Our REAL Budget as a Single Income Family in 2018

That’s right, I’m going to tell you the real numbers in our single income family’s budget. Am I crazy? Maybe. But I want to show you that its possible to live well as a single income family.

I use a zero based budget to balance my family’s finances. I wrote an entire post here, teaching what a zero based budget is, and walking you through how to start one of your own. This budget (among other things) has made us able to survive as a single income family, & has given me the freedom to be a stay at home mom. If you’re interested, go check that post out and start your own zero based budget!

If you already have a functional budget of your own & want to compare your spending to another family’s, or if you’re just feeling nosy, let’s get into the ACTUAL numbers you see in my single income family’s budget.

Let’s talk numbers first.

These are the average, budgeted numbers I work with.

  • Mortgage + Insurance: 740
  • Car Insurance: 300
  • Subaru Loan: 300
  • Phone: 100
  • Consumers & DTE: 200
  • Water & Sewer: 75
  • Internet: 40
  • Grocery: 300
  • Takeout: 90
  • Baby: 50
  • Loans: 125
  • Credit card: 50

Lets talk Budget Categories for a second.

I break these numbers down into a few categories: Household Bills, Family Expenses, Car Expenses, Debt, and Fun Money. These categories all go into separate savings accounts to keep everything nice & organized. Bills, car expenses & debt go into the “Bills” Savings. Family and fun money go into the “Family” Savings. I have a whole post about all the accounts we use here.

The Categories

Household Bills: this includes our mortgage, gas, electric, internet, water, sewer, and cell phone bill. These stay generally about the same month to month, and are on auto-pay when possible. Heating/cooling expenses vary (because Michigan is a very erratic place) so we estimate high.

Family Expenses: this is a more flexible category for us. It includes our monthly grocery shopping budget, and baby expenses meaning diapers/wipes.

Car Expenses: this includes my husband’s car payment that gives me nightmares, and our car insurance bill. Yes, our car insurance is $300/mo for one car. Is that insane for where you live, or is it similar to what you pay? Please tell me in a comment. I get so worked up about the cost of car insurance being higher in MI than any other state. I’d love to all-caps respond to everyone’s cheaper auto insurance policies in the comments below. My blood pressure is getting high thinking about it. Moving on..

Debt: this isn’t helping my blood pressure. This includes my husband’s student loans and a monthly credit card payment. We use our credit card often and responsibly to maintain Hubby’s incredible credit score. I have a whole post on how we’re becoming debt free here, if you’re interested!

Bonus Category:

Fun Money: finally, something nice to talk about! You may have seen that we budget a whopping $90 for takeout a month. That may seem like utter blasphemy coming from the crazy “monthly meal planning or die” lady, but let me explain: I have a baby. She is a handful. Sometimes we stay up all night AND scream at mommy’s face all day for fun, so sometimes mommy is too exhausted to cook. We plan for these (frequent) “bad days” so we don’t blow our budget.

This money also goes to random treats like Starbucks while we’re at Target on the weekend, etc. Oh! Also tell me in the comments what your order at Starbucks is. I used to be a licensed Starbucks manager. I’m very curious. Back to the budget.


If you’re a number-nerd like me, these total monthly expenses add up to $2,370.

For the extra nerdy number nerds (i love y’all), I want to break this down even further in another post, and discuss spending categories more in depth. I have so much to say that this post will become “too much” for those looking for a more bite-size look. There will be a link here as soon as the extra in depth post is up.

How much do we make?

Well, our income is higher than $2370 a month. Our monthly expenses are about 75% of our income. I’ll let you do the math so people don’t call me tacky for saying my husband’s actual salary. I don’t get why that’s a taboo thing. But throwing out the amount of my mortgage payment & how much I spend on Taco Bell and Starbucks a month is probably already a lot to some people. But whatever. I’m here to show you how we live on one income, that’s it.

Where does the rest of your cash go?

The extra ~25% of our money is dispersed between our multiple savings accounts. Again, that post is here if you get curious now.
We have an “Emergency Fund” account, and a “General” savings account. The Emergency Fund is building up to have 3-6 months worth of expenses saved up, while the “General” account holds money for a variety of purposes that we have laid out. Short term goals or purchases we plan to make that don’t belong in a savings account specifically for a long term goal (like Honeymoon Savings) go here. Things like “I need winter boots before the sky suddenly drops 2 feet of snow on us.” And “Lily is getting huge and will need more 18 month pants soon.” This is flexible and we spend the money here relatively freely as needed.

