The Family Budget – March 2015


cotton yarn to make washclothes

In this series I share our family budget, which includes the care and keeping for our household of seven (4 kids, 3 adults) as well as our debt free journey.

As I said last month, take anything I say here with a grain of salt, remembering that Christopher and I are digging our way out of 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.

February was a tight month for us budget-wise but we met our financial goals, including filing our taxes and shopping around for a good deal on a dishwasher. We also went through room by room and made a list of needs and wants, so we’ve got an idea of what money we should spend on our home this year for maintenance. It won’t be a lot, but we do have some things we need to take care of. The Family BudgetCurrent Affairs – how do things look right now? Thanks to our tax return and a bonus from Christopher’s work we were able to replace our dishwasher (we’ve been without since before Thanksgiving) and that feels like a major luxury for this household of seven. We’re still budgeting down to the penny, but we’re in a solid place right now and working to stay that way. We are able to give everyone some spending money and could include a couple of dinners out this month in our budget.

However, speaking of that spending money, ironically the person in our family who blew through her personal allowance so far this month the quickest was me. Yes, it was me. I spent almost half of my money the very first week of the month. I couldn’t resist the yarn. So, now I find myself having to practice self discipline, especially since I have a workshop coming up I am participating in and a mom’s night out.

Forecasting and Goals – we have upcoming birthdays and Easter (which we will keep simple) and we’d like to take a family vacation again this year, so we’re planning and saving for that. Barring any emergencies (though we do have a fund for that) we’ll be crossing another debt off of our list by the end of March, again thanks to our tax return and that bonus, which is going to be awesome because it’s been awhile since another one bit the dust.

Staying Motivated – the main motivation for me right now is crossing this last small debt off of the list so we can really focus on paying off our van and the last school loans. I can see the end in sight, after a long journey (we’ve been at this since 2009) and it feels good to have six figure debt behind us. I keep listening to the podcasts I mentioned last month and that helps me to stay in a saving, not spending mindset.

Kids and Money – last month I mentioned that regular allowance is a new thing for us. After I shared a Today Show article about allowances on facebook, there was a good discussion. I took to heart Jeannie Jessup’s point re: giving enough money for kids to get real world experience. What we’re doing is giving each kid $5 per pay day (twice a month) and this seems to be working for us so far. We are also paying per chore when the kids ask for additional money but we are not paying them for their normal household chores that they do on a regular basis.

Frugal Deeds (done dirt cheap) – you’re invited to check out the FD(ddc) Pinterest board and here is the list of last month’s frugal deeds:

  • Used last of the Christmas gift cards and our tax return to replace our dishwasher (we’ve been without a working dishwasher, well besides ME, since November 2014)
  • Christopher installed the dishwasher himself.
  • Went through all of the kids’ clothing and passed some things down the line, keeping the hand-me-down saving tradition alive and well.
  • I possibly could have purchased cheaper washcloths, but we’re also trying to make more mindful decisions about where things in our home come from, so I purchased yarn to make new ones.
  • Hit up the thrift store for new homeschool books, shorts, and cotton dresses and other Spring needs for my son and oldest daughter.
  • I’ll go through the hand-me-down totes for my younger two daughters for their Spring needs and if there are any gaps, back to the thrift store we will go.
  • We haven’t planned our March Date Night yet, but I think it might simply be getting someone to watch the kids so we can go for a walk some pretty, warm evening. Romantic and free, a good combo.
  • We found out the kids who are twelve and under were free to get into Comic Con, so we were able to have a fun family outing for half of our entertainment budget for the month even with paying for downtown Indy parking. Okay, the more frugal option might have been to stay home, but after two months of no extras, it was nice to have a fun weekend being geeky together.
  • My husband found two pairs of dress pants for work on clearance and even with the cost of alternations, he now has two very nice pairs of pants for work that cost less than $30. We consider this a pretty good deal (though I am keeping my eyes open for second hand deals for him, we just very rarely find men’s suits and dress clothes).
  • I took advantage of a Shutterfly deal to print photos for my Project Life album. I got 100 prints for just the price of shipping (which came out of my fun money for the month).
  • We’re still eating a lot of soups and stews, though I’m eager to start putting salad on the menu on a regular basis.
  • Speaking of salad, we’re planning our garden. We’ve taken part in a seed swap, saved seeds from last year, and are trying to keep the plan to what we know we will eat. I think the repairs to the raised bed and the fence will put in last year will last, so that won’t be a needed expense. I know from last year that if we keep our ears to the ground, we might be lucky enough to end up with free plants, too. Last year the kids were given a free plant each at the local farmer’s market and we had friends and family who had extra seedlings (tomato, peppers, various flowers) that we happily accepted. Gardens are lovely, but I have found that for us they can end up being a bit costly if we aren’t mindful. At least, that’s been our experience.

And that’s how March is looking for the Fleck family budget. How about you? How is this month going for your family?

PS – someone asked me if I minded if you shared links to your personal blogs with frugal ideas and family budget posts. Not at all! Share away! I’m often inspired and motivated by all of you and you never know if you story or solution or great frugal idea might help someone else out, so YES please share in the comments below if you’re motivated to do so. I don’t think I’ll ever manage to get a formal link up or anything going, but I certainly don’t mind if share in the comments. Thanks for asking!

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. Three cheers for dishwashers!

    Thanks for sharing your story, Kara.
    Kortney´s latest post: So You Want to Become a Virtual Assistant…

  2. Kym (Coffeemomma) says:

    I love that you’re sharing this…we’ve been using YNAB to track our budget for a little over two years now, and it keeps getting better. Part of that success is when everyone remembers to enter receipts (ahem….it was my New Year’s resolution). Although we don’t have debt, we have a couple large-scale house projects looming (new furnace, new roof, probably in the next 5 years on the roof)…so we’re scrimping. It’s tough but so rewarding to work on money stuff together…I’m not great with money (but I’ve gotten better), and the hubs is really awesome with it. We make a good team.

    • I second YNAB (it’s a free 30 day trial and them $6 off if you know someone, that has purchased it, they’ll have a code). We use YNAB and a combo of their teachings and Dave Ramsey’s. We have a large amount of student loans that we are working on.

      And so many yays for a dishwasher!!

      • I began YNAB a year ago when we had a solid income but were behind on everything. Now after using it and working through a study called “Free” and being very vigilant on our spending, we are doing so much better (not behind on anything, even though my husband has been out of work unexpectedly since August). We eat lots of soups & stews. Also found out some of the larger food agencies (like Feed America) often get large donations of perishable items that need to be used immediately. We found out and once a month get some produce, yogurt, bread for them which helps. There are no income requirements for giveaways like this, as the agencies just want the food used and not thrown away…it takes a while to find out about things like this in your community but well worth the effort!

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