This ” Big Family: How We Live Off Well On Under $37,000/Year ” post details how we are able to live comfortably even with such limited budget. This post contains affiliate links/ads. See disclosure policy.
For the past couple of months, I have been publishing posts on how to save on many that, how to make money on this, etc. But what’s missing is how my family (i.e. a family of 5) manages to live off well on under $37,000 a year.
Yes, my family lives off $37,000/year even though we live near D.C. where the cost of living is way too high.
When I say big family of 5, I'm referring to my wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, daughter, and I. That's four adults and one kid.
Since my parents-in-law came here from the Philippines, I have had at 10 people emailing me and asking me how much my wife and I are able to spend money frugally.
Because I believe in transparency, I will detail all the things we spend our money on. I will not be able to tell you the dishes that we cook every day because they do change from time to time.
But pretty much, I will try to detail you almost everything.
Big Family: How We Live Off Well On Under $37,000/Year
So, without further ado, here’s how we are able to live off well under $37,000/year.
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Cable: High
We don’t have cable. That's the trick. We cut off our cable a long long time ago.
When we were in Las Vegas, we had Dish Network, which only cost us $20/month and that’s it. When we moved to Maryland, we cut the cord because the signal in our area was bad. That's a blessing in disguise.
Gladly, Dish Network allowed us to discontinue the service without penalty. So nice of Dish Network to do that for us. Now, we don’t have cable. Cable subscription is $75.00/month here, I think, and that’s a lot of money.
We have had Hulu for a little over 4 years now. We get our subscription for FREE because we use Bing Rewards credits to purchase Hulu Rewards.
If you don't have time to use Bing Rewards, click here to get a Hulu subscription for under $5/mo.
If you don't have Hulu and don't want to pay for one, you can always find a way to use your internet to watch FREE shows. Go to the TV networks' sites and find the shows you want to watch. You will be surprised many networks will let you watch shows for FREE online.
Total: $0.00/month x 12 months = $0.00/year
Running total: $0.00/year
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on software/app: High
Having a budget and executing and tracking it is of utmost importance to my family. We used to use YNAB. It worked really well and it did what it had to do, but it came with a cost.
My wife and I decided to find something for free and/or make one our own. That's exactly what we did.
We created our budget printable binder kit, which works perfectly at home. I should say it's one of the reasons we were able to get out of our $40K debt and save at least $70K at the same time in 2.5 years.
It's very user-friendly and easy to understand.
I know you can agree me with me when I say budgeting sucks because it doesn't work most of the time. Coming from my family and friends who are very critical and skeptical at the same time, it means a lot to hear them say it's the simplest but effective budgeting kit they've ever used.
Click here to buy the budget printable binder kit and start budgeting like a pro.
In addition to this kit, we used and still use Spentapp, which we use when we are on the go and to cross check our budget using our binder kit.
Seriously, it was magical.
It automatically organizes our expenses and recommends financial decisions for us for FREE, which we follow to a tee. It shows us where we make mistakes and how we could fix them. Yeah, we do things we don't know negatively affected our finances.
Plus, we get cash for spending money. Yes, when we spent money, we get money from Spentapp.
If you are looking into making big changes in your financial habits, I cannot highly recommend Spentapp enough. It is a game changer for us. I know it will be for you, too.
Click here to try Spentapp, have your expenses organized, spend money the way you usually do, and get paid for doing just that. As simple as that.
Total: $0.00/month x 12 months = $0.00/year
Running total: $0.00/year
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Car Insurance: High
Our family only has one car and that’s it. My wife and I work during the day and we only use one car to get to our work. Our drop her off and then off I go to my work. It's that simple.
We paid off the car loan bill a long time ago. So, we decided to downgrade our insurance to just liability one. Now, we are paying $191.00 per six months for insurance. That's for both of us already.
We used the Auto Quotes Direct to get the best car insurance quote, which back then was GEICO. It was on that website that I found the best rate for my needs. My friends can't even believe how low our insurance is especially my wife is pretty much a new driver.
If you've got a great driving record but have paid off your car and are still paying for full coverage, maybe now is the time to reconsider your insurance needs and entertain the idea of just getting the liability insurance.
Getting liability insurance has tremendously saved us a lot of money.
