I have one baby shower this month. I think I have a ToysRUs/BabiesRUs gift card, so I might use that to buy the gift.
  • The mister and I have one out of the house date night planned with two other couples. It will be a pricey date- about $100. We only go to this restaurant 1-2 times per year. The other couples both are driving from another city, so this place is at the halfway point. I may also be going to a girl’s night at one of those break-out rooms, but the date is not solid yet.
  • We plan on using our amusement park passes with my sister once this month. We ended up canceling in July due to the volume of my homework. We’re not planning any other kid activities that cost money. Our 5 year old has a deal with me that she gets a Chick-Fil-A date if she reads a book independently all the way through, but I don’t think it will happen this month.
  • We have at least four medical appointments, and estimate at least $160 out of pocket. One of those appointments is a shrimp oral challenge for our daughter at the allergist’s office. If she passes, she will no longer need an Epi-pen, saving us the cost of buying one every year (plus the cost we pay in fear worrying about exposure to the allergen!)
  • The right half of our driveway is sinking near the garage and needs to be lifted. We’re not sure what the cost will be, but plan on getting an estimate this month. $1000 maybe? (Any ideas readers?)
  • I should be able to put $250 minimum in my Roth and hopefully $300-500 extra.


Why You Need To Start Building Your Emergency Fund Now

Why You (2)

One of the most important habits I learned when I was young and broke- probably the most important- was setting up an automatic transfer every month into my savings. It took a year to save my first $1000 emergency fund back in 2003, and that meant squeezing $85 a month out of a tight budget to set aside. I won’t lie, I worked a full-time job and a part-time job while I was in school full-time in order to make it happen.

An automatic transfer to savings is a transfer that does not require you to log on every month  or walk into a bank to transfer funds. If your employer direct deposits your paycheck, sometimes they allow you to direct your check into two different accounts.  You can also do as I do and set up a recurring transfer on the same day every month to transfer a portion of your paycheck into a savings account. Doing this forces you to live on what’s left and helps to keep you from backsliding on your savings goal.

I am so glad we keep several months of expenses in our savings. Just this month, we dealt with a dead cell phone, $500 medical expense, reverse osmosis filter on the fritz, and a tree that fell on our house. We always joke that our emergency fund was our “if the house caves in” fund, and we got a small taste of that when the recent storm hit. We have insurance, but it didn’t cover everything. We already had to pay $1300 out of pocket, and there may be more, depending on the roof inspection results.

We were lucky that our tree didn’t crash through the roof of our daughters’ room, injuring or killing them both.  God forbid, if it had, we would have been able to handle the medical expenses or funeral.

If it had happened to you, would you have been able to manage it, or would you have been scrambling to deal with the financial fallout along with the emotional and physical fallout?

Not having an emergency fund is truly an emergency.

I will be honest- something terrible is going to happen to you or to someone in your family. I don’t have to be psychic to know this. It’s a fact of life. Everybody dies. Accidents happen. Illness happens. No one is immune. Your time is going to come.

The lesson- be prepared. Start preparing now.


I see so many GoFundMe shares on Facebook lately. I think it’s wonderful that people are willing to help each other, especially when a member of the community has been struck with a devastating illness, tragic accident, or unexpected death.

There are certainly some emergencies that you can never prepare for, and I am no different.  If I became seriously ill and we had not yet paid off our mortgage, it would be very difficult for my husband’s salary to cover the mortgage, a nanny, and medical expenses. That is one reason why we are focusing intently on hustling for more income, paying off our mortgage, and investing what we can. We want our family to be covered for nearly all possible outcomes.

I want you to be ready too. That’s why I say this out of love- you can’t rely on GoFundMe to cover you in an emergency. It doesn’t always pan out.

If you are starting from scratch, ask yourself this:

  • If you suffered an accident or an illness, do you have enough to cover the deductible for your medical insurance?
  • If your car was totaled, do you have enough to cover the deductible for insurance, plus enough to cover a new-to-you car?
  • If you lost your roof in a storm, could you cover your homeowner’s insurance deductible, plus the cost of a hotel for a few weeks?
  • If you or a family member died, do you have enough to cover the funeral you want or that your religion requires?  A burial plus cemetery and headstone can easily cost $10000 or more.  (The mister and I plan to opt for immediate cremation without a viewing, a small memorial at home, and scattering at sea or in nature.)

Use that as your starting point and calculate how much you have to save every month to cover it.

