February Expenses 2017

February was every good reason I’m glad we aren’t going back to the 9-5 for now. Income aside, there are good things about the 9-5 and bad things. February felt like living proof that I can replace the good things in a way that is more meaningful and impactful than the 9-5 ever was and mitigate the bad more effectively. With our total spending coming in at $1569, apparently it’s rather affordable to do both.

monthly expenses for large family

First the bad….

Both parents and all 5 kids were sick. Throwing up sick. Fever sick. Can barely move sick. For a week! In addition, I had a sinus infection or perhaps allergies (to snow?). February is a short month as is. But an entire week was wiped out.

But here is the great thing. It was ok. The kids could stay home and we didn’t have to stress about finding sick kid child care (almost impossible). We had “work” that needed to get done, but we were mostly ahead of the game. I had to tell one freelance client that some writing would arrive a week later than I had planned, but I was already 4 weeks ahead on her work. Mr. Mt had to cancel going to a welding class for one day.

take welding classes after you retire

Being that horribly sick is never fun. But the 9-5 didn’t make it worse this time. If you have ever worked a job that interrogated you on your “level of sickness” or tried to make you feel guilty for having to stay home with a sick child, you know that only adds to the stress of sickness. Or work that is so demanding that missing one, let alone two (or 5) unplanned days, turns the next two weeks into unbearable stress trying to catch up.

So while it stunk, I was also thankful. Thankful that we weren’t losing out on income that pays the bills. Thankful we could be home with our kids and not have to drop them at some janky “sick kid daycare” while they felt horrible. Thankful that while I was throwing up, Mr. Mt could handle the kids throwing up. Thankful that our only biggest concern could be getting better.

Health Cost: $145 total, $12 for allergy medication

And the Awesome!

Ok, so after that one horrible, rotten, very bad week. The rest of the month was quite amazing.

Vegas Baby!

I met up with a great friend/mentor in Vegas for 3 days. I wanted to test doing a compressed version of my mentoring program. So we found a nice hotel on the strip, brought 400 Post it notes, notes cards and paper. Probably the geekiest way to hang out in Vegas for a few days. The poor guy who sat next to me on the plain ride there was dumbfounded. “No binge drinking? No gambling? No strippers!!!?” Sorry, not this time. But I did proudly pull out the 8 pads of color coordinated Post It notes to show off. =)

money planning tools

If you have never done a planning weekend like this, here is my brief explanation. We start with about 15 questions, each on one Post it note. Depending on where a person is in their financial journey, we ask different questions. We pick whichever question seems most appealing/relevant, then brainstorm the answers (each answer gets it’s own Post it note). Then we can move around the information and organize it. We use all this info to plan out action steps we can take to make some forward progress on the areas we identified. It’s fun, in a really hard mentally taxing way.

money mentoring program

We broke it up with trips to amazing buffets. I also had a chance to practice my “dance-walking.” You know the way that people can just dance while they walk down the street, like a crazy person. I figured the Vegas strip was the perfect venue to display my dance-walking moves. It was an awful lot of fun. People joined in and danced along. They added my sweet (embarrassingly bad) dance moves to their go-pro movies. Dance-walking and overeating at buffets was the perfect way to decompress from the heavy mental lifting.

Overall the long weekend cost me about $850 for flight/hotel and food. Where are these charges you might be wondering???

Fun money. Fun money is the catch all of our individual personal money. It can be spent on any whim we might have. Haircuts, movies, eating out, books, hobbies, new ski’s, good coffee, new clothes. Each month you will see a consistent $150 expense in the budget. That’s because $75 auto transfers into our individual checking accounts.

Here’s the beauty of the whole system. I have a very clear idea in my head about what is “most important” and what is “the rest.” Most of what I could buy falls into “the rest” for me.

I mean, those things are OK. But it’s not the “most important” for me. Buying new shoes for the sake of having something different, grabbing fast food for lunch, or paying someone else to cut my hair…well, I just don’t care about that stuff. So I never spend money on it.

