- Clint Proctor left his day job several months ago to become a full-time freelance writer. His wife, Kendall, stays home with their two boys, Landon and Connor.
- The couple have always taken budgeting very seriously and now that they’re relying on inconsistent income, it’s as important as ever.
- Besides the mortgage on their home in Daytona Beach, Florida, they have no debt, which frees up cash flow to spend on things that they enjoy.
- For Business Insider’s “Real Money” series, Proctor tracked his family’s spending during a typical week. They spent $US1,175 on their mortgage, food, and some business expenses.
- Want to share a week of your spending? Email [email protected].
My wife and I have always taken budgeting very seriously. For the first several years of our marriage, we budgeted carefully out of sheer necessity. Out of college, I chose a career in ministry.
And that choice put a fairly low ceiling on our household income. We were both OK with that but we also knew that we’d need to find creative ways to save.
So we followed a strict budget and researched all the savings hacks we could find. And all the work paid off. Even on a limited income, we were able to live quite comfortably. By saving my wife’s income during our first few years of marriage, we were able to save up for the down payment on our home in Daytona Beach, Florida.
After our first son was born, my wife decided to stay home with him. So, all of a sudden, we were now down to one income and budgeting became vital once again.
In June of this year, I launched out as a full-time personal finance freelance writer. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a salary and we’re dealing with an inconsistent income. So seven years into our marriage, budgeting has once again become a major focus.
Here’s a peek at what our “normal” monthly spending looks like.
Thankfully, the freelance writing business has done well and my income has actually increased since leaving my day job. But we still strive to be conservative with our spending.
We also don’t have any student loans and our cars are paid off. Those are two big expenses many families deal with that we don’t need to worry about. Also, since my wife stays home with our two boys, we don’t need to pay for childcare.
Third, we have a low mortgage payment – under $US650. I realise that in some areas, it would be impossible to find housing that is so affordable. But it definitely helps us keep our budget low.
Fourth, freelance writing happens to be a business with low overhead. I don’t work in a profession where I need to rent office space or buy inventory.
However, I do have a few business expenses for things like invoicing and accounting software, email and cloud file storage, and web hosting for my personal blog, The Wallet Wise Guy. And it just so happens that I had an unusual amount of business expenses this month (more on that later).
Some of our expenses like insurance, home improvement, car repairs, and vacations aren’t necessarily spent every month. For instance, if we don’t have any car repairs, we simply move the full $US150 we budgeted for to a dedicated savings account. That way when a repair pops up, the money is sitting there waiting to be used.
This week we spent $US1,175 — roughly 29% of our monthly budget.
One of the reasons the percentage was so high is because our mortgage happened to hit this week.
We also had a few unusual business expenses and our restaurant cost was a bit higher than normal as well. Here’s how it all went down.
On Monday, we decided to find out what the Popeyes chicken sandwich buzz was all about.
I was working away on an article on Monday morning when my brother sent me a link to an article about the Popeyes chicken sandwich craze.
I’m a huge chicken sandwich fan, and I happen to like Popeyes too. So even though we typically don’t eat out on Monday, we simply couldn’t resist the temptation to check things out. And we didn’t regret the decision! Yes, I am firmly in the camp that believes the Popeyes chicken sandwich is the best (don’t even try to convince me otherwise).
Other than our impromptu Popeyes visit, our only other expense was my life insurance premium ($US20.91).
On Tuesday, my wife convinced me to upgrade my business wardrobe.
As a personal finance writer and blogger, there’s only one main business conference that I attend each year, called FinCon, and it just happens to be in September. So one of the common themes you’ll notice throughout this week’s diary is that we had several expenses that were related to my upcoming trip.
One of those expenses took place on Tuesday. My wife was insistent that I needed to buy some new business pants for my trip. My current slacks and khakis were pretty old and faded so she convinced me to do some clothes shopping (something that I typically resist like the plague).
We went to Belk and bought two pairs of pants ($US35.38). Although my business trip was the motivation for buying the pants, we placed the expense under our “clothing” budget.
After that, we headed home and tried out a new orange chicken recipe, which was super yummy. Then we put the kids down for bed and hunkered down for some Netflix and chill time.
On Wednesday, we enjoyed a long walk in the neighbourhood with the kids.
You don’t have to spend money to have fun. For example, one of our neighbours that’s about a 15-minute walk away from us owns a horse. Our boys love to walk down to see the horse and feed him carrots and celery.
The whole experience typically takes about an hour, it’s completely FREE, and the kids love it! After we finished with the walk, we ate leftover orange chicken for dinner.