How our budget works:

I broke this down SUPER simple for myself. We’re a month head on our bills, so due dates don’t play a factor in when what money goes where.
Our Monthly Expenses total $2,370. My husband gets paid weekly, so I divide that number by 4. That equals $592.50 which I round to $593/week.
I’ll put it in a little graphic here to show how it works:

Single Income family budget tutorial. How we survive on one income, and how our single income family budget works.Honestly that simple.

The first week of the month I do 2 transfers when the paycheck deposits. Our credit card is easily paid by transfering money to the account in our bank’s app. The Family account is actually the account his check direct-deposits to, so that doesn’t require a transfer. I just leave the $350 there.

The second week, I transfer $503 to the Bills account and leave $90 of the paycheck in the Family account.

The 3rd & 4th week of the month, I quickly transfer $593 to the Bills account. Done.

Again, the additional ~25% of the paycheck that doesn’t go to our Monthly Expenses is split between our short and long term savings goals weekly.

How hard is it to actually budget this way?

It look me 5x longer to make that little photo than it takes me to do all of these transfers for the whole month.
Using separate accounts keeps our money.. well.. separate so we can see how much we have in each category.
Using a zero based budget forces us to “spend” the money on top of our Monthly Expenses on SAVINGS. Not random impulsive purchases, and not on takeout beyond what’s budgeted for.
I don’t have to think about it. I just need to see what week of the month it is, and spend 20 seconds making 1 or 2 transfers in an app. This is easy stuff, guys!

What if the accounts don’t get down to 0 by the next month?

First, yay! That means we reduced our expenses, which is great! I love to save money. Any money left over is transferred to our growing Emergency Fund, or whichever savings goal we decide to put it toward.

There you go! That’s how my single-income family survives & thrives on one income!

It is possible, and sustainable long term for us!

Do you have any other questions? Are you looking forward to my post going more in depth about budget categories?

Don’t forget to tell me what your car insurance costs, and what your order at Starbucks is in the comments below!

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How to budget as a single income family! I show you the ACTUAL numbers in my family's budget to show how to survive on one income so I can be a stay at home mom! #sahm #budget #savemoney



  1. November 7, 2018 / 3:40 pm

    Using a zero-based budget has been key for us as well when we went down to one income. Now after years of using it, I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.

    • kaylahaas
      November 8, 2018 / 9:31 am

      It just makes the most sense! Thanks for reading Ayanna 🙂

  2. November 7, 2018 / 6:22 pm

    I’m not sure how old you are but I’m gonna assume probably quite a bit younger then me and I commend you for being budget savvy!! So good to be wise in the area of your income and budgeting because it helps not only money situations but it protects against more stress situations!! Especially having an emergency savings!!

    • kaylahaas
      November 8, 2018 / 9:34 am

      Thank you so much April! I’m 23, so maybe I am younger than you!
      I really appreciate your encouragement. ❤❤

  3. Jenna
    November 8, 2018 / 6:14 am

    Ok so auto insurance makes everyone in Michigan insane, I’m sure? I pay mine in full every six months because generally you get a discount and I’m also bundled with HOI. I shop this around at least yearly because the differences are crazy. So I have two cars (one full coverage for Nik’s car and obviously whatever the minimum is for my ten year old car I can’t seem to let go of even though the heat doesn’t work) and three people (I keep Madison on because it’s habit). I pay Allstate $1182/6mo (car insurance only). So around $190/mo? Keep in mind we are old, and you guys might be getting penalized for being younger (which is ridiculous because Nikki and I just get tickets for fun) and while the type of car matters I think her Malibu is comparable to yours and my car is literally a Flintstone car.
    But prior to that, I was with Progressive, and it was $3k/6mo. With the pay in full discount. So when I tell you to shop it: Shop. It. If you want to call my guy, it’s Cameron Young out of Berkley. I can’t confirm it, but it honestly seems like I get a better deal talking old fashioned like to a human, which you know I’m not a fan of but I’m a bigger fan of an extra $4k/year to blow on shoes and Salted Caramel Mochas. Xo

    • kaylahaas
      November 8, 2018 / 9:30 am

      I 100% started reading this comment in your voice before I even knew it was you for sure. You get tickets for fun, I’m cackling 😂
      We’re shopping around. If we save $100/mo you’re obligated to go shopping with me and spend the extra $1200 on shoes.

