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The Nuts and Bolts


So in addition to my debt, the other key factor on this journey is my monthly budget…

Utilities350Client Expenditures10
Life Ins50Dropbox10
Auto/Rent Ins150
Guitar150Total Business Costs260
Kids Allowance235
GymnasticsMonthly Variances
Busch Gardens65Car Expenses300
Netflix11Kids Activities100
Tae Kwon DoKids School175
Total Personal3076Total Variance635

*Where there is no amount on that line item means that I have bartered services for these services. I do work in exchange. I started this four years ago and have since tried to find bartered situations as often as possible, especially for kid activities as they tend to add up quickly.

My required debt payments look like this:

Student Loans221
Car Payment700
Line of Credit218
Retail Card72
Credit Card108
Total Debt Payment1211

*You’ll notice that not all my debt is listed here. Several of my debtors, for the moment do not require a minimum payments.

So to save you from doing the math, this is what I am currently looking at on a monthly basis:

Total Personal3811
Total Business Costs260
Total Debt Payment1319
Total Monthly Costs5390


  • Reply Angie2 |

    OK… so I’m a mom but my kids are young, so maybe it’s easier said than done… but why aren’t the kids doing the landscaping? Also, is Busch Gardens a monthly cost? Isn’t that a theme park?

    I didn’t get to comment on the last post but good luck and I really enjoy your voice!

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Angie,

      Yes, BG is a theme park here. We’ve had passes for years and actually believe we have let them expire now. The twins requested passes for this summer, but I’ve decided not to renew them at this time, both for debt pay off purposes and because we just didn’t use them last year except for the month of October. I told them that I will re-evaluate the decision then.

      There are two reasons the twins/I don’t do the weekly landscaping…1) I don’t own the equipment. I did at one time, but maintaining and getting to it every week was hard. and 2) they did not grow up with a yard and have needed to learn an abundance of skills from their different background that I just chose to not fight the battle of the lawn mower with them.

      We all garden and weed and do outside work, just not the weekly lawn mowing and trimming.

        • Reply Walnut |

          Weekly is essential in my part of the country for my yard not to resemble a jungle. That said, it’s always worth shopping this number around or even asking for a reduction. Also, does your lawn guy offer a referral bonus? If not, propose he knock your rate down $5 / week for every new customer you recruit for him. (This is assuming he does an awesome job and you have people to refer him to.)

          • debbie |

            Getting a discount by referring another customer is a great idea. I bet that would help a lot with costs.

    • Reply Hope |

      I am self employed and my income varies from month to month, but typically I bring home at least $800 more per month than required for the above budget – occasionally less and sometimes more.

      This is one area I am working really hard at finding additional income sources and alternatives now. I am VERY anxious to tackle this debt.

  • Reply Mysti |

    You have a really high dollar amount going to the kids. Between music lessons, allowance, activities and school…$865. I included Busch Gardens in there. I am assuming this is for 5 season passes (kids plus you). You didn’t have anything next to Gymnastics or Tae Kwon Do….do the kids rotate what activities they are involved in, and those are out of rotation and will replace something else, or will there be a point where you will be paying for these in addition to the other stuff.

    You have kids activities and kids school as a separate variable line items….what are those for?

    What are the allowances for? Do they pay for their own clothes, snacks when out, etc?

    I have kids, and I know that activities can be pricey…so we have had to limit these. You may need to consider really scaling this stuff back. Or maybe they will have to pay for some of the activities out of their allowance.

    I am sure all of this will be addressed in future posts, so don’t feel the need to elaborate too much. But this may be an area where you need to be honest with the kids and say it just isn’t in the budget. If you cut it back even 20%, it would give you another $173 a month to put on debt.

    Also, what is the landscaping fee of $60/mon?

    • Reply Maureen |

      Hope mentioned that if there is no actual dollar amount for an activity she barters services for services.

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Mysti,

      You are right, the kids are definitely my highest expenditure. I do address the music lessons in an upcoming post. And I am seriously looking at every other cost I can cut…

      Busch Gardens has already been cut.
      Allowance cut after this month – another post to be written.

      My youngest is a competitive gymnast, but for the past 7 months I have had a barter situation for his training fees. All I have to cover out of pocket are uniforms, meet fees and of course travel (season runs October-March.) These costs are part of the monthly variance as it does vary from month to month, season to season.

