Thursday, December 10, 2009

Under $1000 Per Month

My husband makes less than $1000 per month.

Our monthly expenses are under $1000 per month.

Our annual household income is higher than $12,000. I currently make money mystery shopping and from ad revenue. My monthly mystery shopping income rarely puts us over $1000 per month, but my ad revenue has for the last few months.

No matter how much money this blog makes, it would be counter productive for us to spend more than $1000 per month. Here are three reasons why:

#1) We don't need to.

We have everything we need on my husband's income. Our basic monthly expenses are taken care of. These include food, shelter, gas, electricity, car maintenance and any odds and ends that come up.

#2) It goes against our long-term goals.

Our long-term goals involve drastically reducing our expenses. We are practicing now and are getting better and better at cutting our expenses. Increasing our standard of living to match a new income is not the best thing for us in the long run.

#3) It is a catch 22.

If I spend more money, the information in this blog becomes obsolete and the blog income goes away. To me, this reason is not valid alone, which is why it is third.

What are we doing with the extra money?

We are building our savings. We had to take some money out of savings to pay for our midwifery bills and it is still at a level below what we are comfortable with. I can usually throw $20 into our savings each month, sometimes more, but when I threw a little over two hundred in from Adsense and Amazon last week, that felt good. That is not money we want to touch, as it is counter productive. It doesn't help us to spend that money.

Don't you want a better life ?

Of course I could find things that I could justify as "needs" to spend extra income on. Since our true needs are met though, we are using extra money not to increase our standard of living and level of luxury now, but to invest in our goals for the future. That is having a better life.


Lisa in Oz said...

I couldn't agree more. We're careful to live beneath our means and save the difference - to us, the investment in our future is worth the effort that budgeting takes right now.

autumn said...

Great post. I totally agree. We used to live like you and it was one of the best times of our lives. I'm constantly striving to bring our lifestyle back to a more simple time when we were content with what we had and just enjoyed our life.

Leah said...

Emily, this is one of the biggest reasons so many people continue to struggle to make it each and every year! When they come into extra money, they immediately think of a way to spend it. Talk about losing sight of long-term goals! Way to stay focused! Living within your means (whatever they are) takes discipline.

Jennifer said...

I'm so glad your ad revenue is working! And thank you for the tip on BlogHer. All ad revenue from my blog, what little I've gotten so far, goes straight into the girls' college funds.

Diana @ frontyardfoodie said...

You are so inspiring. Thanks for reminding us that quality of life doesn't come with a dollar amount attached.

Anonymous said...

While i agree that spending within your means is a healthy thing to do, wouldn't spending some of that money on a washer help cut down on the time spent doing laundry so you could spend more time with your family and other projects within the home? Or is the cost of the electricity to run the machine counter productive?

Emily said...

Anon, I got a manual washer for my birthday.

Both before and now, laundry time is one of my kids' favorite time because it is Mommy and water play time. So by buying a traditional washer I would be wasting water and electricity as well as losing out on a fun family activity. Not to mention, laundry only took a half hour of my day, now it takes 10 minutes. It's not like I ever spent all day doing it.

Devon said...

I think it is a good thing to want to reduce expenses and live simply, but--as you know--my grind is you not insuring the kids. I personally still don't get that. But whatever, it's your life. I do like the tips, though.

Scottish Twins said...

I admire your self-control. Most people aren't able to hold back from increasing their standard of living when they are able to.

Leah said...

I've been meaning to ask you, are you still liking the Wonder Wash? We're expecting a baby in May, and I've read that they are great for washing cloth diapers (which we plan on using). We have a svery mall hot water heater in our house, so I'm scared we would constantly be running out of hot water if I wash the diapers in our regular machine.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily
Theres a few things I would like to understand about what you have written. First. How do you keep mold from building up in your apt if your drying all your clothes inside. I have had to do this when my children were quite young I had a real problem with mold building up from all the moisture in the air. Second.. what is your reasoning for not getting public help with medical care. I have read that you dont like to use government help but I feel that prenatal care and taking your children to the doctor on a regular basis is pretty important. I believe that God showes us resources to help us.. I firmly believe in being self reliant, but we also need to accept help when it is offered I believe not doing so is like telling God he can keep his gifts to himself.. well just a thought ... have a good day
Michele from washington

Anonymous said...

