You budget how much for personal care?


In this post, I’ll be discussing how much we budget on personal care each month. This group is pretty straightforward when looking at what it covers.

Get to the point already!

We budget $75 for personal care each month. This amount has been very consistent for a long time. It had been a bit less in the past, but we increased it a while ago to make sure there was enough for those in our family who don’t get their hair done as often.

How do you stick to it?

This is pretty easy. I get my hair cut once a month, so much it rolls over from month to month so that when my wife or daughters needs something, there is plenty there. The key is to not steal from it when other budget categories might be overspent in a month.

What all does it cover?

This category honestly doesn’t cover very much.

  • Haircuts for anyone in the family (including the dog)
    • For me this is roughly $19/month
  • Hair styling or coloring
  • Optionally makeup and cosmetics


How much do you spend on personal care each month? What other categories would you like me to cover? Let me know in the comments below.

You can also see how much we spend on other budget categories here.

How we got paid $11 for 3 months of cell phone service

cell phone

Let me start by saying this isn’t a scam. We were able to make money on a month’s worth of cell phone service using many of the things I’ve described in this blog.

We’ve used Total Wireless for our cell phone service. There is no reason to go into a lot of detail here because you can read about it in other blog posts (here and here and here). The result is that we pay $62.27 a month for 2 lines and 15GB of shared data.

You’re probably thinking that sounds like I’m paying them, and that’s true. However, I recently determined a way where I could get paid for a month of cell phone service.

The Math

This might get a bit confusing, but essentially I found several deals that when piled up on top of each other, I actually made money for a month worth of cell phone service. To start, Total Wireless was offering 30% off of a phone and month of service bundle. I also was able to use eBates to get a 11% refund through the Total Wireless site. Here is how the math works out.

  • $199 iPhone 6
  • $60 2 line 15GB shared plan
  • $259 subtotal
  • -$77.70 30% off Total Wireless discount (Code found on
  • $181.30 discounted total
  • $13.99 taxes
  • $195.29 total paid by us to Total Wireless

At this point, we were out $195.29, but received a month of service and an iPhone 6 in exchange. Now comes the fun part.

  • $219 iPhone 6 sale on eBay
  • -$28.55 eBay and PayPal fees
  • -$6.50 shipping
  • $183.95 total received from the sale of the phone

If you do the math so far, you’ll see I’m out $11.34. Still not a bad amount to pay for a month of cell phone service.

The Missing Pieces

Remember how I said I used eBates to get a refund? That amount came out to be $15!

So when you subtract $15 from $11.34, you’ll see we were actually paid $3.66 for a month of cell phone service!

I didn’t just buy one iPhone 6, but actually purchased 3 of them and did this 3 times to get 3 months of service. The second phone I sold on eBay for a little less and actually spent $0.16 for the month of service. The third phone I sold through a Facebook garage sale site, and made over $8. When you add it all up, I made over $11 and got 3 months of cell phone service in exchange!


Before putting down this much money, I did a small experiment a few weeks earlier by buying a refurbished phone for $9.99 and using the same discount code along with eBates. I was able to prove that even if I didn’t sell the phone, I would still save $8.88 on a month of service. I did end up selling the phone for twice what I paid for it. After fees and everything, we saved $20.14 on a month of service. That’s when I decided to research doing larger deals to see if it would work.

Pretty crazy, right?!?! What do you think? Would you try something like this? Let me know in the comments below.

You Budget How Much For Entertainment?

movie camera entertainment

In this post, I’ll be discussing how much we budget on entertainment each month. Lots of things could fall under entertainment and depending on where you live or the types of things you value as entertainment, you may want to budget a more.

Get to the point already!

We budget $50 for entertainment each month. This amount has been very consistent for a long time. We decided to start budgeting for it to make sure we could plan a date night.

How do you stick to it?

We generally do a pretty good job of staying within that amount. Occasionally we’ll go over, and sometimes we stay under. We’re generally able to stay under it though because we’re usually pretty busy with other things, or find things to do that doesn’t cost anything. For example, we purchased season passes this year to Cedar Point. That can provide a lot of recurring enjoyment without affecting the entertainment budget.

What all does it cover?

This category covers A LOT! Below are a few of the items that would fall under this budget category along with some notes.

  • Movie rentals
    • Library movies are free and they can transfer any movie we’re interested in from another branch to our local branch.
  • Movie theater
    • We have a theater that isn’t too far from us that has tickets half of what you would pay at the “fancy” theaters.
  • Babysitting
    • We pay our babysitters pretty well because we want them to come back!
  • Other extracurricular activities, i.e.
    • SkyZone
    • Tickets to get into a park
    • Expenses related to entertainment like getting ice cream


How much do you spend on entertainment each month? Do you have a hard time staying under budget? Let me know in the comments below.

You Budget How Much For Clothing?


In this post, we’ll be covering how much we spend on clothing. Not everyone shops for clothes each month. We tend to avoid it at all costs until it’s necessary.

Get to the point already!

Just like the fuel and restaurant budget, we budget $200 for clothing each month, for a total of about $2400 per year.