      • Jenna
        November 8, 2018 / 6:28 pm

        DEAL! 🙂

  4. November 8, 2018 / 7:50 am

    I’m 22. No family buuuuut I’m an awful budgeter. I’m definitely going to put these into practice because my bank account will love me for it!

    • kaylahaas
      November 8, 2018 / 9:31 am

      It’ll work even better without a family! Hahaha! Babies are expensive.

  5. November 8, 2018 / 9:30 am

    Thank you for sharing this! We are a single income family (although I do make some money it is basically reinvested in my blog) and we have a LOT of bills LOL We both have student loans (my husband has his doctorate so just imagine how much HE has in debt LOL)…and car payments .and a lot of kids LOL I just wish it was easier for people to get by as a single income family.

    • kaylahaas
      November 8, 2018 / 9:33 am

      I got anxious just thinking about the amount of debt that he must have.
      Reinvesting in your blog is so smart! I’ll likely do the same 🙂

  6. Denise
    November 8, 2018 / 9:32 am

    Wow this is very detailed and informative, I am a number person myself and I just learned a trick or two here. I love the idea of being a month ahead. My trick is to have at least 1 month worthy in the reserve account and I pull from there if the paycheck is late 😉

    • kaylahaas
      November 8, 2018 / 9:36 am

      I am such a number person! I’m so happy you learned a trick or two 🙂
      That’s a super smart idea!

  7. November 8, 2018 / 11:14 am

    I’m always fascinated by other people’s budgets so thanks for sharing! Was it nerve-racking to start this sort of budget, or did you naturally fall into it as it’s what’s best for all of you?

  8. November 8, 2018 / 2:14 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing all of this! So helpful to see as we are transitioning right now too!

    • kaylahaas
      November 8, 2018 / 5:48 pm

      I hope the transition goes smoothly for you!!

  9. jenna
    November 8, 2018 / 2:30 pm

    Woah, this is so helpful! Such a great breakdown and walkthrough. Thanks for being so detailed and honest

    • kaylahaas
      November 8, 2018 / 5:48 pm

      Thank you Jenna! I really hoped seeing someone else’s budget would be helpful to someone who’s confused.

  10. November 8, 2018 / 9:41 pm

    These tips are so helpful. We are a single income and learned a few helpful things here.

    • kaylahaas
      November 9, 2018 / 10:45 am

      I’m glad I was able to help!!

  11. November 8, 2018 / 9:56 pm

    Specifically answering your questions:

    Car insurance: ours is about $125 a month for two cars, one from 2000 and one from 2011. BUT our car tab fee/tax/whatever here in Washington is INSANE. It can get close to $500 or more depending on how new your car is. Last year the fee for one of ours was legit 200% the actual cost of the tabs.

    Starbucks order: grande Americano with 3 pumps SF cinnamon dolce, 3 pumps skinny mocha, and about an inch of steamed heavy cream. It’s the best low carb Starbucks drink I’ve ever had, except when Starbucks had the SF peppermint, which is the bomb.

    I use YNAB to get super detailed with the categories, and I love it because it’s zero-based budgeting and I can also drill down to see exactly how much I spent on Starbucks in June of 2017 if I wanted to. Which may be scary, but the ability is there!

    • kaylahaas
      November 9, 2018 / 10:53 am

      Thank you so much for your thorough response!
      Those fees are insane!!! I don’t know offhand what ours are like, but its certainly not $500.
      Your Starbucks order sounds like the order of one of my regulars back in the day. Except she gets cinnamon steamed into her heavy cream!

      I’ve never personally used YNAB, but I’ve read such great things! The fee has always held me back because we do well managing our budget for free!

  12. November 9, 2018 / 10:39 am

    I’ll follow up with your other post on a zero based budget. I honestly think that’s what we do already. We might be moving to a single income in the future. Very helpful guide!

    • kaylahaas
      November 9, 2018 / 10:47 am

      It’s a scary transition, but if you’re prepared it can be so nice! Especially with kids at home 🙂

  13. November 15, 2018 / 9:20 am

    Thanks for sharing. I don’t know why people would have a problem knowing your husband’s actual salary, but numbers are weird for people sometimes. LOL I always appreciate people being honest and showing how it actually works for them. I do like the idea of a zero based budget!