While I do applaud you for living within your means, I am with Devon. Insurance is WAY too important. You never know what can happen. My daughter was sick for 2 months and without insurance the many doctor visits and all of the medications would have cost us several thousand dollars. Her medication the last round would have been $500 without insurance. I can't imagine what it would financially do to us if we ever needed surgery or had a serious chronic condition.

Emily said...

Leah, I do still love the Wonder Wash. I removed the handle, as it is easier to tumble instead of cranking the handle. It has made my life easier and is great for diapers.

Michelle, I'll add that to the FAQ. It would take at least one post to explain our position on medical insurance, doctors' visits, as well as our current situation. We're still covered by the gov't insurance after talking to DHHS, and are waiting to see what happens with health care reform to see if we will come off of it or not.

Elizabeth said...

This comment is not meant to be snarky, as I totally understand your views. But in our state, if you have over $2,000 in savings you can not get state medical assistance. I remember you saying your children are on the state medical assistance and your state may not be the same but if it is, once your savings build up what will you do about the medical issues if you don't have assistance and don't have insurance?

Anonymous said...


This is why we need to do away with health insurance. Every citizen of this country should be able to get medical care any time, regardless of finances. This should be a tax paid, government run institution.

People cry "oh socialism..woe is me!"

Is it socialism?

I guess not any more than the library, the post office, and the department of motor vehicles is socialist. (And if you think the price of stamps maintains the cost of the postal service you are dead wrong)

We're fine with our tax paid dollars delivering our freaking mail but we're afraid of it providing health care for all?

Something is wrong with this country.

Elizabeth said...

By the way, I think the health care system sucks in this country. I don't know a fix to the problem but I can tell you that my hubby has insurance through his workplace but we can not afford the $500 to cover the whole family. So the kids get government assistance when needed and I pay for my bills out of pocket.

Jen said...

Nice post, Emily. I think the title of your blog is totally valid! It's too bad more people don't keep expenses low, and save the difference between expenses and income. Your family has a bright future due to the discipline you and your husband have regarding finances.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is anything noble in raising children in poverty. You will contest that you are richer than most of the world, but you live in the USA. One of the reasons deaths from things like typhoid have been wiped out here is proper sanitation. Many women in other parts of the world make soap from animal fat and ash turned to lye. Letting children play in laundry water from washing your husband's underwear is anything but safe. I really wish you would rethink your stance on cleanliness. It is after all, next to Godliness!

Anonymous said...

To the poster who thinks we should have free health insurance for everyone. Why should someone who works 60 hours a week pay for someone who only works 39 hours a week to have more children than they can actually afford? Emily and Dan have made a decision to have many children while many of us will have 1 or 2 because that is how many we can purchase health care, fresh food, and books for. While I do believe in helping out those that are less fortunate, in Emily and Dan's case this is a choice and they do not want better for their family. They are content letting the tax payers foot the bill if they have an emergency and end up in the hospital. I don't think that is fair.

Emily said...

Anon, you gave me a good chuckle, thinking I am anti-sanitation and anti-cleanliness. The kids don't actually play in the laundry water. They have cups in the shower stall that I fill for them while I do the laundry. I stand by the fact that sanitation does not have to include nasty chemicals, though.

KAR said...

Sanitation as far as handwashing clothes means extremely hot water, a scrub board, a clothes wringer and air drying in the sun. Not a stick and a bucket in the tub.

Sam said...

@ Elizabeth

I agree - the healthcare system does suck. When I get my statements from the hospital I am so floored at what they charge for their services. $250 to spend 30 minutes with a nurse practitioner - not even a full-on doctor, a NP! Ridiculous! When they run blood tests it's easily $50 per test - some of the things they test for even cost close to $200. When you're having 5 or 6 blood tests run that adds up. I don't think government run healthcare is the answer though, I think having reasonably priced services and health insurance will go so much further than a taxpayer provided system.

I'm not sure where the cycle for charging outrageous sums of money begins though. Is it the insurance company charging high premiums because the hospitals charge so much for services; or is it the hospitals charging a lot because they can, knowing the insurance providers will cover it and the unisured or underinsured get to pay for that greediness?

I know some things cost a lot of money - surgery is a big deal and there are a lot of people involved, how much it should cost I don't know - I've never had surgery and had to price one before. But, $250 for a 30 minute consultation is outrageous - plain and simple.

Hopewell said...

