For some reason, a lot of people do not like discussing their budgets publicly. I have never understood this, because to me, money is a resource that we are given by God to manage, and it can be helpful to learn from others' experiences. If you are curious like me, Mark, a CPA who blogs at Bare Budget Guy, gathered budgets from others and posted them (with their permission) on his blog.

2016 has brought some changes for our budget, some good, some challenging. We took a hit in the form of higher health care premiums, but thankfully, we have also lowered our utilities bill to manage some of the loss.

For those who are curious, I also thought it would be good to give some details of our budget.

  • We are homeowners living in a very low-cost-of-living area in the Midwest (Kansas).
  • We have one child who has food sensitivities (not allergies) which means I have had to find ways to accommodate a gluten-free diet. 
  • Our home is about 1,600 square feet including the finished part of the basement, and uses natural gas for our water heater, central heating, stove, and dryer. Everything else is electric.
  • We have four children as of this writing ages 8, 6, almost 5, and 1 1/2. They all love to eat!
  • The income listed already has taxes, retirement, and health/dental premiums taken out. 
  • My husband works about 1 mile away from where we live, and we are a one-car family, which helps us to save on insurance and gas.
  • I homeschool, which keeps us from having to have an extra vehicle to take kids to-and-from school.
  • Additional needs are paid for with the two extra paychecks my husband receives (he's on a 26 payment-per-year plan). While we set this money aside for spending, we try to put as much of our tax return each year toward paying off debt.

Take-home income*: $3,575

Tithe: $474
Christmas/birthday gifts: $25
Mortgage + security system: $713
Water, sewage, garbage: $75
Natural gas: $60
Electricity: $87
Cell phones: $52
Internet: $40
Gasoline: $40
Groceries/toiletries/diapers: $335
Registrations: $15 (this goes toward our annual car registration fees and Sams Club membership)
YMCA: $34 (we are switching to a single membership in September if possible)
Life insurance :$50
Auto Insurance: $62
Student Loans: $1,235
Auto Loan: $294

A few comments:
The biggest cut we will be making is to our food budget. Previously I had it set at about $420 including toiletries/diapers, so this is a cut of about $85. We also have to pay sales tax of over 9% on food here, so I am not sure we will be able to do this, but I'd like to try it out and see if I can be even more intentional with how I shop and how we use our groceries. I still feel like I have room to improve in this area without compromising the health of our family. But if it gets to the point that we are going over budget month after month, I may have to up it just a little. I'm hoping that I can make this work though with a little creativity and better organization.

We are also spending less on gas. Again, I don't know how this will work out, and some months will be higher than others, but I'm hoping that it will average out to this much per month. My husband lives one mile away from his job and can walk or bike to work when the weather is good. I homeschool and often do not leave the house during the week except for a few evening activities. This is an area where we are trying to challenge ourselves to be even more conscientious about the gas and mileage we use.

I would like to cut out our YMCA membership entirely, but my husband really does benefit from having a place to go workout. We have had the family membership for over half a year now, and have used the pool as a family only a handful of times. I have not been once to workout on my own - I usually just prefer working out to videos at home. Because of this, I've asked my husband to change it to a single membership for now. This will save us $240 a year.

This past year we've been putting about $665 per month toward student loans. Now, because we are redirecting extra money from savings to debt repayment, we are hoping to put $1,235 toward the loans. That is almost double the amount we have been paying. Combined with the $294 that we are paying toward our auto loan, this means we are paying over $1,500 a month toward our debt. I am motivated to pay it off when I think about what a difference it would make to our budget to have this money freed up!

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