  14. November 15, 2018 / 3:45 pm

    The mortgage and insurance seems very low! For the groceries, I dont know how you spend $300, is that a month?! My goodness.. that’s super low if so…

    • kaylahaas
      November 15, 2018 / 4:16 pm

      We were able to make a large down payment on our house, and bought in an affordable suburb outside Detroit. Housing isn’t expensive here!
      As for groceries, yes! We spend $300 a month and eat very healthy 🙂 We don’t buy processed and prepackaged convenience foods, except for the random junk food craving lol. $300 a month feeds us breakfast lunch & dinner for the entire month, aside from what we budget to get takeout a couple times a month!

  15. November 15, 2018 / 6:51 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this! It’s so helpful to see how someone else budgets to get ideas!

    • kaylahaas
      November 15, 2018 / 8:19 pm

      I’m glad you found it helpful!! ❤

  16. November 16, 2018 / 8:17 am

    my husband would love ho you broke this down. he’s a finances nerd having degrees in business, and he has always budgeted down exactly the same way!

    • kaylahaas
      November 16, 2018 / 7:47 pm

      If another finance nerd with degrees in business does the same things, I feel like I must be doing something right!! 🙂

  17. November 16, 2018 / 9:09 am

    I love this look into your budget! It seems fairly similar to ours now that we’re down to a 1 income family as well. But I love that you budget for takeout – including starbucks – because then you can have the treats without feeling like you’re eating into your budget!

    • kaylahaas
      November 16, 2018 / 7:45 pm

      Thank you so much for reading Lisa! I’m glad you enjoyed!
      Budgeting for treats is all that makes sense to me, since I know we’re going to end up getting coffee or wanting to order pizza! Might as well be honest with ourselves!

  18. November 16, 2018 / 11:39 am

    Kayla, this post is genius and SO helpful. I love how you broke down so many expenses and gave us ways to budget!

    • kaylahaas
      November 16, 2018 / 7:43 pm

      Thank you so much for reading Cayla! That means a lot to me!!

  19. Trqcy
    November 16, 2018 / 5:43 pm

    I have three kids at home plus an adult one at home and I am a single parent. I try to get to Starbucks twice during the holidays for my creme brulee favorite, other than that when I meet my fellow Girl Scout moms at Caribou i just get a mug of light brew, $1.69. I pay $181 for insurance for two cars, I leave a car in my driveway when I work evenings and nights for security, and that includes $100K of life insurance in case I kick the bucket. I figure between social security and a little life insurance the kids are ok. I get an additional years worth of salary life insurance at work. I have a 4 bedroom house so my house takes over half my income. Not a good situation, but to rent an apt would be about the same as the $1600 mortgage. My budget is certainly not ideal, and every dollar is spoken for, but I am saving money in a 401K and picking up shifts pays for vacation and presents.

    • kaylahaas
      November 16, 2018 / 7:43 pm

      At the end of the day, as long as everyone’s fed and you’re still saving for retirement, I think you’re doing awesome!
      Leaving a car in your driveway for security is a good tip for single parents working late!!

  20. November 17, 2018 / 6:20 am

    Loved reading about your budget. I love knowing that I’m putting away money for our future or any extra expenses that come up. 🙂

  21. Lindsay P.
    November 24, 2018 / 6:31 pm

    Wow, I love your monthly breakdown and categories! 🙂 I used to be a numbers nerd but I’ve gotten a little lazy lately…and my bank account is the victim. Lol

    As far as insurance goes, I strongly believe in finding a reputable company and sticking it out with them. Yes, your age works against you for the moment, but a good driving record and good payment history will help you out in the long run. I have State Farm, and when I was 19 years old my payments were about $265 a month for full coverage on a cheap, bare-bones vehicle. Now, my husband and I have 2 fairly new vehicles and our payment is $177 (it was only $98-$102 when we lived in Arkansas & Florida, but we’re in Missouri now and it is considered a much higher-risk state).

  22. Michele
    December 7, 2018 / 8:26 am

    I live in Michigan too & struggle with auto insurance. I finally found a company that will do all the leg work for you to find the best deal. I was tired of switching every year & going thru the hassle. Best thing I’ve done!

  23. January 24, 2019 / 5:04 pm

    I live in Michigan as well right now my husband and I share a car our insurance is 250. I do really love the idea of making several different accounts for different expenses it is definitely something I want to do. My husband and I just got married Dec 29th of 2018 so we have a lot of work to do with finances!

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