The Family Budget – February 2015

[really_simple_share] The Family Budget, February

After I shared our No Spend January some of you said you’d like to read more family budget type of posts. I write about our debt free journey for my quarterly Art of Simple posts, so I didn’t really think about exploring that topic here at SK.

However, the more I thought about it, the more a family budget series appealed to me, so I decided to test the waters with monthly updates as we do our budget.

Just promise me you’ll take anything I say here with a grain of salt, remembering that Christopher and I are digging our way out of some stupid large debt after years of really dumb financial decisions and that what I say and do applies to my personal life in a household of seven with the income and debt that we have (how’s that for a disclaimer?)

You know, your mileage may vary and all of that fine print. The Family BudgetAs I said, January was a No Spend month for us, meaning we only spent money on essentials (bills, mortgage, food, etc.) and let me tell you, even after all of these years of living fairly frugally, that was a challenge.

Not so much a challenge about having enough resources to make it through the month. We ate well, kept warm, and had fun as a family.

No, it was a challenge because Christopher and I kept wanting to spend money on things that weren’t true needs. Even after all we’ve been through, temptation is still there.

When we ran out of printer ink toward the end of the month, my first instinct was to immediately replace it. Same with the can opener that won’t open cans without a battle. Or how I really wanted to paint the bedrooms before we switched them around last weekend.

I had to step back and remind myself to evaluate whether these types of things were true needs or if they were things I could make do, or do without.

It was a good financial reset to begin 2015 with and I’m glad that we did it. (And I can live with a purple bedroom for awhile).

milk daily assignments | frugal deeds |

Current Affairs – How do things look right now? February is going to be a rather tight budget month for us. My irregular web content writing income and the temporary lull in available overtime hours for my husband mean that we have a little less to go around than we have had the past six months or so.

Every penny is accounted for and there’s no wiggle room, but each of us is getting our fun money and a Valentine’s day dinner, so it isn’t a budget that will leave us gasping for air (been there, done that, proud of ourselves).

Forecasting and Goals – I’m planning ahead for birthdays. We also have a pretty large bill that needs to be paid this month (hello winter heating costs).

Other goals and events this month:

  • file our 2014 income taxes
  • go through the house and make a list of needed repairs (“need” being the key word) in 2015

Staying Motivated – One of the first things I am going to do now that No Spend month is over is to take my monthly allowance and purchase Cherie Lowe’s Slaying the Debt Dragon.

I’ve also been listening to the Dave Ramsey podcast and the Simpler Happier Life podcast, both of which give slightly different financial advice, but which are great for inspiration and motivation to both pay off our last remaining debt and to live a frugal and simple lifestyle.

Pete the Planner is launching a new podcast, called Ask Pete the Planner, so I’ll be checking that out for some motivation and advice, too.

Kids and Money – the kids did No Spend month right along with us. We explained our reasons why and they really didn’t seem to have any issues getting on board with the concept. A few times they requested getting ice cream or another treat, but after a reminder that we were focusing on essentials, that was the end of it.

Each child gets a small allowance and, while we are encouraging them to give/save/spend it and hope we are providing a good example, my husband and I are mostly stepping back and letting them do what they want to with their money. We want them to learn lessons about money and feel like giving them some freedom with their own funds will teach this.

Allowance is new territory for us. I’d love to hear what you do in your family, if you’d like to leave me a comment.

January date | SimpleKids.netBaconfest and a trip to the grocery store = wild date!

Frugal Deeds (done dirt cheap)you’re always invited to check out the FD(ddc) Pinterest board where I pin frugal living tips and inspiration.

Here are some of our family’s recent frugal deeds:

  • Christopher and I went on a date to Indy Baconfest at the end of January (the tickets were purchased in December, at a pre-sale price, so no No Spend month budgets were harmed, ha ha!) and we only used our allotted food and drink vouchers and didn’t spend any more than that.
  • Our babysitter was a family member who won’t take money from us, so free baby sitting for date night was a win!
  • I worked out a craft swap with my sister – she’s going to sew something for one of my kids and in exchange I’m going to knit something for her.
  • I knit a baby gift out of scrap yarn from a free pattern and wrapped it in leftover holiday tissue paper and a ribbon.
  • After discovering the seven of us were going through milk at rate that justified our own dairy cow, I started labeling the gallons with a Sharpie, assigning one gallon of milk per day. So far, this was worked out brilliantly!
  • We turned the thermostat down two more degrees (after a shocking December heating bill). No one has said a word. I don’t think they even noticed.
  • I’ve gone back to doing more freezer cooking than ever, and I can see that bit by bit it is making a difference in our monthly grocery budget.
  • I still haven’t replaced that darned can opener, I’m going to use it until it finally falls apart.
  • When Christopher needed new dress shirts for work he shopped sales with a Kohls gift card I was given for Christmas and was able to buy 4 new shirts for only $3 out of pocket.
  • We put the word out that we were in  need of a dresser and a co-worker had one she was giving away, so we met that need without spending a dime. (Though I do think Christopher is going to take her out to lunch sometime as a thank you).

