The Starter Budget

Honestly, it’s hard for me to post this. There are a lot of categories in our budget that I intend to change substantially very soon, so to post our budget without numerous disclaimers is proving to be an enormous act of self-control. Still, in the spirit of full disclosure, and to show where our journey towards better stewardship is taking us, this needs to be done. Without further ado…

Our Current Monthly Budget

Daycare: $600, with an additional $150 every time there is a 5-week month. For $5000 of this annual expense, we are reimbursed from a pre-tax dependent care account, so the tax break roughly offsets the extra cost for five-week months.

Mortgage & Rent: $703, including taxes, insurance, HOA, and PMI.

Utilities: $200, for trash, water, electric, and gas. This is the average cost of last year, although we have made some improvements since.

Home Improvement: $50

Church Tithe: $485, or 10% of our income. This goes up and down based on our income.

Groceries: $300, including household goods (such as toilet paper) and toiletries. This does not include the roughly $100 pre-tax dollars Mr. Steward spends in the work cafeteria for breakfast and lunch, gone before we receive his paycheck.

Restaurants: $100, only for meals eaten by the Stewards together.

Insurances: $165, for two cars and two term life insurance policies.

Mr. Steward’s Spending Money: $190, which covers meals eaten out without Mrs. Steward, alcohol, gifts for Ms. Steward, and any other personal spending. Mr. Steward’s largely goes to trying new kinds of alcohol and lots of entertainment.

Ms. Steward’s Spending Money: $190, which sponsors a child in another country, covers her gym membership, and a lot of meeting friends out and about. These two items are, unsurprisingly, the primary bones of contention in our budget. (Ms. Steward thinks they’re ridiculously high, and Mr. Steward will defend them to his grave.)

Cell Phone: $140, for 5 GB data plan and unlimited texting/talk on two smartphones, and a payment plan (!!!) on Mr. Steward’s new cell phone.

Gas: $75

Taxes and Registration: $15

Auto Service and Parts: $30

Internet: $68, for a fairly high-speed internet plan. Right now this sum also includes cable with HBO for the same price, but that will be turned off next month when it is no longer free.

Baby Supplies: $50, for diapers and approximately one million pacifiers.

Gifts: $30

Entertainment: $21, for Netflix, Amazon Prime, and XBox Live annually.

Hair: $12.50, for Ms. Steward’s  every-other-month haircut.

Taxes: $9, for the tax software each year.

Pharmacy: $6, for vitamins.

Clothing: $20, mostly for work shoes.

Total Spending: $3509

Remaining Savings: $1100, plus sometimes additional money. This will decrease by about $600 once the dependent care account for Bean is used up (unless, of course, we make up the difference in other parts of our budget…) Right now this is being used to beef our emergency fund up to six month’s worth of expenses.

Other Items You Might Wonder About

Healthcare is provided by our respective employers. Ms. Steward has an HSA for which cash is taken out pre-tax. Mr. Steward has a copay, but almost never goes to the doctor.

Travel is something we rarely do. We did go on vacation earlier this year, for the first time since we were married over five years ago. We cash-flowed it.

Car Payments do not exist for us. Mr. Steward’s car was previously owned by his parents and paid off just before we got married. Ms. Steward’s car was an exceedingly generous gift from her grandparents for being the first in the family to graduate from college. Both of our cars are under 100,000 miles, so we have not yet started the car replacement funds.

Retirement is only minimally being saved for right now. Both Stewards get a 4% match at their companies, plus an additional 4% regardless of contribution (for a total of 12%). We are both contributing the maximum 4% match, but we have not yet begun funding a Roth IRA in addition to our 401k/403bs.

Our Budgeting Method

We use Mint, an online website and app made by the same people who developed TurboTax. It auto-populates the data from all of your accounts, to let you see your full financial picture at one time. While this website is definitely the best for us, there are a lot of great options out there.

Well, folks, there it is. Feel free to ask any questions or share your own budget in the comments!


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