How do you stick to it?

How much we spend varies from month to month. For example, when the seasons change or a special event is coming we might spend more than $200, while other months we may spend a lot less. Luckily with YNAB the amount we have left at the end of the month will carry over to the next month’s budget.

What all does it cover?

This is a pretty self-explanatory budget category. It covers clothing and just about anything we wear. That can include coats, shoes, swimsuits, and more. We will sometimes use it for other things as well such as bath towels or bedding. They’re all made of cloth right?

There are certainly ways to keep this budget in check. One way is to hand down clothing from older children to younger children. Another may be to shop for clothing from places like Goodwill or consignment shops. We rarely buy clothing unless it’s on sale or we have discounts. We tend to do a few large purchases a couple of times a year, or when we’re desperate.

One major win for us is that we don’t buy clothing unless we need it. That means we’ll keep clothes for a long time until they’ve essentially worn out. We’re not “shoppers”, which means we don’t tend to browse clothes until it’s time to replace them. This helps us in keep our clothing budget in check.


How much do you spend on clothes each month? Where do you tend to buy new clothes? Are you a shopper or someone who avoids it as much as possible? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by mynameisharsha

You Budget How Much For Restaurants and Dining Out?

In this post, I’ll be discussing how much we spend on restaurants and dining out. Depending on where you live, the cost to eat out probably varies a bit. However, there is one way to make sure you stay under budget – eat at home! It’s healthier anyway.

Get to the point already!

Just like the fuel budget, we budget $200 for restaurants and dining out. This amount has been pretty consistent what we’ve used for this category.

How do you stick to it?

The short answer – we don’t. We oftentimes go over. That wasn’t always the case until about a year ago. Before then we’d sometimes go over, but could stay under more easily.

What happened a year ago that made us start going over? Volunteering at church. The group we volunteer with oftentimes gathers at Chick-fil-a for lunch and/or dinner various times on the weekend. That can eat up our restaurant budget pretty quickly with a family of four.

Under normal circumstances this amount is enough for us to eat out at a nice restaurant a couple of times a month, fast food 4-5 times, and maybe a date night.

What all does it cover?

Just like the grocery budget, the dining out budget can cover some items outside of just going to a restaurant. Whether it’s a sit down or fast food restaurant, it’s covered. It also covers quick visits to get some ice cream or frozen yogurt. Finally, it covers things we might buy while for immediate consumption. For example, if we were to go get a slush or pick up a bag of chips at a convenience store to eat right then, those would count towards the restaurant budget.


How much do you spend on restaurants and dining out each month? Do you have a hard time staying under budget? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by Sean MacEntee

You Budget How Much For Gasoline/Fuel?

I’ll be continue covering our budget this month. In this post, I’ll be discussing our fuel or gasoline budget. This one is a little tricky because it can vary a bit depending on a number of factors, such as the types of cars you drive and the number of miles driven each month.

Get to the point already!

Here it is – each month we budget $200 for gasoline or fuel. There have been periods of time where it has been more or less depending on what gasoline prices are. On average, $200 seems to cover it every month.

What do you drive?

We drive two different vehicles in our home, and they’re somewhat opposites when it comes to miles per gallon. Our first car, and the one driven the most, is a 2006 Toyota Prius and gets almost 50 MPG depending on the weather. It has over 200k miles at this point and continues to run well. I commute about 50 miles each day to work, not counting additional driving on the weekend.

Our second vehicle is a 2011 Toyota Sienna. It averages anywhere from 19-23 MPG depending on the type of driving that we’re doing. My wife drives it a varying number of miles each day. Some days that might be a lot, and other days it may sit in the garage.

What all does it cover?

Unlike the grocery budget, the gasoline category is pretty simple. It covers gasoline and fuel for our cars and lawn mower. There is one minor exception to this – vacation. If we’re driving somewhere for vacation, we tend to not use the fuel budget, but instead use whatever we’ve got budgeted for vacation instead.


How much do you spend on gasoline each month? Do we spend more or less than you do? I’d love to see in the comments below.

Photo by Adam Hinett

You Budget How Much For Groceries?

grocery store aisle

If you’ve just started budgeting or planning to start, you’re probably trying to figure out how much to budget for each category. If you’ve budgeted for a while and you’re interested in seeing how your budget compares to ours, you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, I’ll be covering our grocery budget.

Get to the point already!

Here it is – each month we budget $500 for groceries for a family of 4. We previously budgeted $475 just a few months ago, but recently increased it. We’ve got 2 adults in our house and 2 girls, ages 10 and 8. (Man, can they put away the food though!)

We use our grocery budget for a wide variety of items.

  • Food purchased at a grocery store or to be consumed at home
    • This doesn’t include snacks purchased at a gas station to be eaten the car (that would go towards dining out).
    • It would include milk bought at a gas station for use at home, or snacks purchased at a gas station if we were taking them to a party.
  • Toilet paper
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Vitamins
  • Toiletries – shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc
  • Razors
  • Dog food

How is that possible?