And while you are thinking about it, and imagining what would happen if the stuff hits the fan for you, consider getting term life insurance. I had it through work when I worked full time, and I am no longer eligible for it. I really, really wish I had gotten some a few years ago, before I developed autoimmune issues that makes it insanely expensive. Don’t make my mistake!

What about you, are you prepared for an emergency?

July Budget Outlook

MAY Budget

How did we do with our June budget?

Thumbs up:

  • We spent $404.70 in groceries, essentially keeping to our $100 per week budget.
  • I was able to pick up 10 work days. This includes regular work days covering for people who are off, training, and time doing discharges, which can be done on the weekend to save us child care expenses. I had to cancel one shift thanks to the tree-falls-on-house incident and work canceled one shift on me. We spent about $700 in child care.
  • Our son leveled up in swimming classes at Aquatots, bringing us closer to the time we can nix that expense for him. He is now level 4 out of 8. Miss E is close to leveling up herself.
  • We had storm damage, as did many of our neighbors. Our homeowners insurance covered $2500 to remove the tree that fell on our house, and we had to pay $1000 for the deductible plus $300 for the non-covered stump removal. My husband spent three hours removing the remainder of the tree roots from the lawn using a pickaxe. We have some roof damage, but won’t know what will be covered until the inspector comes next week.
  • Our reverse osmosis filter croaked and my husband replaced a faulty valve himself.
  • I was able to save $250 towards my Roth IRA from my salary.
  • We had planned on building a play set and have approval from the Homeowners Association, but we’ve decided to put it off. I pay tuition next week, we still anticipate several hundred more in medical expenses, and we may have to pay out of pocket for non-covered roof expenses. The mister wants to roofer to put a special seal over our morning room, as we tend to get ice dams there in winter and have had leaks. We really need a fence too, for safety reasons, but I think it is not going to happen this year.

Thumbs down:

  • Although I could save $250 last month, I couldn’t save the $750 I wanted, thanks to unexpected out of pocket medical expenses totaling $500. On the bright side, it came out of my check and not out of savings.
  • Our cell phones are four years old. We paid cash for them in 2012 and they have served us well, but they are starting to have problems like refusing to turn on and off, won’t update, and randomly turning off. My husband’s completely croaked last week and we bought a new Nexxus for him with cash and Amazon gift card. We paid less than half the price we paid for each phone in 2012. We are waiting until September or later to replace mine. We have smart phones, and considered going with dumb phones or trying Republic Wireless, but I couldn’t convince him to do so (you win some, you lose some). With the amount of data we use, we would only be saving $5/month on our bill, and the mister wants to have access to certain things since he travels for work. I hate paying $100/month for our two cell phone plans and we probably deserve a facepunch for it.
  • We spent more than we planned on entertainment, mostly due to eating out the last week of the month.

How is July looking?

  • My husband’s gas use has not changed, but my gas usage  doubled during June. I paid $80 instead of the $35-40 I did during the school year. I anticipate July will be the same.
  • I have potentially 10 work shift to pick up, with some possibly extra work hours entering backlogged discharges during non business hours (I am going to shoot for 16 hours). We may be changing to a 7-day per week department instead of just providing business hour coverage, but that is not solid yet. If this happens, I may be able to work weekend days without paying a sitter or just a few hours of sitter coverage on Sunday. Between family coverage from Grandma and off-shift hours, partial Sunday coverage, and our regular sitter, I estimate it could be up to $700 in child care again. I won’t know for sure until I find out which days actually pan out and who can babysit.
  • The extra work means I might be able to save a little extra in my 2016 Roth fund. I need to wait and see how that next medical bill turns out.
  • We have multiple family birthdays in July. I am buying a toy for my niece for about $20-25 and we will do a gift card, dinner, and some groceries for my dad for around $50. My in-laws have their anniversary (50th!) at the beginning of August and I usually go through Ebates (referral link) to buy flowers  through Proflowers or FTD and get cash back when I do. I try to spend around $40 for this and go with whoever has the nicest cash back amount. I can usually get between 12-15% cash back for flowers through Ebates.
  • The mister and I haven’t had an out of house date since May. We did our in-home date during June. We have an Olive Garden gift card and want to see the new Star Trek movie as a matinee.  We are planning on dropping the kids off with Grandma and seeing the movie and then having dinner near the end of the month. Our summer fun is otherwise going to be at the neighborhood pool, splash parks, hiking, playing outside, and maybe a trip to get ice cream.
  • We plan on using our amusement park passes with my sister at the end of the month.
  • My sister and I are going to see the Absolutely Fabulous movie during matinee hours while Grandma babysits. I am having lunch with a friend and we got a group discount coupon for $10 for a $20 meal at a local hippie joint that serves lots of vegetarian food.
  • We have at least five medical appointments, and estimate at least $400 out of pocket. We’ll have at least $70 in medication costs.

