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Ashley’s New 2017 Budget


It’s been awhile since I did a full budget post. As I was working on this post, I was reminded of the reason – these posts always take sooooo long to pull together. I double and triple check everything 10 times to make sure there are no mistakes and to make sure I have solid footing on where all of these numbers are coming from.

These are good posts for me to do, though, because it always offers an opportunity for us to make subtle tweaks or changes to the budget. This time around, the big one was with our Roth IRA savings. We’ve only been saving about $100/month toward a Roth. But one of our 2017 goals is to fully fund a Roth at $5500 this year. In order to do that, we’re going to have to increase our monthly rate of savings for our Roth!!

At any rate, I want to show our budget and then offer some explanation below:

Mortgage $1250
Property Taxes & Insurance $350
HOA $40
Electricity $165
Water $75
Phones $150
Cable/Internet $130
Preschool & Childcare $1100
Gift-Giving $50
Personal Maintenance $50
Restaurants $300
Entertainment $100
Kids’ Activities $100
Groceries $600
Fuel $100
Household Goods $100
Clothing $50
Category subtotal $4710
3-6 month expenses, Full at $5,000 $0/mo ($5,000 current)
Car Repairs, Full at $2,000 $200/mo; ($676 current)
Kids’ birthday, Full at $500 $50/mo; ($150 current)
Travel/Christmas; Full at $500 $50/mo; ($50 current)
Annual Fees $240/mo (revolving)
Girls’ College Savings $50/mo
Roth IRA Savings $460/mo
Home Improvement $350/mo
Summer Vacation Savings $500/mo
Category subtotal $1900/mo
Student Loan Payments $2200/mo
Medical $25/mo
Balance Transfer $800/mo
Category subtotal $3,025/mo


TOTAL = $9635/month


The biggest “note” right off the bat is this: I do NOT make $9635 “take home” per month. I don’t make that much. So that’s a problem. But here’s the deal – we’ll make it work.
At least for the time being, hubs is still drawing a little bit of additional income, so that helps to supplement my income. But as the year progresses, assuming our income will go down at some point, we’ll end up having to cut back. Likely the cut-backs will occur in both the savings and the debt categories. Some of the savings categories are easy to cut (e.g., travel/Christmas or kids’ birthdays); some of the savings are short-term and will go away eventually (e.g., summer vacation savings). But some will be harder to cut out (e.g., girls’ college savings is set to draft automatically from my account and if we want to hit our fully funded Roth IRA goal, we need to be pretty consistent in that savings category). I hate to cut back on debt at all, too, but if faced with a lack of funds at the end of the month, we may have to dip below my projected number. To be fair, our 2017 goal is to pay $30,000 toward debt, which is “only” $2500/month, so we’ve got a bit of wiggle room if we need to make a slightly lower debt payment (though I’d LOVE to pay MORE toward debt and hit our goals early!!!)

In terms of the monthly bills and expenses, most of those are pretty “set” at this point. We did our 100% bare-bones blog days (a full 2 years) and have just started loosening up the purse strings a bit for the sake of our sanity and longevity with our get-out-of-debt plans. We may try to make our “entertainment” budget cheaper (which accounts for our monthly date nights and any family activities we do), and I’m always struggling to try to spend less on food (either/both in groceries & in eating out). I could skip or reduce the personal maintenance budget occasionally (which accounts for things like yoga/exercise stuff, eyebrow wax, hair care, makeup, etc). But for the most part, the monthly bills are going to be hard to see much wiggle room in at this point.

So all of this brings us to this point…. It’s kind of scary to see a budget that our projected income cannot cover. To accommodate for this, all savings and debt payments will be made late in the month. That way, we can alter payments (and savings) as needed so that our budget isn’t exceeding our monthly income.

There you have it! January debt update coming soon, too!


If you keep a budget, what are your proportions of monthly expenses, savings, and debt? Ours are 48% monthly expenses, 20% savings, 32% debt. Of course, that’s just the budgeted categories and things are subject to change as income decreases. But as budgeted, I think that’s pretty good! I’d be proud to pull those numbers! What are your numbers?


  • Reply Karen |

    I came across an article months ago andout the 50/30/20 rule. 50% fixed expenses, 30% variable expenses & 20% savings. Note there is no percentage for debt. I have adopted this for my own net pay to a 40/30/10/20 rule (fixed, variable, save & debt). Generally speaking I go over on my savings and debt and I am under on my fixed and variable so that is good. Once I have my debt paid off I will likely do a 40/30/30 rule as I would like to have 3-6 months living expenses set aside etc.