We do the majority of our grocery shopping at Aldi. It’s quick, convenient, has great prices, and the options are actually pretty healthy without us having to think about it. They sell the majority of what we need and for everything else we supplement with other stores.

We also use Target’s subscription service which saves us 5%, with an extra 5% off for using our RedCard. This allows us to get what we need (dog food, razors, and vitamins) when we need them.

You might now be thinking:

“Do you eat a lot of processed food?” Not really.

“You must eat out all the time. Show me your dining out budget!” Patience, young Padawan. We don’t eat out that much, maybe a few meals a week.


How much do you spend on groceries each month? Do we spending more or less than you do? I’d love to see in the comments below.

Photo by MinuteDreamer

Early Retirement – What does it mean to you?

I think many people fall into two groups when they think of an “early retirement lifestyle”.

One group thinks that since you’re not going to save for the same amount of time as everyone else (30-40+ years), you’re likely going to retire with very little. If you retire with very little, you’re going to live a very meager existence so you don’t burn through all of your savings quickly.

The other group may think it’s possible to save enough to have a nice retirement in a shorter time period, but that means you’re going to have to live an incredibly frugal life now. Personally, I think living frugally is what allows you to have margin in your life for the things you want, even if that thing you may want is early retirement.

I don’t believe that saving for early retirement needs to be either of the extremes above. Life is short, and anything can happen between now and early retirement, so you need to be able to enjoy life now as well as in the future. An important balance needs to be struck so chaos doesn’t rule.

Many of the topics I’ve written about up to this point have been about how to save money on a variety of things such as internet, cell phones, and even a trip to Disney World. If you’ve followed any of the advice, you’ve hopefully got some extra financial margin in your life. If you haven’t decided what to do with it yet maybe now is the time to go on this journey with me.

Perhaps you’re in a place where you really can’t imagine working for the next 20, 30, or 40 years and you question whether you’ll have enough to actually retire in the end. If that’s the case, than exploring this topic may help you realize you can make plan and live it out for a better future.

There may be some of you who aren’t in either of those two categories, and if that’s the case, that’s okay too. Let me know in the comments below what kinds of questions or skepticism you have. I’ve read stories in the past of people “retiring” by the age of 30 and figured that their situation was different from mine and that’s why they were able to pull it off. I’m 33 now, so I’ve already passed the age that some of these people were able to retire by. It’s never too late to step on the gas pedal and accelerate full speed into the future that we want. No one is going to do it for us!

Photo by Tax Credits

Simple trick to pay down debt slightly faster

We’ve got one last debt to pay off… our mortgage. We’ve made pretty good progress, but I wish it were paid off yesterday. A while ago I came up with a plan to pay it off slightly faster than we were, but without messing up our budget or putting us in a crunch.

I ran by my wife the idea of increasing our mortgage $2/month every month. It doesn’t sound like much, but $2 is enough that over the remaining payments, it can start to add up. It’s also small enough, that we don’t really have to find something to cut out each month to make it work. We just slowly keep putting a tad bit more on there. One month it’s $2 extra, then $4, $6, $8 – you get the point.

Every month I put it into the amortization calculator (because I’m that guy) to figure out the type of impact that extra $2/month has. So far, it has dropped an extra payment off at the end of the mortgage almost ever time if we were to stop adding anything more and just keep going at the new amount forever.

It pretty much follows the rule that if you do a small change over a long period, it has the potential to make a big impact. In this case, the impact is on our mortgage.

You could use this technique with any debt payoff, building savings, or investing. Are there any techniques you’ve found to pay off your mortgage faster? Let me know in the comments below. I’d definitely be interested in hearing about them.

Photo by GotCredit

There Are Only So Many Pieces of the Pie

I’m sure we all hate paying taxes, but to me, income taxes bother me the most.

With property taxes, you can choose to live somewhere more modest to lower your tax burden. With sales taxes, you can choose to buy a cheaper option, or not to make a purchase at all.

While it may not sound exciting to live in a smaller place or not buy something, with an income tax the only way of lowering what you pay in taxes is to make less money, and to me, that seems worse.

Let’s look at our income as a pie divided into 100 pieces (or 100%). Right off the top, more than 6 pieces of pie goes to Social Security. More slices go to pay your state and federal income tax. You may also have a city or school district income tax taking some slices of the pie.

Those pieces of the pie are gone and you can’t get them back. So when a new income tax appears on the ballot or is proposed, even as small is at may seem, I look at it as a slice of pie that can’t be used to feed something else like retirement, college savings, or replacing a vehicle.

The bad thing is that even if the pie gets bigger (like you make more money), the number of slices doesn’t increase. You can’t get a slice back after it’s gone.

So, if you go out and make more money you’ll never get a full pie back. No matter how hard you try, all you’ll be able to do it increase the size of the pie that you’ve got left. As more pieces of the pie are taken away, the increase in the remaining pieces seems like less and less.

This is just my interpretation of income taxes and one way of viewing them. How do you view them? What comes to mind when a new income tax is proposed?

Photo by 401(K) 2013