Click here to get a quote from Auto Quotes Direct and see how much you can save.
Total: $191.00/month x 2 (i.e. 2 of 6 months) = $382.00/year
Running total: $382.00/year
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Food: Medium-High
A couple of years ago, our grocery bill for the my wife, our daughter, and I was around $400.00/month, which was a lot. We came from Las Vegas where almost every single food was cheap but it’s a different scenario where we live now.
But we have managed to cut down our grocery bill to $300.00/month by planning meals, by finding alternatives to many expensive ingredients, by planting our own veggies, among others.
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When I wrote the How To Save At Least $14,000 A Year, Alexandra (my reader) asked me what on earth I was feeding family on $150/month. That was when we were three. Having said that the food choices are pretty much the same with minor tweaks on the volume of food since we are now five instead of three. Here’s my response to her.
“Here’s how we budget our meals (on average):
6lbs of chicken @ $1.99/lb – $11.94
4 lbs of chicken thighs/drumsticks @ $1.88/lb – $7.52
5 lbs of ground beef @ $2.89/lb – $14.45
1 lb of Shrimp – $6.00 (on and off meaning sometimes we do have shrimp every week sometimes we don’t)
Veggies and fruits – $8.00 (just because we have veggies planted)
Breakfast (i.e. oatmeal, pancake, peanut butter, egg, bread, and milk) – $7.50 (roughly because our oatmeal, peanut butter, and pancake are something that we don’t buy every week but more like every 2 weeks).
Misc food (i.e. flour and spices) – $25.00 (this is not an every week supply).
Total – $80.00ish minus coupons”
Total: $300.00/month x 12 months = $3,600.00/year
Running total: $3,982.00/year
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Gas: High
Maybe it’s a coincidence, blessing, or something else, but we live in a rural area. We only have 1 Walmart, 1 Target, and a few restaurants and stores. The nearest mall is here 45 minutes to 1 hour away from where we live.
One of the best perks I get from working for my employer is that my office is just 5 miles away from where I live. The same thing goes for my wife. It's nice to know that her work is literally a block away from our house. She can literally walk and be there in 7 minutes. Having said that, I just drop her off as her workplace is on the way to my work.
Even though public transportation here is unreliable, it is good to know that my car’s gas consumption is not a lot. In a given a month, I spend $40.00.
I wish we had reliable public transportation but we do not have one here. I do bike[/easyazon_link] from time to time especially when the weather is too nice to get to my car and rive.
Some gas companies have rewards program, which is one that does not require you to sign up for credit card.
For example, I'm a member of Fuel Rewards program from Shell. I get 5 cents a gallon off every time I fill up my tank.
Total: $40.00/month x 12 months = $480.00/year
Running total: $4,462.00/year
Health, Dental, and Vision Insurances
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Gas: Medium
In late 2014, I decided to change my insurance to a Consumer Driven Plan (CDP). My family has had this coverage since 2015. My monthly insurance premium is $105.00 bi-weekly. That’s only a portion of the premium. My employer shoulders the rest of the bill.
This insurance has an attached benefit to it called Personal Care Account (PCA). This benefit provide us an allowance of $2,400/year per family. This is FREE money for us.
This $2,400 is good for co-pays, medicines, dental care, deductible, vision care, and other health-related expenses (subject to a few exclusions).
If we do not consume the whole $2,400 in a given year, the unused amount will be carried over to the next year plus another $2,400 for the new year will be added to the PCA.
The policy allows us to accumulate up to $10,000 in any given year. Excess amount pass the $10,000 threshold will be forfeited.
Prior to having this insurance, we had spent at least $2,000 extra out of our pocket because our more expensive insurance didn't cover a lot of things. Mind you that, back then, we had dental insurance as well.
Now, this insurance covers almost everything.The only reason we have vision insurance is that the premium is only $12.00 bi-weekly.
Last April, we got our eyes checked, prescription glasses, contact lenses, and other expensive things. We paid $75, which was taken out from our PCA. The total bill was really around $900.00. Thanks to our vision insurance.
Health insurance total: $105.00/month x 26 weeks (because it’s bi-weekly) = $2,730.00/year
Vision insurance total: $12.00/month x 26 weeks (because it’s bi-weekly) = $312.00/year
Running total: $7,504.00/year
House & Insurance
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on House & Insurance: Low
We live around an hour away from D.C. So, the cost of living in the area we live in is pretty much the same as that of in DC. This means it's way too expensive. We live here because my wife and I have great jobs here, which we like so much.
