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My monthly budget

April 20th, 2011 at 08:08 pm

Certainly, the monthly budget has been my game changer in tackling debt. I've tweaked and revised it many times in the last year, but I'm hoping that exposing it to more eyeballs might spotlight areas to improve.

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Monthly budget

Income (after tax, 401k, and disability ins.)

Paycheck: $3500-4720 (depending on # of Fridays)
Bonuses and other income: $150-500

Expenses

Sinking funds
Christmas gifts: $25
Home/auto repair: $50
Irregular bills: $85

Debts (minimum payments)
1st mortgage (includes PITI): $944
2nd mortgage: $245
Auto loan: $273
Credit card: $175
Student loan: $128

Bills (all on equal payment plans)
Electric: $89
Natural gas: $61
Internet/phone: $35
Water/sewer: $40
Irregular: covered by sinking fund account

Insurance
Health: $312 (covers myself and both kids)
Life: $29 ($300,000 coverage each for my wife and I)
Auto: $84 (for 2 vehicles)

Spending
Groceries: $250-300
Fuel: $275-300
Dining out: $100-150
Clothing: Variable (generally $0)
Miscellaneous (gifts and "blow" money): $25-50

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This is a typical monthly budget for our family, though several line item amounts vary depending on the month. Any excess cash goes straight towards paying down the highest interest debt (which currently happens to be the auto loan).

For the most part, I'm satisfied with the numbers. However, that health insurance amount just kills me every time I pull up the budget. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out a solution (my wife is covered 100% by her employer, but my employer plan is awful and neither one covers the kids cheaper than private insurance).

So, any thoughts or suggestions on what could/should be improved upon?

12 Responses to “My monthly budget”

  1. ceejay74 Says:

    I think it looks really good, very disciplined and sensible. My only concern is retirement savings--is that taken care of straight out of your paychecks?

  2. LuckyRobin Says:

    It looks to me like the only frill you have is eating out. And even that is pretty contained. If you're looking to cut, that's the only place I really see to cut. Your other bills seem quite low to me but that may be because you're in a cheaper cost of living area than I am.

    I don't know what your work commute is like so I can't say whether your fuel bill is high or not.

    Your health insurance is actually very reasonable. Our portion of health insurance is a bit over $600 a month and that's with a $2500 deductible.

    I dream of having a grocery budget that low.

  3. mskills Says:

    ceejay74,

    You are correct. Right now, my wife and I are just contributing up to the employer matches in our 401ks (4% and 2%, respectively). The long term goal is to bump retirement savings to 10-15% once we are out of debt.

    Thanks for reading!

  4. mskills Says:

    LuckyRobin,

    We live near Raleigh in North Carolina, which probably qualifies as a lowish cost-of-living area. I'm actually surprised to hear that some of these expenses would be considered low.

    The eating out thing is mostly my fault and probably the catalyst for the most debate whenever DW and I discuss the budget. We're getting better though, considering that we used to spend double the amount a year ago.

    My wife ranks as a moderate-to-slightly-obsessed couponer. If it weren't for her, groceries would also be a few hundred dollars higher. Wish it would work on gasoline as well...

    Thank you for offering your thoughts on the budget.

  5. MonkeyMama Says:

    Health insurance looks good to me. We pay $720/month with a $3k deductible. I am presuming you have good insurance, anyway. Nothing with huge out-of-pockets? (I wouldn't call $3k huge - my employer plan which only covers me - has a $10k deductible. I passed on that! Opted to pay out the nose but at least have GOOD insurance. Was a good choice because we have really needed it in recent years. Both healthy as can be - and both had surgery the past year or so. As such, I have a renewed respect for GOOD insurance and think it is worth every penny).

  6. MonkeyMama Says:

    P.S. Nothing sticks out, at all. Just all the debt.

  7. mskills Says:

    MonkeyMama,

    My kids and I are covered by a private BCBS PPO plan with moderate co-pays, an individual deductible of $3,500, and family deductible that's a bit higher (a good reminder to take another look at my policy).

    I'll admit that I take health insurance for granted, though. I've only seen the inside of a doctor's office maybe 10 times since I've been married, all for routine stuff. Thankfully, my kids have been very healthy and have only needed to see the pediatrician for their scheduled checkups.

    I'm curious, is the employer plan that you passed on a HDHP-style policy with HSA? My wife's plan sounds very similar.

    P.S. Your postscript made me laugh.

  8. MonkeyMama Says:

    Well - is the truth. I don't think there is anything in your spending that stands out. It's all those debt payments! Which obviously you are trying to whittle down.

    No - the insurance plan I passed on was just a crappy insurance plan. Big Grin As most small employer plans are.

  9. baselle Says:

    I used to live in Raleigh too. Your budget seems pretty tight - tight enough so that I wonder if your irregular bills/ blow money/eating out represents a release from the straight-jacket.

    Bonuses and other income is better than what I get. Smile. Any strategy for increasing them, either by luck or skill?

    Agree about the debt payments - know when you'll finish with some of them? For instance, the second mortgage. Is that to pay the 20% down? Finish with that and you can finish with PMI. If you have an idea when you will finish with some of the debts (and the answer doesn't depress you), planning ahead with the next debts that you'll tackle keeps you moving forward. I'm not ashamed to say that I tackled the itty bitty debts first, no matter the interest rate. We all need that boost. The right way to get out of debt is what you can follow through with.

    Too bad that the Raleigh transit system is so rotten that you need both cars.

  10. mskills Says:

    baselle,

    Heh, the straight-jacket is self-imposed, though I'll admit that the eating out is a bit of an outlet. The irregular bill fund is truly for bills, though (homeowners, trash, cell phone minutes).

    The bonus/other income actually makes for some interesting stories that I'll probably blog about soon. About half of it comes from additional opportunities at work, and the other half comes from the variety of "income streams" that I've been setting up over the past year. Stuff like cashback programs, rebates, surveys, online work, etc.

    The consumer debt should be gone by the 1st quarter of 2013. After that, I'll have to try and convince my wife that the 2nd mortgage needs to go pronto (yes, it was used to eliminate PMI since we had very little to put down).

    With the area around Raleigh so spread out and suburban, I just don't see how a realistic transit system could be implemented. By the time I could get to a train/bus station and catch a ride to work, I'd already be clocked in and chugging away if I had driven instead. Oh well.

  11. Jerry Says:

    I agree with the above, that is a pretty decent rate for health insurance compared to where I have lived in the US. Kind of leads me to want to live in North Carolina! Smile Jerry

  12. mskills Says:

    Jerry,

    I guess I am ignorant to the complex inner-workings of the health insurance industry. Do rates differ much depending on region? I just figured it was because of my age and/or lack of medical history.

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