Being able to travel to Vegas to see one of my oldest friends and take 48 hours to plan out the next season of life together? Brainstorming, encouraging, speaking into each others life? Laughing, dancing and making memories? Working to refine and organize a mentoring program so it could have more reach than the 5 people I can currently work with at a time? (I only have 2 spots left!) Yeah, so those are my most important. I had $2400 in my fun money account. And spend $850 on my most important.

money mentoring program in person

So the reason you don’t see any of those expenses is that we count it as spent as soon as it’s transferred every month. Plus, then we don’t have to track any little personal expenses. We just use our personal debit cards. Easy peasy.

Cost: $75 (of the $150) from this month ($850 actually came out of my fun money account)


I love being able to talk with groups. Being able to share some of my stories. Getting to hear some of their stories. And encourage.

I was able to do that with a great group of skaters in February. Friends and awesome readers of MMA, invited me to speak at a local skate ministry. They do an amazing job providing a safe space for teens and young adults to gather, skate, make friends, eat dinner, and take home some groceries for the weekend.

While technically there was no financial cost, this was a large cost in terms of time and energy. It took about 15 hours to prepare and deliver my talk. 10 hours of that was carved out of my best writing time. One of the best things about being work optional is that I get to spend my very best hours to create something really meaningful and important with no concern about the financial ROI.

Ms. Montana public speaking

Cost: $0 (Although I am going to start buying more food to donate to their make-shift teenager food bank)

Weekend Adventures/Friday Family Fun nights

When we looked at our schedule for 2017 in December, we added these two things. Every Friday night we do a screen free, just 100% kid focused time. We received some new board games for Christmas that we play. We make home made play dough. We create indoor relay races. We write mad libs. We do craft projects or science experiments. Then we make “fun” food that the kids help with. Nachos, homemade pizza or popcorn. Things like that. But we don’t check our phones or email. We don’t fold laundry or sweep the floors. We don’t run errands. Just us and the kids. 100%. We are now 3 months in, and it’s by far their favorite day of the week!

Cost: $0 this month $10 a month on average

Weekend Adventures have also been another big hit. This month we did a snowy hike. We went to the park and fed the hungry masses of ducks and geese (using our extra duck food). We have a great library here with lots of fun things for the kids to play with, so we spent some time there. And while I was gone, Mr. Mt took the kids to a expo. Sometimes we fork out a little cash for Saturday adventures, mostly in the form of extra gas. As the weather gets nicer, we will have an abundance of festivals, craft fairs, farmers markets, and expos to visit. Along with longer hikes in Glacier National Park and trips to Flathead Lake.

Cost $13.50 (from Kids Money)

$3.50 this month for 25 cent ice creams and $1.29 mega donuts (big enough to feed 5 people!), plus $10 for some snacks while the kids played at McDonald’s.

$10-$30 a month on average (mostly spent on Kettle Korn at festivals. My kids will be super well behaved at any event if we are slowly dolling out Kettle Korn as we go!).

Kids Clothes

Early Spring is often when I do some kids clothes shopping. Mostly because this is when all the winter clothing and gear goes on clearance. With the weather in Montana, summer clothes are a short lived season. So I focus most of our clothing money on better quality winter clothes. Instead of spending $30-$45 on new boots for each kid, I tend to stock up this time of year when things are 50-75% off. Our 2 oldest boys are just a year apart, and same for our girls, so nothing ever goes to waste. I error of the side of buying too big, and someone will use it eventually. I’ve started buying more things used for snow gear, but often the clearance prices for sweaters/shirts are very close to used prices. Plus I feel more confidant the item will last through both kids of that gender.

The rest of the money went towards new toothbrushes, a box of diapers, and 2 boxes of Valentines cards for school.

