Show Me The $

I thought I was so clever when I chronicled my budgeting method and off the cuff threw in an: oh yeah, come on back and I’ll break down where our money goes.

Turns out it was a daunting task.  Daunting because while I’m pretty much an open book and wouldn’t have any trouble talking with you face to face about income (tacky, I know), I thought I’d be a bit more discreet on the wide internet.  So I had to do lots of math to figure out the actual percentages.  It took me all day.  Not even including the pie graph (which my geeky spreadsheet husband pushed out in under ten minutes).

Drumroll, please.  Here’s the grand unveiling:

And now the explanation of each category.

Housing – Includes the mortgage (taxes and insurance included) and HOA fees.

Utilities – Electric, natural gas, water and trash

Food – Um, food. ;)

Transportation – Car payment, auto insurance premiums, gasoline

Uncle Sam – *&^%$#%&&*@!#$#@

Retirement Savings – Jeff’s 401k contributions through work and our private IRA contributions

Emergency Savings – For our rainy day fund.  Jeff designed a fancy spreadsheet for me that tracks our savings.  It has a column that is highlighted in either green, yellow, or red depending upon the balance.  I’ve managed to keep it green for quite some time now.  This is where we “store” funds (and accumulate interest) for our annual vacations.

College Savings – We use 529 plans.  We opted for Maryland’s program.

Household Supplies – This category includes the amounts I budget for our monthly Costco trip as well as what I call our “first of the month” trip to Target where I buy the things I can’t get at Costco.  Items in this category are things like: toilet paper, laundry detergent, batteries, light bulbs, etc.

Communication – Cell phones, home phone, internet service, cable

Medical – Health insurance, vision insurance, dental insurance, health flexible spending account contributions

Life Insurance – Whole and term premiums, short and long term disability premiums, AD&D premium

Misc – This is what we have left over at the end of the month/year after we’ve paid for everything else.  Gifts, charitable donations, restaurant outings, clothing, and activities are all funded by this category.

Allowance – Our kids make a pretty penny.  The flip-side of that is that they then have to pay for their own texting, trips to Starbucks, birthday gifts for friends, etc.  Torri contributes monthly to a savings account.  Kennedy saves monthly for spending money at Disney World.  The nice thing about their allowance is that they have to learn to make tough choices.  I even require them to pay for a percentage of their haircuts and budget accordingly.

This was an eye-opening exercise for me.  Fortunately, even after all is said and done, I’m confident that we’re very intentional about spending our money and that very little is falling through careless spending cracks.  We’re not the type to zip through a Starbucks or Jamba Juice every time we’re out because I realize how very quickly those expenditures add up.  On the rare occasions when we eat out, we do so only during happy hour or on “kids eat free” nights.  We don’t spend a lot of money on clothes or fancy electronics (hello and goodbye iPad).  We don’t waste money on trips to low-quality local attractions (county fair or overpriced water parks).  Our kids don’t get new toys every time we step foot into Target.  In short, every penny that goes out is considered and reconsidered.


Because those pennies add up to thousands of dollars over time.  Dollars that we choose to spend on memorable experiences like swimming with stingrays in Grand Cayman, or river rafting in Colorado.

How about you?  How do you choose to spend your money?  Have you ever plotted the percentages you spend?


10 Replies to “Show Me The $”

  1. Wow! I have to say I’m a bit embarrassed to say I am NOT that organized. We have a budget and all, but not quite that detailed!

    I like that you have your kids make their own purchases on the wants (not the needs)! It does teach responsibility. Within the last several months, Max has offered to pay for several friends’ birthday gifts, which has made me so proud!!! They also have their allowance jars that they keep any money they receive from us and grandparents that they use on vacation!

    I also got a chuckle out of your descriptions of “food” and “Uncle Sam”! :)

  2. Wow, that is so great! We also have percentages, but only for what gets entered into our budget on the DR site. We still have too much falling through the cracks and we have not started making the kids pay for birthday presents and such. But now you’ve got me thinking.

    As for the Dave Ramsey system, it is very straight-forward and common sense. If you want to know more (I got your email reply yesterday and accidentally deleted it) I’m happy to share. Just let me know.

    1. Every once in awhile your comments make me cry. But mostly? Mostly you provide comic relief to an otherwise ho-hum day. Thanks for that. Miss you to pieces.

  3. Wow you guys are awesome about keeping track of your money and saving. Josh and I are terrible savers. It’s something we are trying to work on. I kinda cringed at your comment about “low quality local attractions” because we do a lot of that. Rather than spend money on materials, we like to get out and do stuff – a lot. And we spend a lot of time at local attractions. But on the flip side I am always totally jealous of your elaborate trips to Disney!

    1. Our “spending philosophies” are really quite similar, Christina. We, too, would rather spend money on doing stuff, than buying stuff. Memories matter most, I think.

  4. You are the reason why my kids have their own debit cards and why we have their allowance electronically transferred into their accounts each week. I am considering raising their allowance and making them pay a percentage of their haircuts and clothes but… I know that Michael would never, ever get a haircut if that were the case.

  5. We are the same way. We save up for truly memorable experiences as opposed to indulging in smaller trinkets, coffees, & county fairs.

  6. I don’t have a pie chart (wow on that!), but I do track expenses on an Excel spreadsheet. Which is quite handy for budgeting for the next year. For instance I can see that every year I have to buy orchestra concert clothes and I had better learn to put that in the budget.

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