June Budget Forecast

MAY Budget

How did we do with our May budget?

Thumbs up:

  • We did do a cookout for our families after our daughter’s dance recital and kept it within our monthly grocery money total.
  • I was able to pick up 5 work days. I hoped for more but it wasn’t in the cards!
  • I signed our daughter up for gymnastics with nothing extra out of pocket, thanks to a credit on our account from the fall.
  • Our son chose something other than pizza for his birthday dinner, so no extra cost!
  • The mister installed our new toilet himself, saving us hundreds in labor costs, especially considering all the extra work he had to do to the pipes once he got in there and looked.
  • I was able to save $250 despite the low number of shifts, and just barely did.
  • Dance class and preschool expenses are officially gone. Woot!

Thumbs down:

  • We started the two older kids at Aquatots for swimming. It’s going great thanks to low ratios. It is- gulp-$300/month though, and it’s probably going to take longer than the summer for them to be proficient enough to be safe. Did you know swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning in children by 88%? We consider this a safety issue, so we are willing to take the hit in the short term. The good news is they are doing well enough that we don’t see a need for semi-private or private lessons, which are more expensive.

How in June looking?

  • I anticipate I will be spending more in gas over the summer since we are driving more for our “field trips” and to visit family an hour south. During the school year, I was only filling my tank once per month, and I already have had to fill it within 14 days of my last fill. This will probably mean $50 more a month. I am trying to earn as many Kroger fuel points as possible and using my credit card that offers more cash back for gas purchases.
  • I have a LOT of work shifts scheduled- 12- plus a few extra hours for meetings and training. This means I earn more but also means my child care costs are greater, especially since our oldest is not in school. I anticipate spending $785 in child care, my highest spending since I stopped working full time last year.
  • The extra work means I might be able to save a little extra in my 2016 Roth fund. I hope to put away $750 instead of $250 if I can.
  • It’s graduation season, and that means we will have some graduation gifts to give. We are giving cash, so that means a little cash will need to be flowing out. I anticipate $100.
  • I am spending the majority of my “fun” money on fun for the kids over the summer. We spent about $50 at the amusement park last weekend, and my sister and I will take my son to see Finding Dory next week.
  • The mister and I aren’t planning for anything other than an in-home $10 date night this month. We will have a fancy date with friends in late August, so are keeping it low key until then. Since we will be eating mostly vegetarian this month, I am planning on making a meat dish of pan fried pork chops and a juicy pie made with summer peaches.
  • I’m not going to plan any other costly “field trip” days this month, so it will be play dates, the neighborhood pool, a sleepover, and the sprinkler parks for us this month.
  • We had pizza once already last week, so we will not have any more eating out until our son’s sleepover party at the end of June. This is one of my biggest speed bumps, so that’s why I’m putting this out there. Feel free to side-eye me if I break.
  • We have three medical appointments, so that is $75 out of pocket.
  • The mister will have to travel out of town for a week, so that means the cost of meals out, parking at the airport in long-term parking, and plane tickets.

Frugal Step: Budget. May Budget Forecast.

MAY Budget

Fifteen years ago, when I lived in a dumpy apartment on a tiny budget, I made it through nursing school while paying off debt and avoiding more by doing two things: working three jobs (on top of full time school!) and meticulously writing down every thing I spent and planning for every expense with a budget.

Now, I was still in my frugal babyhood then. I probably could have done much more knowing then what I do now, but it was still a fruitful time. On much, much smaller means I did quite a bit. By the time I graduated, I was engaged and we were looking for a house. Though the Mister made the down payment on our house, I was able to pay for closing costs myself with the money I had saved.

Last month we got a little off track after I screwed the pooch and knocked a cup of tea onto my laptop, losing my precious spreadsheet which had not been backed up.  Learn from my mistake, folks! #1 Do not drink around your precious and expensive laptop, #2 Back up everything every day! I now am double backing up to my One Drive and Dropbox, because I am so incredibly paranoid.