Thursday included another business expense to help me prep for my trip. I knew I was going to need to order some business cards. But beforehand, I wanted to update my website logo.
Design work is totally out of my domain. So I asked a personal friend of mine who has experience with design if she’d be willing to come up with some ideas and she did an awesome job! I happily sent her $US100 via Venmo for her work.
The only other money we spent on Wednesday was for gas ($US27.45) and the monthly phone payment on my wife’s phone ($US30.00).
On Thursday, I spend the majority of my workday at Starbucks before hitting the gym.
As a freelance writer, I spend a lot of time at coffee shops.
I especially love going to Starbucks because I get free refills when I pay using their app. I’ll get two or three refills per visit, which helps me get my money’s worth (and makes me feel less guilty about how much money I spend each month on coffee). This particular morning I didn’t have enough money left on my app to buy my coffee, so I added $US10.
After work, my wife and I headed over to our gym. And it just so happens that our gym membership fee hit on Thursday as well.
Our membership fee is a little high at $US70. But the reason we’re willing to pay that much is that childcare is included. So our kids get to play on inflatables while we work out, which is awesome. After our workout, we picked up a few ingredients at Aldi and headed home for dinner.
On Friday, my wife and our son enjoyed a mummy-son day at Sea World.
We live about an hour away from Orlando. So, in June of 2018, we bought 15-month passes to Sea World. We had a blast with them but they were finally set to expire on the coming Monday.
We wanted to use them one more time for they expired. But we had made prior commitments for Saturday and Sunday and I had too many assignments due on Friday. So we decided that my wife would go with our 4-year old, Landon, while our 2-year old, Connor, spent the day with Grandma.
Landon and Kendall had never had a “mum-and-son-only day” at Sea World before, so he was uber-excited. They had a great time. And, since park entrance was free, it was actually a pretty affordable day-trip. They hit McDonald’s on the way up ($US6.47) and ate in the park once as well ($US19.43). She had to fill up the gas tank once too ($US32.93).
Meanwhile, I worked at Dunkin Doughnuts in the morning ($US2.29) went to Mickey D’s for lunch ($US5.64). We ate dinner together at home later that night. Speaking of our home, our mortgage came out on Friday as well ($US643.83), which was our largest expense of the week.
On Saturday, I helped my brother move and spent some quality time with him.
My younger brother received a job promotion that required him to move to Colorado Springs.
Up until his move, our entire extended family still lived in the same town. So, while we were happy for him, we were also sad to see him leave. On Saturday, several family members and friends gathered at his apartment to help load his furniture into the U-Haul.
Later on that night, we were able to spend some quality “brother time” together and I treated him to dinner at one of our favourite wing joints ($US18.11). Other than that, my only other expense was my new business cards ($US80.68).
On Sunday, we went to church and spent time with family.
On Sunday, we went to church in the morning and then spent the rest of the day at my parents’ house. The boys had a blast playing tag with my dad and jumping in the pool for an hour or so. And we were able to spend some more time with my brother before he moved on Monday.
So we basically spent no money at all … until the very end of the night. My wife and I were settling down at about 8:45 p.m. for an evening TV show when we realised something terrible – we were out of coffee!
This simply would not do. I rushed off to Aldi and bought a bag of coffee before they closed. I picked up a gallon of milk while I was there too ($US7.40).
If you’re wondering why we didn’t have more trips to the grocery store during the week, here’s why: We try to buy most of our grocery items in bulk. We make one big trip to Sam’s Club at the beginning of the month and do our best to make things last. Things will still pop up here and there, but we’ve found that bulk grocery shopping helps us avoid overspending throughout the month.
Although we spent less than $US10 the entire day, Sunday was one of the most enjoyable days of our week. It served as a healthy reminder that quality time with family is what brings us the most joy in life. And that’s something that all of us can enjoy to the fullest, regardless of our incomes or budgets.
- Read more from our Real Money series:
- My family of 4 is financially independent thanks to passive income from real estate. Here’s what we spend in a typical week.
- My wife and I are saving half of our $US160,000 income so we can leave our corporate jobs in 5 years. Here’s what we spend in a typical week.
- My husband and I live in Seattle and save almost half our income so we don’t have to work by 40. Here’s what we spend in a typical week.
- I retired as a millionaire at 36 to stay home with my kids. Here’s what my family spends in a typical week in San Diego, California.
- More savings and retirement coverage
- How to retire early
- How to save more money
- Are CDs a good investment?
- When to save money in high-yield savings
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.