Budget Series: Squeezing out an extra $440/month!!!

Get out of Debt on a low income


Back in May, I shared our super tight budget. I was discouraged about debt, thinking we couldn’t possibly get out of debt sooner than the twenty-year plan we were on (student loans and mortgage). I had a revelation that led to crunching the numbers and “finding” an extra $190/month toward debt reduction. This was HUGE! With that plan, we were going to get out of debt, mortgage included, in around 7 years or so.

Sometimes life happens in the midst of our well-laid plans.

Our family is about to move across the state—tomorrow. In the midst of the stress, to-do list, and emotions, it is also wreaking havoc with our finances.

  1. We drained our savings account paying the deposit and first month rent for a house.
  2. We’re facing many extra expenses—deposits, U-Haul rental, travel expenses, etc. However, it has been awesome to see how God has provided in the midst of these potentially budget-breaking expenses.
  3. Until we sell our (old/current) home, we will be paying all of our regular monthly expenses, plus rent at our new home.

So, here is yet another version of our budget, in which we crunch the numbers to create $425/month to pay our rent, and $15/month for garbage pick-up (we usually pay this a year at a time with our tax return, which is why it wasn’t in our budget before).

Total Monthly Income (after tithes, offerings, and required payroll deductions): $2,068

Voluntary Payroll Deductions:
Dental Insurance: $38.30

Monthly Bills:
Mortgage: $569
Rent: $425
Trash Pick-up: $15

Auto Insurance: $118
Electric: $125*
Water: $30
Direct TV: $0*
House Phone: $0
Cellphones: $35
Student Loan #1: $100*
Student Loan #2: $192

Flexible Spending (Cash Envelopes):
Groceries/personal needs/cleaning supplies: $200
Gas: $100*
Misc. Repairs and Household needs: $40
Spending Money $80*


Where the money is coming from:

Electric, $50
This is an estimate, but we will be on city electric, which is usually significantly less expensive than the rural electric cooperative we currently have.

House Phone, $15
We disconnected our landline.

Direct TV, $65
Several steps here. We cut off service to a second TV, saving $6/month. While doing that, I asked about other savings, and they offered me an $8/month credit for 6 months. I called back later and received $5/month credit for 6 months. I would encourage you to call periodically and see if there are any specials or savings available. These credits will save us a total of $78 over 6 months, and the phone calls took only a few minutes of my time.

However, my current Direct TV budget is $0. I recently discovered the option to suspend satellite service. Direct TV offers this for up to 6 months in a 12-month timeframe, and there is no charge. (They do require that you be up to date on your bill). We are under contract, so this is giving us a much needed financial break.

Giving, $55
Our family supports two overseas ministries—World Vision, and Christian Flights International (a local ministry with which I travelled to Haiti on a mission trip in college). Since we are in survival mode, we made the difficult decision to put this giving on hold temporarily until we sell our house.

Student Loan #1, $190
We squeezed out an extra $190/month to pay toward debt reduction, but now it will help us with monthly expenses. It’s not ideal, but it’s nice to have that money already freed up, and for now, we’ll pay the minimum on our loans.

Gas, $35
We’re going to have to limit driving more than ever, but we’ll make it work.

Spending, $25
I reduced our spending money to $80. Again, “spending money” for us includes everything from gifts, clothing, entertainment, eating out, and anything else that comes outside our other categories. It is not “splurge” money. In reality, we have little to no splurge money, but we’re okay with that, because what we do have is the means to pay our bills and support our family, and for that, we’re thankful.


A few months ago, it seemed impossible to find extra money to put toward debt reduction (or anything else). Now we are somehow able to pay an additional $440/month! I have shared our budget cuts to encourage you that maybe, just maybe, there are some things that you could do as well, in order to pay down debt, or even just make ends meet.


  1. says

    It’s nice to hear about being able to suspend service for awhile, that’s great for a short-term issue. I hope you can sell your house soon.

  2. says

    I know what you mean about tight finances. When our children were babies we lived on one income of $29K/year. That was only five years ago, but it feels like another lifetime. God is good and will see you through it! We're now about to start building a brand new home, and I never thought to even hope for that. -Tabitha

    • Crystal says

      Shari, Thanks! Unfortunately, we’re not on that plan anymore since we’re now paying expenses for both homes, those extra expenses ate away all the debt reduction money…but we’ll get back on track if we sell our house.

  3. Lauren Mills says

    I love how open and vulnerable you've been in putting your finances out there for the world to see. I totally relate… we have gone back and forth with working like crazy to get out of debt, then having something nutty happen, like moving, surprise pregnancy, etc. But He does provide and He IS faithful!

    I would LOVE for you to share at the Heart&Home link up at http://www.mercyinkblog.com :) I know so many others will benefit from your wisdom.


