Our Real Budget #2: Living on Just $1800 Monthly *Update*

Back in August I published the post, Our Real Budget, Living on Just $1800 Monthly. If you haven’t read it, you might want to take a moment and hop over there so you’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

All caught up? Great. At the end of that post, I listed 3 goals I wanted to work on over three months: lowering our grocery and utility bills while upping our savings. So how did I do? Technically, we accomplished all three, but I only feel like we met one of  our goals on purpose. We did manage to up our savings contribution to $20/month and I am so proud of that. On our grocery bill: 2/3 months we spent less than $250, which is great considering my goal was $300, BUT (and this is a big but, ha) we weren’t eating at home. Like, hardly at all. Not by coincidence, 2/3 months we spent over $300 in fast food. I’m ashamed just writing that. In my defense, I was very pregnant and then recovering from giving birth, so there’s that. As far as our utilities are concerned we didn’t change anything, it just stopped being so hot so our bill has dropped to under $200.

Before I get into how our budget looks now, I want to address some of the most frequent questions and comments I’ve gotten on the last post.

Phones: We are both still on our families’ cell phone plans. My husband’s plan includes unlimited data at an insanely good price because it was grandfathered in when their original company was bought out. Keeping his unlimited data was our original reason for not making the switch but over the past year it just hasn’t been something we’ve thought about until many of you were asking whether we had phones or not. So the answer is yes, we do, but we don’t pay for them. We’ve talked it over with both sides and will likely keep things the way they are at least for a few more months.

Car Insurance: $35/month covers liability for one car through Geico. Having full coverage on the car just isn’t worth it. It’s a good car but an old one, and I can almost guarantee with full coverage we would put in much more than we could ever get out. When we upgrade to a newer car, it will absolutely have better coverage, but hopefully we still have some time left with the one we are currently driving.

Mortgage: Our mortgage payment does include taxes, fees, and insurance. The cost of living in our area is pretty low. We have a standard 30 year mortgage and paid around $65k for our home. It isn’t where we still want to be in 10 years. It was, however, significantly cheaper than renting. There were things I absolutely loved about our apartment, but having owning our place, dream home or not, beats all of them any day.

Health Insurance: THIS has been the most frequent question I’ve gotten. I knew $35/month for insurance was good, but I didn’t understand exactly how good until we no longer had it. When writing the last post, our insurance was from the government marketplace. We were eligible for a tax stipend that made it so affordable. Our son meant we made too little for the tax stipend, so we had to switch to insurance through my husband’s employer. As you’ll see below, it is $260/month and pales in comparison to our old plan.

Credit Cards: We have four credit cards. One is a store card. We pay a little over the minimum payment on each, but we may be switching to the debt snowball approach a la Dave Ramsey. I’ll talk more about our utilization and goals below. They are intended to be just for emergencies until we get each balance below 30% of the limit. We try not to spend anything on them. The past few months this has been more successful than it was in the past, so we’re just now getting on top of the debt and really making progress in getting the balance down.

With all of that laid out, here’s what our budget looks like now:

Definitely a much tighter fit than our last budget, as just about every penny is accounted for.

Goals to Reach by June:

  • Get our credit cards under 80% utilization (Currently we are sitting at 88%, 81%, 98%, and 94%. We will only use them for emergencies until we get under 30%)
  • Keep utilities under $200
  • Make bi-weekly payments on the mortgage instead of monthly (see this article for why we’ve decided to do that)
  • Increase savings to $30 every month

So that’s all for this time folks! Please feel free to ask me any questions and share how you’re making it work in the comments below. If you’re looking for a way to keep track of bills, check out this post I did on how we keep everything on track while getting paid bi-weekly.

Whew! Can I just say I’m absolutely breathing a sigh of relief getting this post finished? I have fallen off the bandwagon since Easton was born. Life with a newborn is hard, but we’ve found ways to make it easier (and more affordable!). Breastfeeding, baby wearing, and using cloth diapers has made such a positive impact for us!

5 thoughts on “Our Real Budget #2: Living on Just $1800 Monthly *Update*

  1. Hi there,

    I understand the biweekly mortgage, but wouldn’t you save more money by paying down your higher-interest credit cards?

    That would, also, lower your CC utilization percentage faster, which will increase your credit scores. The higher credit scores will make it easier to refinance to a lower-interest 15-yr mortgage.

  2. I love how everyone was giving you such a hard time about your house payment. Mine was $126.38. We didn’t have property taxes or homeowners insurance with that payment. If we did our payment would only be about $210.00 a month. When you live in a town of about 250-300 people in Northern Iowa, you spend way less on housing. So yes, there are really places where you can have small house payments.

  3. I applaud your efforts. Living frugally isn’t easy. Where I live it costs me $900/month to put my 56 year old husband on my health insurance with my employer and that is with a 4k deductible. Health insurance seems to be the budget wild card as illness and premiums seem to escalate. Get your debt paid down and you’ll be so surprised how quickly it can be done using the snowball method. Best of luck for your future.

  4. I think it’s great that you spend $350/month on groceries! We have reduced our grocery bill to around $300. It is hard, but now we have done it for probably six months consistently and it seems normal now. While paying off debt, this is an area that people can really squeeze a lot of money out of and throw at their debt! Great job!

    http://www.LivingtobeDebtFree.com

  5. We switched from cable to a Roku stick, the stick cost $35 to buy and then it costs about $25 dollars a month for use (usually only $19 per month no contract! but my husband added baseball to it for the season so an extra $5 and when the season is over we go back to $19) instead of your large cable bill. As long as you have the internet which for us is about $65 dollars u can use the stick. I get enough of my HGTV fixes and my husband gets to watch a few good sports channels. I can’t tell you how many friends we have turned onto this. Cable for us would have been $170 per month and that’s just for basic service.

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