It took a week or so to regroup though, and I lost my first few months of data.  I stopped tracking for a couple weeks and need to get back on track- so here is my regroup:


  • It’s the last month we will pay for preschool. Woot! That will save us $146/month.
  • It’s the last month of dance class. We aren’t doing it again next year, so that will save us $48/month, plus over $200 in fees and uniforms.
  • I am keeping my food budget at $400.
  • Entertainment: We are breaking our $10 date night vow to eat at our favorite restaurant for our 10th Wedding Anniversary Saturday. Babysitting is free from Grandma and Aunt Noonie, and we will probably rent Deadpool on Vudu. We will probably spend $75.
  • I am seeing Cabaret live next week. I will pay $5 for parking and my ticket is part of a subscription I payed for last year. I may spend $25 for lunch and dinner for my mom and kids afterwards.
  • We have 6 medical appointments this month, which means $ 125 out of pocket.
  • I had a $110 credit at the gymnastics center, so I signed up my daughter for a summer session to use it up.
  • I have 5 work shifts scheduled, which means $270 in child care this month. I hope another shift or two becomes available.
  • My son chooses pizza for his birthday dinner, so that will be $25-30 out of pocket.
  • My family is in town for Miss E’s dance recital, and we will grill out afterwards at our house using the hot dogs I planned for the garage sale. That shouldn’t add to my grocery budget. We though of picking up BBQ, but I think we need to make the effort instead of spending $50.
  • I am making a casserole out of things I already have for a Mother’s Day Brunch this weekend. Cost: $0.
  • I am making cookies and Rice Krispie treats for school events this month, for maybe $3 out of pocket. We also will donate $5 towards a baby shower gift.
  • I am using gift cards we already have for teacher gifts. Cost: $0.
  • Our toilet downstairs croaked finally. He is going to buy a new toilet (we knew this expense was coming up) and we will possibly pay a plumber to install it. This will probably be a few hundred.
  • I had to pay an unexpected $89 yesterday to have access to health assessment program for school. Ugh!
  • I opted not to renew our children’s theater subscription for next year, since I will be writing a thesis when the shows are going on next winter. Savings: $100.
  • We will pay for small group swimming lessons all summer twice a week for Mr J and Miss E at Aqua-Tots. We needed a very small student-teacher ratio and have been unhappy with the YMCA’s quality. A neighbor recommended this place and we are trying it out. It will cost us $300/month this summer, starting at the end of May. Gulp.
  • Because we feel the swimming lessons are enough, we are not opting for camps this summer. This is saving us about $350 from our May budget.
  • My sister Noonie and I are thinking about trying this voiceover idea for income, but I am not up to buying a microphone this month. I am going to keep reading and researching and come up with a plan and maybe try this over the summer.
  • I try to save $250/month out of my work income, but I’m not sure if that will happen this month. Let’s hope I get a couple more shifts!
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How To Plan To Live On One Income

Are You Ready

Although it was last May that I dropped to part-time employment, it was a year ago in March that we started living as if we had only one income.

Although it’s not always something you can plan for, if your goal is to have one spouse manage the home and/or kids full time, there are a few things you can start doing now to ensure you can make that happen.

  1. Pay down debt.

If you have student loans, car loans, or credit card debt, you want to get rid of that as soon as possible, preferably before you leave full-time work. Debt payoff gets a lot harder once your income shrinks. While we have never had credit card debt in our marriage, we did have the last $5000 of a student loan for me and we bought a brand new minivan in January of 2014. The money we were paying for three kids in day care and towards degree #3 hampered those payoffs, but we still put everything we could towards those loans. We paid off that student loan last March, and paid off the van the day after my last full-time day in May, 16 months after buying that van!

2. Make sure you have a cushion.

Car repairs, broken appliances, and medical bills are inevitable. Saving for an emergency fund will be easier before you leave your job. We had about 6 months expenses in savings before I left.

3. Cut back on expenses now.

Cutting expenses now will help you make the best use of those full-time dollars so you can start your new role debt-free and with that important cushion. You don’t have to go to extremes to make this happen (unless, of course, you want to make it happen even faster). There are abundant entertainment alternatives to cable, cheaper cell phone plans, frugal fitness,  cloth diapers, frugal travel, and most of us probably eat out more than necessary. I found that once I was home, I had more time to research and plan frugal alternatives that I avoided when time was short with our busy two-income lifestyle.