  • Reply Shauna |

    Great job! My one suggestion is to increase college savings substantially. If you are planning on paying for college for your kids you should have a minimum of $150,000 for each saved for college (and that will be for a state school at that time). We are putting all 4 of ours through college (room and board, tuition, living expenses, car expenses, etc) and did not save as much as we could have and now paying for some out of pocket instead of out of their college accounts. I would have rather had it all ready to go. If you are not planning to do that (which is likely the more common way it is done) I would have early talks with them about saving money to put away for expenses to keep them from having to take out any loans. The most amazing thing our families did for us was to allow my husband and I and our siblings graduate from college with no loans and with savings in tact. Cheers to all your successes!!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks! We will likely increase our college savings after we’re fully out of debt. The kids are 4.5 years old right now so we still have a bit of time. As much as I love the magic of compound interest over time, I also want our debt gone first. But we do have a 529 and our family has donated to it for christmas gifts, too, so our small savings are supplemented by family members. : )

      • Reply Sarah |

        Both are boys are in college now. We paid off our house six years ago before the oldest started. We then tried to cash flow as much of college as possible. This year, we are having to dip into savings with both in school but for three years, we were able to use our “mortgage payment” to pay for school. Maybe that is something to aim for…loosen up a little after the debt is gone, apply your debt payment to the house and then cash flow college!

  • Reply Laura |

    We are doing 20% debt, 6% savings, and the rest is both fixed and variable living expenses. The savings is so low because we have a fully funded emergency fund and the only savings we are doing is contributing to our 457 plan. Should the emergency fund take a hit we will have to slow down debt repayment to build it back up.
    The college fund is tough, because I really think it’s more important to pay off your student loans first, but on the other hand, the earlier you start saving the better so you can take advanatage of compound interest. We actually aren’t contributing anything to our son’s college fund at the moment. We are working on paying off my husbands student loans first. They are our only debt and should be gone in about 2 years. My parents do make a gift to our child’s college account once a year so he is getting something in there while he is young.

  • Reply Anon |

    Good job. You could probably easily come up with an extra $200 from food and restaurant, if needed, in a pinch.

    • Reply Ashley |

      We should! But I swear – since going back to work, our food expenses have been so hard to tame! Much higher than when I was fully at home and had more time to cook from scratch, coupon, and just go around to shop sales, etc. I’m surprised how much of a difference it’s made in looking at our food budget from before vs. after.

  • Reply Walnut |

    Do you have a designated pecking order that you are following in months where you don’t have any additional income? There are a few categories in your monthly expenses ares that are fairly discretionary (personal maintenance, household goods, clothing) and some lines in your savings that are must-saves (annual fees). Do you have a system for what lines items get nixed and which ones get priority or will the expected shortfall generally come out of debt payments?

    • Reply Ashley |

      I don’t have a designated order, but I would imagine it would come from a combination of savings and debt payments. It would be easy to save a quick $200 by not saving for “car repairs” that month. Personal maintenance would be easy, but only to the extent that it (or some portion of it) had not already been used earlier in the month. Because we’re not living on last month’s income right now, so we don’t necessarily know for sure how much money we’re dealing with until the end of the month. That’s not an ideal system, but kind of where we are right now. In general, though, I would rather save less and still have a larger debt payment. But exact figures would be dependent upon how much we were short, and what (if any) was already spent in the month, etc. If that makes sense??? Hope this helps : )

    • Reply Walnut |

      Also, to answer your question, our fixed expenses/discretionary expenses/savings breakdown is 46/21/33. A huge chunk of that fixed number is taxes, so should we experience a job loss or something worse, that number would drop through the floor. I was trying to calc it just based on take home dollars, but then it neglects retirement savings and charitable donations that my employer accounts for before my paycheck ever hits my account.