We own our house. We just bought it a month ago using my blog money. Yes, the down payment was paid by my blog money and the monthly payments from here to whenever we pay it off will also come from my blog money. Seriously, I couldn't believe that we would be able to buy a house with blog money.
We are currently paying around $1,500 in mortgage. When I say mortgage, it includes principal, interest, and escrow. Don't be shocked with the tag price because we live near D.C. Actually, it's a pretty decent house payment because the average bill here is around $1,900.00.
We also allot $200 for repair and maintenance. So, when there's an emergency, we know that we have saved money for house repair and maintenance. The good thing is that my blog money. pays for it as well.
All in all, we pay $1,700.00 for the house.
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Total: $1,700.00/month x 12 months = $20,400.00/year
Running total: $27,904.00/year
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Internet: Low
Hulu will not work and blogging will not work either without an internet connection. we pay a monthly fee of $79.00 (all fees and taxes included).
I upgraded my internet speed because I need a faster speed for my blog . That's the only reason I upgraded my internet service.
Total: $79.00/month x 12 months = $948.00/year
Running total: $28,852.00/year
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Life Insurance: Medium
I got a (whole) life insurance for $68.00/month. A lot of people will think that this is a big amount especially when I could pay a cheaper premium for term-life insurance. A lot of people told me that I made a big mistake.
The $68.00/month premium will always be the same forever (i.e. until I die). I know this premium won’t be worth $68.00 in the future so I am fine with paying such amount.
With term-life insurance, rates may or will increase after term of the such insurance has ended and you get another one. I do not want to take that risk especially when I don’t know if I am going to be healthy in the future.
For me insurance is never an investment. when people tell me that I made a big investment mistake, I only just say that I never got the insurance in the first place as an investment.
I know the rate of return (yes, there is a return on my insurance) are so tiny but the only and main purpose I got it is not for investment reason.
Total: $68.00/month x 12 months = $816.00/year
Running total: $29,668.00/year
Miscellaneous is one line on our budget we also make a room for. Some of the common expenses that fall under this category are car maintenance, eating out, toiletries, diapers, etc. We budget $350.00/month for our miscellaneous expenses.
We do not spend a lot on toiletries and other personal hygiene things because we get a lot of them for FREE or dirt cheap using the coupons I bought from the internet. We probably spend around $30.00, at most, per year for toiletries.
I work during the day so it is necessary that I buy work clothes. I go to thrift stores, yard sales, and the likes to get cheap, decent-looking clothes.
As far as everyday clothes go, I buy those when I visit my family and/or friends in the Philippines. I can get a shirt for a dollar or less than that there. Here, I could get a shirt for $2 or less when there is a closeout or big discount. In 5 years, I have roughly spent $30- $40 in total.
As with my wife, she basically does the same thing that I do. As for my daughter, her clothes are always FREE because my sister passes all her daughter’s beautiful clothes to my daughter, most of which are new or slightly used.
Total: $350.00/month x 12 months = $4,200.00/year
Running total: $33,868.00/year
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Overseas Call: High
Thank to Skype, Facebook, Viber, and other media platforms because my wife and I are able to communicate with our friends and family in the Philippines for FREE.
This doesn't mean that we do't spend anything on overseas call. We sometimes have to call my friends and families the old fashion way (e.g. monthly subscription and call cards to telecom companies for overseas calls). We budget around $15.00/month for this.
Total: $15.00/month x 12 months = $180.00/year
Running total: $34,048.00/year
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on cell phones: High
We do not have a landline because we don’t need one. As with cell phones, we have two smart phones (i.e. Samsung Galaxy and LG), both of which have already been paid off a couple of years ago.
We only spend around $65 per month for two phones. We would really have gone for prepaid ones but the total cost would be the same or close to what we are paying now. We have Verizon Wireless and it’s the only one in our area that has a good signal.
The only reason we got smartphones is to use apps that pay us money. I get roughly $15 for using select apps. I don’t know how much my wife gets.
I recommend FreedomPop. You can get a plan for as low as $5 a month.