I tend to buy about $20 of little treats and gifts for my kids for each minor holiday, like Valentines Day. This year I decided to test out celebrating without a bunch of random candy and little toys from the Dollar Store. I decided to make pink heart shaped pancakes with red glitter sprinkles and drizzled with heart shaped pink frosting for dinner. The kids thought it was awesome! Sometimes it’s good to take an expense away and test to see if it is missed at all. Maybe something free or low cost is even more meaningful and fun. But we never know unless we test it. Mr. Mt did pick me up some of my favorite flowers. Some tests aren’t worth the risk! =)

Kids Money Cost: $98 Clothes ($150 all together)

Gifts: $11.50 (V-Day flowers)

Other Random expenses:

Dog Treats: $15.78 Because our sweet puppy gets a little treat each time we leave. We have to buy a new container about every 6-8 months.

Dinner with Friends: FREE I went out to dinner with some girl friends but had a gift card I won in a drawing. Score!

House Maintenance: $114 Picked up some trim and stain for the Master Bath renovation. It slowly marches on…

Total Spent for the month: $1569

plus $226 donated

Despite a week of what felt like near death sickness, February was a great month! We have been able to add so many fun, and meaningful things to our lives since we walked away from the 9-5. Mr. Mt has welding and metal lathing classes. I’m mentoring and doing money consultations. More freelance writing (it’s so cool to get PAID to write!) Speaking to groups. Real quality time with the kids. 4 day trips to Vegas. Lots of outdoor adventures. And the chance to be sick without it being a crisis.


For conversation

How was your February?

If you could spend less time at the 9-5, what would you fill it with?

Any fun adventures for you last month?

Do you have a friend/mentor (other than a spouse) that you do life planning stuff with?


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30 thoughts on “February Expenses 2017

  1. I’m forever amazed at your low low expenses for a family of seven! That is incredible. I am taking notes on all your tips for free/inexpensive things to do with young kids in the winter. We are going bonkers as we wait for spring.

    Also – sick kid daycare is a thing?! That breaks my heart. My 18 mo old is big time teething right now and just wants to cuddle. It would kill me to take him somewhere unfamiliar just because he has a little fever.

    Anyways, thank you for taking the time to always share the numbers! It is very motivating to challenge each little expense we have to lower our monthly spend.

    • Sick kid day care is really sad to me. At the time when kids need the most comfort and love, to take them to a place with new people and other sick kids seems super sad. I finally had to put my foot down at my last job and just refuse. Mr. Mt and I would rotate the days we needed to take off for sick kids. Neither of our employers were happy about it, but at least it was even.

      I like doing the monthly expenses because I hope it encourages people to really live and enjoy life, and disconnect spending money from that goal. Not that others will like or value the stuff we do, but there is SO many great things out there that are low cost. Plus just the freedom and flexibility that low expenses bring. If we would have moved into a bigger house a few years ago (like EVERYONE told us we needed to do), all of this month would have been different. It would have read: worked 9-5, paid mortgage, keep our head above water on life (chores, shopping, cleaning, cooking, ect).

  2. Ugh – sorry about the illness. We’ve had respiratory stuff, but no fevers (knock on wood). I love reading about your weekend in Vegas. I’m currently reading Essentialism too. It’s convinced me I need to re-evaluate where I spend much of my time. I would love to have an entire weekend to do this deep thinking/exploring, but I want to read the entire book first. I can see how it would be mentally taxing, but exhilarating and life changing at the same time. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Ah, the weekend was SO good! Just having that time to really reflect on some good questions, make some plans, and figure out our next steps. Plus it was awesome to do it along side a friend and mentor. Having an outside person to brainstorm with, knock ideas around, help problem solve, and another set of eyes to see connections was amazing. It seriously made me consider doing 1-2 day in-person mentoring retreats! There is a hotel/resort I love here in the Flathead that would be perfect. http://lodgeatwhitefishlake.com/ Maybe in the next few years. =)

  3. Wow, your expenses are really low for seven people! That’s amazing! Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing!

    • It was a good month for low expenses. Some months are higher when property tax or car insurance is due, or if we are traveling. But our monthly bills are really low with no mortgage or payments. I love low expenses just because they give us so many options and freedom. Lots of things become possible if you only need about $2,000 a month to live on. =)

      • That’s very true! I think if everyone were to downsize just a little bit, they would find out that they don’t actually need very much to live on.