4. Start living on one income.

This was crucial to our plan. If we couldn’t make it on one salary while we had extra money coming in, how could we possibly do it when crunch time came? For two months before I submitted my resignation, we lived within my husband’s salary and banked the part of my income that was not used for day care. Not only did this prove to us that it could be done, but it helped knock out that last loan just in time for me to leave my job. If you can’t survive on one salary, you may not be ready for the real deal.

5. Be ready to track every penny.

We have no wiggle room for mindless spending, especially since we are paying cash for my graduate school. I use an Excel spreadsheet to track what I spend- and pull myself into line if I am getting off track- but there are many other budget tracking alternatives out there. Whatever you use, it doesn’t work if you don’t use it. Find something and stick with it.

Are you a single income family? What do you do to stay within your means?



Five Easy Ways To Track Your Budget

Five Easy Budget

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People who lose a lot of weight and keep it off have a lot in common with people who lose a lot of debt and keep it off: they pay attention to what is going in and what is going out.

My husband, Mr Thrifty, has always been naturally anal, and keeps a very exacting spreadsheet of all the financial inputs and outputs. I myself am more of a late bloomer, having in my younger days been one of those people who could never get a checkbook to balance quite right. Somehow it was always off by $1.41.

When I came across the Tightwad Gazette in my college library job, it introduced me to a world of planned budget and paper expense tracking. I dutifully filled a 3-prong binder with college ruled notebook paper and kept a penciled in ledger of my budget and expenses, and have pretty much done so until this year.  Call me old-fashioned, I guess.

Knowing where every penny is going is insurance against mindless spending. It’s hard to stick to an intentionally low grocery budget or a tiny entertainment budget if you can’t remember about that trip to Wendy’s last week or the Amazon spending from the beginning of the month.

In the almost 20 years since I first started tracking everything I spent,  our options for tracking have expanded immensely. They now include both the old-fashioned low-tech versions and newer high-tech versions that will let you check every dollar in every account from your smartphone.

Here are a few of the main contenders for your budget needs:

  1. Good Old Fashioned Pencil and Paper
  • The cheapest version of this is a simple pocket notebook that you carry around with you, recording expenses as needed. Some people like to use free printable budget sheets (just google), or a budget-planner bought from an office supply store.
  • This option is low-cost, but you will have to reconcile by hand. Be prepared to use a calculator.

2.  Excel Spreadsheets

  • This is our go-to system for recording expenditures. My husband has his own sheet with all kinds of exacting anal details. He made it up himself and has fancy formulas to get this number and that number. Me, I’m just plain vanilla. I write down everything I spend in a column and add it. There are thousands of pre-made Excel spreadsheet templates available, and I just picked one that I liked.
  • If you don’t have a computer, this is not for you. Yes, I know a few people who do not have computers. If you’re reading this from the public library computer, good for you for being frugal!

3. Mint

  • Mint syncs your information from all financial institutions (checking, saving, credit, etc) so you can see at a glance where you stand. It supports itself through ad revenue, so it’s free to you.
  • We know quite a few friends who use Mint, and they are mostly positive about it. Mr Thrifty is a little leery about the security of all your accounts available at one location. He is a little extra paranoid than the average person, so that is why we continue to use our tried and true spreadsheets rather than a service like Mint.

4. You Need A Budget

  • You Need A Budget is also a pretty popular budgeting software. If you have irregular income, live paycheck-to-paycheck, or are self-employed, this may be a good option for you, because it works on the premise that you will live on last month’s income. If you are new to the concept of budgeting, they also have a 9-day course to help get you started.
  • The downside is that you will have to buy it- and it’s $60. I have seen this go on sale a few times, but you will still have to cough up some dough. If you are a student, like me, there is good news. You can get it for free, but only for a year at a time. Once you graduate, you’ll have to buy it for real.

5. Goodbudget App for iPhone and Android

  • Now, not everyone has a smartphone, but if you do, there are quite a few budgeting apps out there to help you manage your money. This particular one syncs with your significant other’s phone, so you have a real-time view of how much money you have. If one of you is a spendthrift, this may help deter impulse spending. Will you really want to go through with that $200 cart of impulse purchases at Target if you knew you couldn’t hide it from your spouse?
  • It’s free! This app earns its revenue through ads. If you want to use more than 10 “envelopes”, however, you’ll have to pay, according to reviewers.
  • You can see with the push of a button how much you have left in your budget categories for the month.