I applaud you for saving and maintaining an emergency fund--something many of us struggle with. However, I'm with the others on health insurance--like it or not with kids you really should have it. A cold that turns into pnemonia, a real attack of flu or even something not illness-related, but, say a fall off the couch when you attention wanders for a few seconds. Are you going to stitch the kid's head up yourself? [I know I couldn't!] a trip to even just an Urgent Care would about wipe out your savings. Like the others have said, it's your life, I'm just urging you to think a little deeper on this one.

Rachel said...

Way to go Emily! You take criticism (constructive or not) beautifully!

Anonymous said...

Agreed, there is nothing noble about raising your children in poverty when you don't have to.

Anonymous said...

I'm so printing this off and showing it to my husband. He has come a long way in a very short time, but I don't think he really understands that the goal is not to save money, it's to gain freedom. This post was a wonderfully eloquent expression of that. Thanks.


PS this link sums up what I think of health care.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I LOVE this post and shared it on Google.

I think regardless of the $$ amount a person is trying to "live under" there are some life lessons to be learned here. In particular, the statement "Increasing our standard of living to match a new income is not the best thing for us in the long run." is something everyone could do well to learn.

In the past, yes, my husband and I have lived up to our income, but it was ALL variable, fun expenses. Things like traveling, buying books, fun clothes and eating out - things that we were able to quickly cut when we needed to tighten our budget. We did not mind cutting those expenses because they were for FUN and have a goal in life to never commit ourselves with fixed expenses up to our income. My goal in life is that no matter what income I am living within, that my fixed expenses (house, car, basic food) be a minimum.

heather said...

i could go on and on about not insuring yourselves and children. and in my own blog i have. it's your choice. please don't fall into the security that if one of you develops cancer that you can go to the ER and get the treatment you need. that's NOT how it works. i am an RN and cancer survivior. feel free to read my posts on healthcare, the most recent i believe explains what the ER/hospital is required to treat and what they are not. it is not a catch all by any means and many lives are lost because of the security people think they have.

Clisby said...

"Why should someone who works 60 hours a week pay for someone who only works 39 hours a week to have more children than they can actually afford?"

Oh, I don't know. Why should someone who has no children (or no children in public schools) pay for public schools? Why should someone who never uses the public library have to pay taxes to support it? Why should someone who is completely opposed to war have to pay taxes to support that?

When it comes to the issue of public health care, who works how many hours a week is completely irrelevant. The basic question is: Is health care a legitimate function of government? That's a genuinely debatable question. If the answer is yes, then we should raise taxes to pay for it. Period. We don't require that people buy private education insurance to use public schools, or private court insurance in order to get justice. If health care is legitimately a government function, then nobody should have to pay for it, outside of the taxes we all pay. And while we're at it, we could stop having taxpayers subsidize people's private health care insurance (including mine, by the way.)

Me said...

I agree that raising your children in poverty is not a lofty goal. You can find a balance and living without insurance in a house that is less than 200 sqf (your post way back) is not balance it is an experiment to see how little and cheaply you can live. You can aspire to having a 1000 sqf home with a "real" washing machine without be "of the world".
We hope to have a smaller house than the one we are currently living in with some acreage so we can become more independent by raising some of our own food.
Also you are very aware of what is (and isn't) in your childrens food and insist on buying the most wholesome so why are you buying conventional apples (even at .06) rather than organic? I would think that you would buy conventional for only those types of produce that are not part of the "dirty dozen".

BTW I love your blog and cannot wait to try the crockpot bread!
Thank you for taking time from your family to share.

Cate said...

I find your third reason very interesting. Do you find yourself using your blog to justify other decisions? I know you said it wasn't your major reason, but it was important enough that you mentioned it at all.

If your husband got a raise and it meant you could afford to make a change you might like to make (say, being able to buy organic produce or something like that), would you refuse because your blog is "Under $1000 per Month" instead of under $1100 or whatever?

frugalredneck said...

great post emily, thanks for all the help, This was not my orginal post, But I thought it best to calm down first before posting anything but ty Michelle

P.S. I never got from what you wrote that you let your kids play in dirty underwear water hahahaha I used my MIND, And assumed the obvious, That it was water play time, while you wash, Just like my kids have a bowl and some play dishes to wash, on the floor next to me while I wash dishes.
I stink stink stink in the biggest way with budgeting, and saving, This is the biggest area I hope to gain more knowledge from you!!!! I am ashamed at the amount of money my husband makes and how little we save. Any good links to budgeting would help me out so much, I honestly don't think I know how to budget correctly. LOL Thanks so much Michelle

Lisa said...