  4. Yikes! Sorry to hear that everyone was sick. At least, you’re all feeling better now. I haven’t been sick this winter yet so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. It’s horrible when your kid is sick. Oddly, it was easier when I was working. I could take sick days to stay with our kid. Now, I’d need to rearrange my whole day whenever our kid is sick.
    You had a great & busy February. And kept the expenses way low, too. Great job.

    • I feel like between the 5 kids and all the places we go, we are destined to catch every germ in the Flathead Valley. We are actually planning on building more buffer into our life just to accommodate that reality. =)

      And February was great because there were so many cool things that we were able to do. Even things that some might consider “work” because it produced income, are honestly are most favorite things. Getting to chat with people on the phone or over Skype about their money, dreams and how to pay for these great plans they have is one of the funnest ways I spend my time! If I didn’t have a 5 little kids, I would do that for free 10 hours a day. =) Which I think is the sign that you are doing what you were made for. =)

  5. I’m loving your blog because I desparately want to stay home with my 9yr old boy however, I am the current breadwinner. Yours is the first blog that made this life seem accessible with less than 1 million$ banked. Keep up the good work – we used to have relatives in Columbia Falls, MT and just LOVE the area! Don’t forget – I believe Big Mountain does after after-season sales of ski-gear and at least it used to be super great for kids…

    • Thanks so much! I’m glad you are liking the blog. =) It takes a little time, but after you build a little passive income, pay off the big bills and spend a few years finding some meaningful side work that can bridge the gap, it’s very possible. Even without the million dollar stock portfolio. =)

      And we love the area SO much. I haven’t been brave enough to take all the kids skiing yet. Our oldest goes once or twice a year. Maybe once they are all in Jr. High or at least have master the art of riding a bike. =) We have a ways to go….

  6. Glad you’re feeling better! Your ordeal makes self-employment seem that much more enticing…

    That retreat/brain-storming session seems like a really cool idea! Looks like it was both a lot of fun and very productive.

    • We have had sick weeks while doing the 9-5 and they about ruined a whole month! So I was very thankful not to be in that spot. =) And the retreat was amazing. It’s so challenging to find the uninterrupted time to really think those things through and have another person who will focused-helpful attention. I turned off my phone, uninstalled social media apps and stayed offline. I’ve done smaller versions of this for 15+ years, and it’s probably the largest contributor of getting where I wanted to go.

  7. “So the reason you don’t see any of those expenses is that we count it as spent as soon as it’s transferred every month” <—- I love this! It might make you feel less "guilty" about spending on yourself.

    I only do it that way with cash out of the ATM. Or coins that i get as change. I just don't keep track of that stuff, so if I blow 4 quarters on a donut, it's like found money to me. I like your way better!!

    • We just set up extra checking accounts. And there is an auto transfer from one account to another each month. We started doing this early in our marriage and has saved us a 1000 arguments. =) He tends to spend his fun money down faster and I save mine up for bigger things. But when I am ready to splurge, it’s never an issue. Or if he wants new speakers or skis, as long as it comes out of fun money, I don’t care what he spends it on.

  8. I just got back from Vegas! Although it sounds like our trips were slightly different 🙂 Looks like you had a very good month financial wise. Glad your feeling better!

    • I’m sure most people had other plans there! The streets were rather quite at 7:30 in the morning when we would do a coffee/tea run before getting started. =)

  9. wow what a month!!! I’m glad you didn’t get the stomach virus during your time at vegas. That could have been a bummer. I love that you had the book Essentialism in the pic too. One of my favorite books! Nice job with the spending. Your whole month not much over what I pay in rent!

    • Both of those books are a great starting place for the season of life my friend and I are in. They work really well together. =) It’s rare we have a month with out a 1 off expense, like car insurance or property tax, but I think it everything is rather normal, this is our base spending. Our fixed bills come to $650, plus food, gas, and things like that.

  10. So glad that you got to have fun with your friend in Vegas! Love that! Also, I’ve never heard of sick kid day care and I’m mildly horrified but not surprised. WOW. This makes me even more excited to get out of the 9-5.