Total: $65.00/month x 12 months = $780.00/year
Running total: $34,828.00/year
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Travel: High
Every year, we travel to unwind and explore the world outside Maryland. In the past, we have gone to the Philippines, Washington D.C, Virginia, North Carolina, Las Vegas, and New York.
If you like to go on air travel, I recommend you use Kiwi and Airfare Watch Dog, which help you get the lowest fares. This is the first and last stop my wife and I have every time we want to go somewhere.
I particularly like Kiwi so much in that you can search “anywhere” from your original destination and the site will list all locations in pictorial view including the airline costs. Truly, Kiwi redefines how you use online air travel sites.
We allot around $4,000.00 a year for travel. It’s a big amount but it does not mean we really shell out that amount from our own pocket.
This is also where our reward points, cash back, etc. from our credit cards come in. On average, we get $3,500 every year for cash back, points, etc. Before you make your calculations and say we spend a lot of money, here are the things we do to get such big amount:
- Our cards have promotions all throughout the year (e.g. Get $50 back when you spend $150). We take advantage of those promotions that we consider good for us.
- We let my sister use card our card (e.g. authorized user). She charges a lot but she pays them on time and in-full.
- We put everything in our cards and pay them off before the close of the statements, which is good for us cashback wise and good on our credit because our balance is always zero.
Total: $4,000.00 – $3,500.00 (thanks to credit card rewards) = $500.00/year
Running total: $35,328.00/year
Utility (i.e. Electric Bill)
Effectiveness of our Big Family's Trick on Saving on Utilitiy: Low-Medium
Winter time is absolutely the worst season for us when it comes to electricity usage and followed by, none other than, summer. Fortunately, spring and fall seasons tend to be the least costly seasons for electricity usage.
Last year, we managed to go on monthly payment plans with SMECO, our local utility company. We get charged a flat rate of $95.00/mo. This is based on our 12-month average from the previous year.
I like that SMECO has this program because energy consumption does fluctuate and I hate to under or over budget in this area.
Every summer, we get a $75 credit as participants in one of its programs called “Cool Sentry”. This is where the company automatically sets our thermostat to a certain degree every day.
Some of the things that we also do to lower our energy consumption are the following:
- Use [easyazon_link identifier="B01CAL1EMY" locale="US" tag="theprasav-20"]LED bulbs -They consume less energy that their CFL and regular type bulbs;
- Use caulk – It helps seals cranks and drafts, and;
- Use better wood window blinds – We use wood blinds than the regular white, plastic ones. They cost a little bit more but they help block too much heat from coming in the house.
I assume our energy consumption will remain the same or even lower with our new house. But for budgeting purposes, I'll use $95.00 per month.
Total: $95.00/month x 12 months = $1,140.00/year – $75.00/year = $1,065.00/year
Running total: $36,393.00/year
Water, sewer, and trash
We get charged $75 for water, sewer, and trash.
Sewer is a fixed fee. So, there's really nothing we can do about it. Trash could be free if I drive 30 minutes away from where we live and drop of the trash in the area landfill. Between driving, time, and car clean up every time I drop the trash there, I might as well pay for the trash pickup. In short, it's more convenient and cost effective to get the trash service.
As with the water, there are a couple of ways that I do to not consume a lot of water.
- Shower at the gym – Instead of taking a shower in the morning, I go to the gym first in the morning and take a shower there before going to work, and;
- Not use dishwasher a lot of times – Dishwasher consumes a lot of water. We wait 'til there is enough dirty dishes before we run the dishwasher. Many times, we just hand wash the dishes.
Basically, everything else I did not mention are FREE or we do not care/need them and that is why we don’t have them. Here are some of the other things that we get but don’t get charged for.
Gym Membership: $0.00 – Employer freebie
Movies On the Big Screen: $0.00 – Again freebie from my employer. Sometimes, we get to see films that have not been released in theaters (i.e. advanced screenings).
Personal Hygiene: $0.00 – FREE or almost FREE because of coupons
Daughter’s Clothes: $0.00 – FREE courtesy of my sister
Parents-in-Law's Health Insurance – My in-laws have their own health insurances
Do you have a big family? How much do you spend every year on just about everything? Have you done other things to save more money and pocket the rest to your bank accounts?