Hi, Emily! As you know I believe in your

trying to live within your means, although

I think you go a little too far being

frugal.I think you do a good job .How

would you make it , if you couldn't find a

place to live that had the heat, water,

sewer & trash included? Your income is not

enough to cover that. Some places here in

Ohio , the county I live in the basic rate

for water/sewer is $200 per month.You

could not find a place to live here for

what you are paying now with 3 children

living there. The landlords just won't

allow it & the town has restrictions on

what they consider rooming houses.I

believe in living in small places & was

going to tell you of another site you will

like. It's

.It's nothing personal against you.It's

just that your expectations are becoming

unrealistic in today's economy.My husband

brings home around $1,500 a month & it's

hard for us to make it these days even

watching what we are spending . We don't

overspend.I have to find a way to cut $300

out of our budget now, because I had a

job for 2 months & got caught up,then they

cut me to 1 day a week, now none.Here in

Ohio, you are not allowed to have a

savings account or you can't get state

assisted medical & if you put in your

Earned Income Credit in savings , they

will take any benefits you are receiving.

How do you have a savings account?Don't

you have to report it there on your state

medical card applications?What about car

repairs ? Our car just had new brakes,

struts, shocks , & drums put on & it was

$500. This amount was over less than half

the amount it would of cost , if hadn't

had a friend do it. I talked to a man ,

who works at Wal-Mart for 6 years & he

said he can get health insurance for the

whole family for $50 a month . It has a

$5,000 deductible paying 80% after that.He

said part time employees can get it , after

1 year there. How come you don't get it

instead of state insurance, since you are

opposed to food stamps?The Super Wal-mart

here is letting people go, cutting hours &

freezing wages. The custodians are the

first to go here. The others have to do

some of those things. Is that happening

there yet? Are there any other job

opportunities for your husband there, as

I'm not sure he would even qualify for

unemployment benefits, as he is part time

& needs to make the qualifying amount,

which last I knew was $250 per week before

could even get that.I understand how you

want to live within your means &

appreciate that you are diligent in

accomplishing that. I'm just saying it

would only take 1 of these factors to make

it impossible for you to make it on that

income.I will say this , that God can make

a way for you to make it, but it still

takes money in today's world. It doesn't

take as much as people say to raise

children, but more than you are making, if

housing situation different.I'm not trying

to be discouraging to you, just to help

you see some of the possible scenarios.


Emily said...

Cate, actually, I figured someone else would bring up the blog, accusing me of continuing to live on less than we could because of it. But I am proof you can live well on less, and I will continue to be proof. As I said, I could justify other things as "needs" like organic fruit, but savings is more of a priority to us than organic fruit.

Michelle/anon, from way up in the comments, mold doesn't seem to be a problem. In the summer we have the windows open and it gets dry in the winter from the heat.

Lisa, an apartment with utlities included in pretty common in Maine, and we could find one for a lot less in other areas of the state if we had to. We don't put our EITC in savings. The bulk of it goes to tuition. We have always had a savings account, but it has never effected our status for health insurance. A $5000 deductible is pretty high. If we don't have that in our savings, and don't spend that much annually at the Drs office, we would not also pay monthly premiums. Walmart here is not letting people go. Walmart sales are up here, and have been for several quarters. We do have backup income, and really, considering all of these factors is proof for me that savings is essential. Our housing is our highest expense and owning our own home is vital to our financial security.

Virginia said...

I hear all the comments and have plenty of my own opinions on Emily's blog as well as the commenters. The only one I will choose to share now is...

Emily, how many children do you think you can add to the family before the regular monthly expenses go up? I know that you have said in an extreme case your current house could fit 13 kids (not counting fire codes, etc.) but with more kids basic needs like food, clothing, etc. go up too. I understand second hand and hand me down clothes, but I am not sure clothing would make it for 13 kids (especially with how rough boys can be). I also know that you will not have room to store all this stuff. Just my thoughts....

Clisby said...

A $5000 deductible might sound high. But when my husband was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and had to have one kidney removed, our $4000 deductible looked a lot better than the $30,000+ we'd have had to pay if we had no insurance.

Me said...