    • Some companies are really upset when you need to take a sick day for yourself, let alone a kid. And when you have a few kids, and the list of Dr. apt seem never ending, and they rotate through illness, it starts to take a toil. At my last job, we didn’t get ANY paid time off. But they were still really grumpy about people missing work. For a while, Mr Mt and I had to play the game of “who’s work is more important and critical today?” Finally we just started taking turns staying home, grumpy bosses be damned. Now that we have 5 little kids, I have no idea how two people manage the 9-5 and take care of more than a few kids. I know there is no way we could have adopted 3 extra kids if we both had to work a 9-5!

  11. As usual, your month sounds like so much fun! I often finish up reading with wondering what I’m missing that I’m usually exhausted with much less fun at the end of our months. But duh, health and work make some pretty heavy inroads. In the meantime, I think we came through February pretty well – had good visits with friends, enjoyed more rain and managed to make it through a TON of real estate related work. We’re well placed to tackle March head first 🙂

    I don’t have one person to do the same heavy intense type of planning that you do, but I have two mentors I talk with regularly in smaller more manageable chunks as well as a few friends I touch base with sporadically as I need their skills or insight.

    • It’s great that you tackled a lot of real estate work! Our months use to look a lot different when there was one or two 45+ hour work weeks thrown in. Stepping away from that has allowed so many other good things to have space in our life!

      It’s great that you have a few mentors. Most of my mentor relationships are like that. I have different mentors for different areas of my life. And most of the people I mentor, work into a similar rhythm, of 1-2 hour conversations a few times a year. Often times with this mentor, it’s more like an hour conversation, then she mails me a book. =)

  12. I’m glad all of you are done with illness. Thank goodness you didn’t have the 9 to 5 stress on top of that. Having to prove to an employer the severity of a kid’s illness stinks. No one should be put in that position. I like what you said in your opening about being able to replace the good things from the 9 to 5 world in ways more meaningful and impactful. That’s what it’s all about.

    I would have loved to see you dance-walk. Did you take any video of your own?

    • I didn’t get any video prove. =( My friend was doing all the singing for my sweet moves. But if the mood is right, I might break them out at FinCon. I hear you have quite the singing voice. If you will be there, you can learn some fun dancy songs. You’ll do the singing, I’ll do the dance walking. The hotel lobby/convention halls won’t know what hit them!

  13. I love seeing your financial journey and how you are blowing up all over the web!!! I am shocked that you are able to keep your expenses so low with a family of 7. We don’t even have a mortgage and we can’t keep our expenses that low and we save 70% of our take home pay 🙂 Keep up the awesome work and I can’t wait to see what else you have in store.

    • You know what’s funny, I can’t wait to see what’s in store either. Each month brings new, exciting and fun things! Sometimes people feel like, “oh, I could never be happy spending that little.” Maybe not. But I honestly didn’t have time to spend any more money. Our schedule was so pack with fun stuff, we have to pass on awesome free things ALL the darn time! I have to say no to really cool opportunities. I have to scale back exciting plans. I’m seriously considering hiring a house keeper to buy me some extra time. =)

  14. Always good reading here! So, if you’re not back to the 9-5 after your gap year, what are you up to (you know, to pay the bills and such) and what are your plans for the foreseeable future?

  15. I was the youngest of five kids in our house growing up. I can totally understand and relate to the hand me down clothes. I was, of course, on the receiving end of such clothes. In fact, I had hoped for two kids of the same gender but they aren’t, so we are stuck with no hand me downs (cries).

    As this personal finance stuff is my passion, I do have to suggest areas for improvement. You mentioned that you traveled to Vegas. Did you do any travel hacking? That is, have points and miles from credit cards to get there for free? Travel hacking generally costs very little to nothing, and could have saved you part of that lofty $850. I have a link on my blog to an awesome travel hacking site I follow if you’re interested.

    • We might start more of the travel hacking, but really flights and hotels are a rather rare thing for us now that we have 5 little kids. We almost always drive and camp. It’s just easier and less stressful. But as they get older and Mr. Mt and I can do more solo trips or couple’s trips away, it’ll be something we dive into!!