  • Reply G2L |

    One more thing to note (I know I look at this all the time) is that your child care costs may change soon. I’m not sure if you’re planning on sending the girls to public school or not, but if you are then you’ll have a nice large chunck of monthly expenses to move to savings or debt.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Oh, sore subject!!!!
      I’ve been singing and dancing, bragging to everyone I know about how it’s going to feel like we got this huge “raise” come August……
      then I actually calculated our costs of childcare and wanted to cry. It will be nearly the same as now.
      The reason is that in our state, only half-day preschool is state-subsidized. We need full day preschool, which will cost us $300/child/month ($600/month total). BUT, the “full day” only goes until 2:30pm. If use aftercare until 4:30pm, we’ll be charged another $20/day (it’s $5/hour/child). 5 days a week and 4.5 weeks per month = about another $450/month.
      Add the original $600 + $450 = $950/month. Just for kindergarten. Then add another $50-100 (we also include babysitting expenses as part of childcare and we try to do one date night per month)….we’re talking around $1,000. Maybe a little more. Pretty comparable to now.

      THAT BEING SAID….depending on hubs’ class schedule (and my teaching schedule), we may be able to pick the kids up before 4:30 and save some money. But, yeah. That’s what’s up with that.

  • Reply Maureen |

    I wouldn’t say we have a designated percentage for expenses/savings/debt. Our expenses, for the most part, are pretty consistent (mortgage, utilities, food, etc.). After our regular expenses everything else is allocated to debt, a little fun, and savings. The amounts that I allocate to those categories really depends on the time of year, goals, etc. I should mention thought that all extra debt payments and fun money come after we have included the monthly allocations to fully fund our retirement accounts each year (401k and another nonqualified plan). We do not qualify for Roths. Right now I am focusing on paying off some big debts for the next 6 months, so savings (other than retirement) has taken a back seat. Then, once those goals are hit I will likely focus on savings for a few months, and repeat the cycle.

  • Reply Jasmine |

    I have a question, and I in no way mean to be negative, just curious. You have savings 3-6 months expenses at $5000. How did you come up at that number? It looks like the $5000 barely covers one month of monthly bills. Is that your full emergency fund? You may want to consider upping that now that you’re a homeowner and your budget has changed.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Ha! I really should change the title of the EF (I was literally transcribing from my Capital One 360 account names). The goal is to eventually get to a fully funded 3-6 month EF. Right now, we only have enough money for about a month (or 2 if we really scrimped and saved, ate our pantry, didn’t buy anything, etc.). So you’re absolutely right that $5,000 is NOT a 3-6 month EF. But it’s still what I’m considering our “baby” EF for right now. Eventually we’ll increase that, but I don’t have immediate plans to go any higher until we’ve got a little better control on our debt.

  • Reply dh |

    I know that you can’t yet talk about your job situation but I’m so curious as to what’s up with that.

    You are AMAZING! But perhaps this is slightly too ambitious, even for you. I think maybe ‘something’s gotta give’ … either the Roth, the girls’ college funds … dunno, just something, to take the pressure off.

    You’ll probably hit the halfway point this month, you certainly don’t want to lose momentum now!

  • Reply Kili |

    Hi Ashley,
    You’re Not living on Last months income anymore? What has changed? Are you planning in eventually starting living on last month’s income again?
    I might have missed a Post so feel Free to Just link to that if you’ve already answered those questions.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Unfortunately we haven’t been living on last month’s income for a long time now. We ended up raiding our “last month’s income” savings last summer when hubs had a couple of really rough months work-wise. We used the “last month’s income” funds to supplement what he would have been making. And then the money was gone, but I managed to get a couple raises and things evened out and we just never replenished (or re-built) the “last month’s income” fund. I talked about it at the time, but only embedded in other posts (there wasn’t a single post dedicated to it, so I couldn’t easily locate it when I was looking through the archives). I loved living on last month’s income so I’d like to get there again one day, but it’s not as much of a priority right now. Since my paycheck is now pretty “set” and hubs has basically stopped working, our income isn’t as variable. I’m basically just planning on my paycheck, alone, and anything hubs’ makes of his crew is just extra gravy to throw toward debt

  • Reply Jay |

    Do you contribute to 401K or similar, or just the Roth? If not are you missing out on any matching by not doing so? Just curious.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Sorry, I somehow missed this comment until now. Yes, I do contribute to a 401K. My employer requires a mandatory 7% (and they match the full 7%), but I’ve been saving at a full 10% rate. This is precisely one of the things I’m thinking of backing off on (I can’t eliminate it, but I could reduce down to just the mandatory 7% savings) so I have more money available to help us knock out debt and hit our goals!

So, what do you think ?