This is the thing that everyone is trying to get you to understand Emily. You may not CURRENTLY spend $5000 a year at the doctor and you may not go very often but do you seriously think that people plan to get cancer, organ transplants, children with disorders, etc. I know you somehow think that you are immune from this but let me assure you that you are not. I remember being as young as you, pregnant with my second son and thinking that those were things that happened to other people. My 4th son has a genetic disorder that costs tens of thousands of dollars a year. He was diagnosed when he was two. Had we not already had insurance it would have been darn near impossible to get it.

You need to put your children and their health ahead of your need to live on $10 a month. Living frugally is one thing but putting your children in such a precarious position is not something to pat yourself on that back about.

Anonymous said...

I pay taxes for public services I don't use all the time. One of them should not be so two able bodied adults can have more children than they can afford to provide for to have free medical care.

frugalredneck said...

Last comment on this one, To anon above, Her husband works, and pays taxes, So he pays taxes for his own state healthcare, Your off the hook. I was never so sure that eugenics are alive and well in america until some comments on here.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed your blog in the past, but I'm beginning to feel differently. If you have savings, you need to report this to the state. It's the honest Christian thing to do.

My own family is probably living on less than what you are living on and we pay for health insurance and home ownership expenses. Honestly, you do need to include your savings, it's still earnings and you'll probably be putting it towards expenses that may come your way later on that you can't afford otherwise. To me, it's just like frugal bloggers who claim to live on little and yet receive grocery/etc. endorsement freebies, etc. that they personally use but don't claim in their budgets either.

I didn't realize how much extra income you are bringing in each month now. That's quite a bit of extra income! It's great that you are adding to your income but also realize that you and your husband have a responsibility to uphold the Christian values you attest to. If your income is steady and continues to increase, then the right thing to do would be to get off state coverage which as you previously mentioned includes your children and husband and purchase whatever insurance you can afford, even if it's only a hospitalization policy.

It's easy to see the gray areas versus black and white. As Christians, it's important to not blur that fine line.

Emily said...

Anon, directly above, I didn't say how much I was bringing in this month, so I'm not sure why your saying "That's quite a bit of extra income!" I do report savings to the gov't and always have and have no intention of not reporting blog earnings. I agree that as Christians we should not blur the lines between right and wrong, which is why it is odd that you are coming to my blog and anonymously accusing me of things you know nothing about.

Anonymous said...


I don't think you have a clue as to what Eugenics is. The tax money a quiverfull family that makes under 1000 a month will pay would not cover the gas to drive them to the free clinic.

Meg said...


I've just finished reading your entire blog and all comments. It took a few days but I was determined!

I disagree with you on some issues; organized religion, homeschooling, birth control, and a few other things my tired brain can't remember at the moment, but I just had to tell you that I admire you for being frugal.

I am also living within my means, no credit, and trying to slowly save for a rainy day. I've tried it the other way and had a disastrous result. I think people in this country are finally facing the hard truth that we've all been living in a fantasy world of credit and now it's time to change our ways. It isn't easy, but it can be done with a strict budget, planning ahead, and determination.

I also admire the way you handle criticism, even the ones who seem to delight in being mean. You come off as mature and confident, while a few (certainly not all who criticize) seem to come here just to fight. I think people can criticize without being mean about it.

I'm enjoying your blog and will continue reading. Good luck!

Organizing Mommy said...

I'm still in awe of your pursuits and just what you do! I think I spend $1,000 a month in groceries. In fact, I'm pretty sure I do. Mortgage ditto. The rest? everything else. If you can live at this level while you are young, those good habits will stay with you. I feel so guilty when I read your blog--not because you make me feel guilty. It's just me. I wonder how I could do better. Our income is so much larger, and our expenses are also. I just wonder if I would be faithful with less? or more for that matter?

Anonymous said...

Why bless your heart Emily dear. This world is too wrapped up in money. You just throw that worry right out the window with the bathwater. God will provide! Why just look around this fine world at how well he takes care of all his children. You never see Christians going without. It is always other countries that haven't been saved. Bless you and your family Emily.


Anonymous said...

I think your blog is great in regards to living below your means. BUT your blog is also a testimony to people who take advantage of our government system to maintain a lifestyle of continued government assistance. The tax payers are subsidizing much of your lifestyle. You sound very intelligent and using some more common sense you could be far more successful and not need government assistance. Nobody said you had to blow a ton of money but should get off the tax payer supported programs.

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