So, without going into specific dollar amounts, although I might in the future (I’ve already been pretty open about our finances and I’m not sure how much more personal I want to go in this area), that’s what the family budget looks like for February.

What about you? Any financial victories? Frugal deeds done dirt cheap? Things challenging you? Keeping you motivated? I’d love to hear!

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Thanks for sharing! It’s so nice to read of others who are deciding things aren’t essential. After 4.5 years as a grad student family in Indiana my husband received a job. He won’t start until August after he finishes his dissertation, but that salary is ahead of us. It’s tricky to think we WILL have money (almost 9x his grad student stipend), but we don’t yet. I know it’s worth it to stay out of debt, because who wants to earn money that’s already gone?!— but it’s getting harder as the months wear on.

    We have to fix up a few things and finish a few projects to sell our house, and lumber, trim, and miscellaneous supplies add up. But we’re doing our best to make it through grad school with two kids and minimal debt. Thanks for the reminder I can turn down the thermostat and make other small choices (but, brrrrr!) that add up.

    Thanks in general for an honest post and owning your station in life and what you’re doing to make it work best for you.
    Deidra´s latest post: Five for Friday :: Spring Break Get-Away

  2. Do you guys ever look at thrift stores for men’s clothing? I don’t think women’s clothing is that great usually–it’s so picked over and you have to DIG. BUT. My husband finds all his dress shirts at the salvation army or value village–and they are all practically new and really expensive brands. I think the only trick to it is go to a wealthier part of town and shop at that one. He has never dressed so sharp and he hasn’t paid more than $3.50 a shirt!
    Sarah M
    Sarah m´s latest post: 29 Before 30: Take Ani Out on a Gluten-free Girl Date

  3. Rebecca N. says:

    My husband will hit up Goodwills in the Chicago area here and finds nice dress shirts! I think cleaners will donate items left and never picked up.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your story–hearing other people’s experiences always inspires motivates me. We only have mortgage debt, but are existing on a small income, so I’m always looking for ways to manage our money wisely.

    The milk idea is genius. My kids suddenly decided that milk is their favorite thing ever. Last week I implemented some hard and fast rules: only water between meals, and at mealtime they have to drink a glass of water before they can have milk–we are adjusting :)

    In regards to allowances we’ve tried every theory in the book, but the one that makes the most sense for us is Dave Ramsey based (if I remember correctly). Some jobs they do just because they are part of the family, others they do for pay. We struggle with consistency and follow through as far as the whole chores/pay things go–something I’ve resolved to improve on this year. I’d love to hear if you have any successes with your family!

  5. We’re using February for a financial reset, too. While we didn’t do a No Spend month, we got ourselves back into the groove of budgeting. We hadn’t made or stuck to a budget since last June, and we were overspending like crazy. As much as I hate budgeting, I hate that out-of-control feeling even more. We’re in a new situation job-wise where we have to budget around a lower salary and inconsistent bonuses, so we’re having to scale way back. We’re budgeting for what we know we bring home, and making a list of “wants” for when the bonus funds eventually show up.

    We started a new method of allowance for our 12-year-old almost a year ago and it’s working really, really well. We used to give her a minimal allowance every month for her to spend as she pleased, or save up if she wanted something big. For everything else, we had a budget that was simply designated “Kids.” We found that as she’s growing more independent and doing more things on her own and with friends, she kept coming to us for money to go skating, buy clothes, or to refill her lunch account at school. It was draining the “Kid” budget and not leaving any money for needs her little brother might have. We decided to significantly up her allowance. We pay her $125 at the beginning of the month, but out of that money she needs to put some in savings (for the car that’s in the not-so-distant future!), budget for school lunches and clothing (we buy bras, underwear and socks, that’s it), her cell phone bill, and anything else she might want. She’s learned some hard budgeting lessons, but overall she’s done really well managing her money each month … lessons I never learned until I left home at 18.

    Looking forward to more family finance posts in the future!

  6. Loved this!

    My husband and I began our less is more adventure a few years ago. We started with shutting off my cell phone. Since I was home all day we converted it to a landline changing our bill from $100.00 per month to $25.00!! We also shop at discount grocery stores and thrift stores. We live very simply, many consider our ways strange but we know we’re just attempting wise money choices. We’ll stick with that for now!

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