  4. Lauren Mills says

    I love how open and vulnerable you've been in putting your finances out there for the world to see. I totally relate… we have gone back and forth with working like crazy to get out of debt, then having something nutty happen, like moving, surprise pregnancy, etc. But He does provide and He IS faithful!

    I would LOVE for you to share at the Heart&Home link up at http://www.mercyinkblog.com :) I know so many others will benefit from your wisdom.


  5. Heather Terry Bell says

    Sorry your having a hard time but good to so a positive attitude! I am in the midst of getting us out of debt. man, it is hard! but hard work will persevere. bellesbazaar-heather.blogspot.com

  6. says

    Wow. I could have written this post myself. Actually, after trading a few off your posts, I’m pretty sure we may be twins separated at birth. ;) After working hard to get on a budget so we could start paying down our debt and become better stewards of what God has given us, we moved 400 miles last Friday. We now have to add rent & all those other moving expenses you mentioned. I was blown away over the last few weeks as we prepared for the move & watched God provide for our needs, big & small.
    I just want to say thank you for sharing the details of your budget. Your income is comparable to ours & like you said in your post on debt discouragement, all the over coming debt stories I’ve heard just make me feel like we will never be able to get there because we just don’t have those kinds of resources. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Crystal says

      Wow, Danielle…I feel for you! lol Our move has been such a blessing for us, overall, and I pray that yours will be as well. It’s always awesome to see how God supplies our needs :)

  7. says

    I am desperately searching the internet for advice, wisdom, ideas I have yet to think of, on how to get our finances back under control. I came across your blog and have really enjoyed reading it, in fact I have came across quite a few stories that are inspirational, but for some reason I can’t help but feeling thinking things like “they had much less debt than us, that tip could NOT work for us…..” etc. Was wondering if you have any advice or suggestions….

    We have lots of debt, I have done the figures but they are not right in front of me. It is in the thousands (30 something I believe) and I am NOT even including our cars and mortgage. This is in credit cards, personal loans, and student loans. When you say things like you have a $35 gas budget…..we commute to work, both have to have a car, and each of us spend over $100 per check (bi-weekly) on gas. And that is pretty much just to work and back. So we spend nearly $400 on gas a month! (We do have our house on the market and hope to get rid of the commute soon.) We already have a budget in place….$400 a month on groceries (this was with much cutting back and a lot of my convincing to my husband), pay all bills, $40 each in “play money” (which is anything extra), $50 towards paying down debt (which feels like it is accomplishing nothing), and honestly we are in desperate need of an “other” fund that we just can’t afford to add in. We do NOT have a savings in place! Any advice??? I had been driving the same car for nearly ten years, it had over 150,000 miles on it, and we decided to trade it in (we were making a little more money at the time). Now we have two car payments and I really regret getting rid of the old car!

    Any suggestions, thanks for letting me vent! If you would like to check out my blog it is http://www.ivfsuccessstories.info Thanks again!

    • says

      One more thing….we do have resources as far as our incomes are concerned. So it is not the amount we take in that is the problem, it is the amount we have going out each month. It really doesn’t matter how much you make if 90% of it is right back out the door! :)
      It is funny that you mentioned these people with more money paying off stuff…..I have actually felt a like “I wish we could go back to having that smaller income and less debt and things would be sooo much easier”

      Also, I would say over half of our debt is due to fertility treatments and I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything!

  8. Julie says

    I am curious why you chose to move without waiting for your house to sell? My husband and I did that once and it didn’t end well. Not wanting to be negative: it was just my first thought after reading a lot of great info here. We have been on a debt fighting journey for about 7 years now. We started with nearly $30,000 in CC debt. The snowball effect wouldn’t work for us, but we were able to pay that off in 4 years time with about $30,000 year income. Now our income is a touch less, but because we no longer are paying $550 month to CC’s, we’re able to live frugally and do just fine. Our house will be paid off in 5 years and we’re working at our savings account. It just goes so slowly sometimes!!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Julie, thanks for the feedback. I may not have made it very clear, but my husband was transferred, so the date wasn’t really up to us. It ended up being a huge blessing to us, aside from the financial strain, and well worth it to make the move. It sounds like you have done amazing things as well! Yes, we are freed up a lot to withstand income decreases when we aren’t in debt.

  9. Consuelo Lopez-Robbins says

    This sounds amazing! My husband, kids and I live in one of the most expensive city’s in California. We are trying to stay afloat but GOD is amazing at always providing us with opportunities to make more money and reduce debt. Thank you for your share…We cut TV and only have Netflix, it keeps the kids entertained enough and is only $7/month.I will definitely take another look at how we can cut back more.

  10. Dee says

    Found your site by accident and I’m glad I did!!! Nice article. But since the date you wrote it…is there any more new ways or tips on finding extra money to pay down debt. We are a 1 income family, not by choice, health issues and we are struggling with everything going up in price except our income. I do surveys and also am selling items we no longer need for cash to pay debt so far. Your inspirational, thank you.

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