Manage Money

How our family of 3 lived off $41,353 in 2019

Take a peek into how our family lived off just $41k in 2019, and see what eats up most of our money in our annual spending.

Another Year. Another decade. 2019 has come and gone. I felt like I was living like a king, hopefully the fam felt like royalty, and it only took $41,000. To be exact, we spent $41,353.21. This is the story of how our family of 3 lived off $41k in 2019.

Spending Graph How our family of 3 lived off $41,353 in 2019

Spending Breakdown

Here’s a quick break down of what that looks like:

This is based off my take home pay. I’m not including items taken out of my paycheck before I ever see it. Those items would include taxes, 401(k), insurance and the dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA). Of those, you could say insurance and the DCFSA count as spending, but for simplicity sake, I’m only using take home. Those two items would be not existent if I didn’t have a job.

Spending by Category

Breaking it down, each category looks like this:

Housing and Utilities

43% of Spending | Total: $17,694.58 | Monthly Average: $1,474.55

• House: 32% of Spending: 13,116.28/year or $1,093.02/month

We have a paid-off house, so this expense is mostly for paying property taxes and HOA dues. Yet, it is still one-third of our total annual spending! The taxes drive me crazy, but I’m sure I’ll appreciate it more once our kids are in school. A small portion went towards house maintenance.

• Utilities: 11% of Spending: $4,578.30/year or $381.53/month

I lump phone, internet, electric, gas, and water/sewer into one category. Sure, the phone isn’t necessarily a utility, but it’s where I put it. Utilities in Texas are relatively cheap, at least compared to where we used to live: California.

A big change I saw this year from the internet provider is that they didn’t hassle me as much as previous years. Every year, I cancel my plan, then start a new plan to get the intro rate. Canceling service in the past has been a big hassle, and you have to answer a ton of questions.

Not this year!

This year, I called to cancel, and the customer service rep just said, “OK.” It was a quick phone call. Now if only you could do it online…

The second big change is that they gave me the intro rate for 2 years! That means I don’t have to deal with it this year (2020). Yay!

Life: Food, Shopping, Transportation, Gym

46% of Spending | Total: $19,339.99 | Monthly Average: $1,611.67

• Transportation: 19% of Spending: $7,749.45/year or $645.79/month

We spent about $225 a month on gas. Gone on FIRE Mom has a commute and goes through a tank of gas every week. The rest went towards car maintenance, tires and registration fees. Ouch! …And January isn’t off to a good start either. Just take a look at what we spent for repairs on one car in our January Net Worth Report

• Groceries: 4% of Spending: $1,811.04/year or $‭150.92‬/month ‬‬

Included is personal care products that you would pick up at the grocery store as well.
We use coupons and warehouse stores to help keep our costs low. I’ll get around to writing a post about that one of these days. In the meantime, just ask if you are curious.

• Restaurants: 1% of Spending: $495.49/year or $41.29/month

If you have been reading my monthly net worth reports, you know that I gotta get my fix of BBQ occasionally. I’m a fan of Hard Eight BBQ.

• Shopping: 9% of Spending: $3,911.07/year or $325.92/month

Includes clothing, entertainment, and all other spending not in the grocery category. We get Hulu and Tidal free through our Sprint plan, so that really helps out. Still, shopping is my weakness. (Gone On FIRE Mom rarely shops for anything other than the occasional pair of pants for work at Sam’s Club or Costco.) I’m an engineering nerd, and there are toys that I keep my eye on throughout the year. I usually pull the trigger when they go on sale at a good price.

Right now, I’m just waiting for the Ecobee to come down to the right price. It has until June when our local utility rebate expires.

• Daycare: 9% of Spending: $3,687.59/year or $307.30/month

Most of our daycare is paid for through our DCFSA, but that is capped at $5,000 per year. This is what is left over after the DCFSA is drained.

• Pet: 3% of Spending: $1,081.42/year or $90.12/month

In case you think pets are expensive, they’re really not that bad. This is what we paid throughout the year for healthy pets, except for that one trip to the Emergency Room in December , which was around $400. Otherwise, that means $700 for the year for two large, healthy dogs. This does include having to board them occasionally when we go out of town.

• Gym: 1% of Spending: $603.93/year or $50.33/month

Staying healthy is a priority for me, and this is the price I am willing to pay for it. Yes, you can work out at home to save this money, but I am more accountable when I have the membership, and it is a small percentage of our spending.

Everything Else

11% of Budget | Total: $4318.64 | Monthly Average: $359.89

• Travel: 2% of Spending: $633.20/year or $52.77/ month

We didn’t actually do any travelling last year or go on any vacations. This was all for a trip we plan to take this year! It’s coming up fairly soon. Yay! It’s been too long.

• Miscellaneous: 2% of Spending: $904.24/year or $75.35/month

Includes everything that doesn’t fall into the other categories. Paying for this blog is one of those things. Other items included are things like family pictures and medical bills, since we plan on saving our HSA for retirement.

Related: $500,000 + 6 Reasons you need a Tax-Free HSA Today

• Work Related: 7% of Spending: $2,781.20/year or $231.77/month

This is mostly for long term disability insurance and professional association dues. Gone On FIRE Mom’s new job covers the professional association dues, fees for advanced certifications, and fees related to keeping her license, so that should really cut down this category. Hopefully insurance is the only expense we will have to pay.


If you read my 2019 Annual Summary, you may have noticed that I stated my total spending in 2019 was $47,676.12. There are two reasons for the difference. The first difference is that I didn’t include Giving in the amount we lived off of. It’s not money we need to live, but money we choose to freely give.

That’s not to diminish the importance of giving. I think our giving directly affects us mentally and spiritually, which in turn affects the amount we are able to live off of each year. One main area is that giving teaches us to be more generous, which tends to lead to increased contentment. Contentment allows you to be satisfied with what you have and not always need to run out for the “latest and greatest.”

I believe that giving, tithe include, affects a person much more than just financially. In fact, the financial return may be the least significant of ways one is impacted.

The second difference is that I included our income tax refund in the miscellaneous category. I think it would be misleading to take off that amount of money and say we didn’t need it to live.


There it is. The location of every dollar that came and went through our hands. I like to review spending annually (on top of monthly reviews because we’re money nerds), because it really puts a spotlight on high spending areas.

Almost half of our annual expenses were spent just to keep the roof over our head and the lights turned on! It’s the most expensive, therefore I’m always looking for ways to minimize it.

The other half was partially spent on non-discretionary items, like food, but the discretionary half is where I like to put a lot of my focus. Transportation and shopping are the two categories that stand out. I’ll have to ask myself throughout this year, “How can I improve these areas?”

As you might have read in my 2020 Goals, I have made it a goal to increase my savings rate to greater than 60%. In order to achieve this, this year we need some combination of living off of less than $40,000 and/or getting raises at work. We’ll see if we can make both of these things happen.

How did your 2019 turn-out? Did you keep your spending in check and achieve your goals?

FIRE Away!