      My daughter just tested for black belt in TKD. All four of them have trained for over 4 years (the twins only 2 since that’s when they were placed with us.) The martial arts school we attend worked out a barter situation since day one with me so I’ve only had to cover uniforms and equipment.

      Hope this clarifies.

  • Reply Kristina |

    I was wondering why you have to pay Busch Gardens $65 a month? And why is the phone bill so high on the business side?

    • Reply Hope |

      BG is the local theme park and our passes covered both the theme park and water park. I have to decided to let the passes lapse immediately and have discussed this with the kids tonight. There were several reasons for this decision.

      My phone bill encompasses my cell phone, my data plan for my ipad and four kids lines. The kids lines are only $10 each per month as they share my minutes and text plan. We do not have a home phone and I had to break down and get the kid lines as one of my primary clients was a phone client and it couldn’t be used for personal calls. I no longer have that client and am looking at ways to cut this cost.

      • Reply Kristina |

        So I guess my next question is…now that you no longer have a monthly BG fee, what are you going to do with the extra $65?

  • Reply AY |

    Thanks for your budget! Love seeing the hard numbers. Question–what is involved in Utilities? $350 seems kind of high. I’m guessing this includes heat, water, internet, cable? Seeing a further breakdown would be great.

    Love following your posts Hope!

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi AY,

      The utilities include gas, electric and water. We don’t have cable. The internet is covered by my business.

      I haven’t revisited this average for the three lately, and will do that to double check if the numbers have changed in the last year. I have an irrigation system, but disabled it last winter do the high cost to run it.

      Good think to check though.

  • Reply Jaci |

    I’m loving your post, and you have a great spirit. I was wondering what kind of life insurance you have and home much does it cover? Also I believe you said the house mortgage is through your dad so you pay him rent, but do you also have renters insurance? I’m looking forward to a more detailed post on this. Auto/rent Ins $150 seems high. When was they last time you looked for a better rate?

  • Reply Jenni Tulip |

    Although I can’t fully work out how much you are talking about as you are in $ not £ it’s still really interesting to see your budget for the month in comparison to mine. Obviously thinkgs cost different amounts where you are but it’s still cool to see how you split it up

    Miss Tulip

  • Reply AT |

    Clothing budget for the kids? They have a way of growing out of shoes
    Household repairs/maintenance? A washing machine or frog break-down would be sad with 4 kids.

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi AT,

      You are right they do! The younger two’s clothing is typically covered by their dad and/or hand me downs. The older two are responsible for their own clothing purchases out of their allowance or money earned. They all often get clothing as gifts for holidays and/or birthdays.

      You are right about the household repairs/maintenance and appliances; however, my house is only 3 years old and has a full 10 year warranty for the big stuff. My appliances are also only 3 years old (divorce forced these new purchases when I stopped renting.) The minor stuff that has come up thus far has either been covered by the builder or I’ve found a great community of repair professionals who are willing to barter services or work on the side at a whole lot less than a typical service call.

      I think these expenses will become more commonplace as the house gets older, thus the importance of turning my financial situation now…

      Thanks for asking!

  • Reply debbie |

    My thoughts…
    1. rent is based on the average cost of living in a certain area, pets, kids, etc etc. That varies with each rental. So not much there to think about.

    2. Groceries…again a cost of living thing, but there are things that can cut down on the budget if really needed too. There’s a wide range of ideas on this all over the internet. Just cutting 50 dollars a month off the grocery budget would put 600 dollars a year towards some debt and cut down in the amount of interest you would owe over the life of the debt.

    3. Auto/life/ rental insurance…Can you combine all three of these and get a discount for needing multiple coverages?

    4. There’s 525 if not a little more going for piano, guitar and allowances. That’s a very generous amount for the kids. With the amount of debt you posted, I would have to think hard about the money going for those activities. I know you barter and that’s AWESOME!! I just don’t think in my own opinion, I would not be handing over 525 a month for the kids allowance, piano, and guitar stuff. It’s almost half the rent, and almost all of your grocery money for the month. In an emergency, that’s cash that could be put to better use. Again, just my thoughts.

So, what do you think ?