Our Budget Under $1700

December 15, 2015

Feel like it is impossible to live off basically minimum wage while still living comfortably? Think pinching pennies sounds a lot like going without the things you want? Think again! Click through to find out how we live on a tiny budget, save hundreds, and still give to others in the process! Our budget under $1700

I have finally written the long planned post of our personal budget where I lay it all out there!

I share this for a few reasons:

  • I want people to know I walk the talk.
  • I want people to know it can be done and how we do it.
  • I want people to know you don’t have to make bank in order to live a good life.
  • I want people to know you don’t have to make bank in order to build a savings.
    And Finally…
  • I feel that some people are embarrassed about the money they make or have in their account and think that it holds value to who you are as a person. I share our finances to show that it doesn’t have to be like that. We are all at different spots in our life and that is separate from our identity and is certainly nothing to be embarrassed about! If you are working towards bettering yourself, you should be proud to share where you at, for when you get to where you going they’ll know how far you’ve come!

So I’m breaking down our budget under $1700, how we spend our money, and a little bit about our actual income! Let’s get to it!


Our Budget Under $1700

Rent $625

We downsized to a one bedroom last year for what we thought would only be six months. Our old apartment was a two bedroom for $750, so we thought we would save a little extra money before we bought our first house. We have now been here for a little over a year and although we wish we had a house, (and it can be pretty cramped with Greg’s music equipment equalling a whole room) we still are so happy we moved. This apartment is so much more cozier and makes waiting for a house a little easier, plus we are able to save a little bit each month for when we do buy a house!

Cell Phone $100

Greg and I had non-smart phones up until the beginning of 2015. I got my iPhone 4 as a present Christmas 2014 and I gave him the same phone on his birthday that April. Until then Greg and I had the same phone on different plans. I was paying $50 a month for my phone and Greg wasn’t paying anything as it was lumped with his Dad’s plan. We wanted to get him off that and be responsible adults and pay for his too, but we also wanted to get new phones and weren’t sure if we would get a plan right away. We ended up finding a pay as you go plan for a little under $50 each. So we both have iPhones like we wanted/needed and only pay $100 for both.

Internet $50

We have high speed internet through Century Link. I have heard quite a few complaints about this company and we have had some trouble in the past, but overall our internet is fast and stable.

Car Insurance $76.90

When you have cars that aren’t worth that much, (which in your twenties you most likely do/should have) you don’t need to get all of the coverage that protects your car. We use the principle that if you save money every month by not having that extra coverage (and actually SAVE it) then IF anything happens you’ll have the money to fix or even replace the car, but if it doesn’t then you are saving money every month. (I’ll go into this in more depth in another post as it is a principle we apply in our finances a lot.) Greg’s and my car are probably worth about $3000 all together, so any amount of real damage would most likely total the car. If something like that were to happen that is what we build up our savings for!  So we basically pay for liability and that’s it.

Electric $100

This varies per season obviously, and usually how much we care about being comfortable in our house. We budget for $100 all year round so that we are prepared always for the expense. It definitely has gone over $100 some months (usually in the beginning of winter when we forget it costs money to turn our heat on, ha!) but then we usually just become more aware after that and keep it down.

Groceries $200

This amount actually just got upped and will probably be the next thing we up again in our budget when we start making a little bit more money. I’d say it’s the most annoying category in building a budget and where we go over the most. Greg hates having to think about money with food. He is a man who loves his food and doesn’t like any restrictions on it! But we lived with a budget of $170 for the last year and did fine. We just moved it to $200 last month as we were cooking at home more and wanted to be able to buy more ingredients (and we could afford to up it).

Eating Out $50

When we upped our food budget we upped our eating out as well, as we kind of lump them together a lot. Greg and I usually never spend more than $15 when we go out. In the past it was $30 which could get us usually at least two dinners out a month, sometimes three. Now we have put it at $50 to give us a little more leeway when friends invite us out! Also Greg has been going out for some of his lunches at work as a treat, so we’ve built it into the budget. :)

Entertainment $20

Basically the only reason this was put into the budget was so that when we went out to a movie that wasn’t with each other (aka it wouldn’t come out of the date fund) or did any other activity without the other, we would have a place to take it out of. It doesn’t usually get used up every month as we do a lot of things together. :)

Dates $20

Our dates didn’t need to be a very high amount because we rarely go to movies that aren’t on Tuesdays, which where we live means $5 for a movie. Other “dates” we use this fund on is if we go get ice cream or frozen yogurt, but again that doesn’t cost much. This one doesn’t get used up every month because our “dates” usually just end up being in eating out budget. But it is nice to have it as an option and a budget for it!

Gifts $25

This fund came out of one month where there was three, one year old birthday parties we had to buy gifts for and Greg said, “Where’s the limit?”. haha! We created a gifts budget. This one is the hardest to gage. Some months there are three birthday’s, some there are none. Or if you are an awesome person like me you forget it is someone’s birthday until Facebook notifies you and so you have to run out an grab a gift card! We’ve talked about upping it but some months we don’t spend any! So far we’ve kept it and just tried to be more aware and plan better! I do a lot of DIY gifts, or more thoughtful rather that expensive gifts, but I’ve been told I’m a great gift giver so I can tell you the dollar amount doesn’t matter!

Household Items $30

This usually consists of toilet paper, cleaning products, and occasionally if we haven’t already spent it all, some fun decorating items. Usually though we spend all of this every month. I’m still working out a way to find the household items I need for a better price. I’m kind of sick of spending $4 on tooth paste, but I have yet to find a cheaper one that whitens like the name brands. If I ever do find a better solution for budgeting household items (or if you have any suggestions!) I’ll be sure to share it here on the blog.

Gas $100

One thing I talk about in my post about buying a car in your twenties is to get one with good gas mileage. Why you may ask? So that when you budget gas, you don’t have to budget as much. Greg and I live in town which makes driving places a little easier on gas, but we also both have cars that get pretty good gas mileage. Because of this we only usually budget about $100 a month for it and rarely go over that!

Greg’s Whatever Fund $25

We knew we wouldn’t be able to keep a budget for very long if we couldn’t spend any money on fun things just for us. So we decided on an amount that we could afford and that we thought was reasonable. It was probably the best decision, my favorite part of our budget and definitely the main reason we’ve kept our budget under $1700 for so long. When you still are allowed to purchase things you like and that bring you joy, you are much more likely to stick to the other “rules” of the budget.

Lydia’s Whatever Fund $25

This used to be called “Lydia/Clothes fund” and Greg’s was called “Greg/Magic fund” because that was all we really spent our individual funds on. But Greg has recently stopped playing magic regularly and I have started slowing down how many clothes I buy in order to get reorganized and clean out what I already own. So since then I’ve been buying more makeup products, journals, books, etc. I love thrifting so a $25 budget is perfect. You walk into those stores like millionaire!

Psst! If you want to read about what I use my $25/month on here is November’s, December’s and January’s.

Giving $200

When we originally made this budget our income was extremely unreliable. I had steady hours but not enough that would pay all our bills. Greg usually had work but how much or how little was never known until sometimes the week of. I made about $1500 a month so we set our “budgeted” giving at $200 knowing he would make at least enough to get our total income to $2000 (giving equalling 10% of what we make). Nowadays we plan on $200 and at the end of the month when I do our budget I figure out what we actually made, then give 10% of that (usually a little bit more since we sponsor a child and such, but we make sure at least exactly 10% is being given to keep it consistent.) I don’t know if giving is part of your budgeting routine but it should be. I realize it can feel like you are barely surviving and can’t possibly give but that’s when you need to learn how to manage your money more (and where I want to help you!). I grew up without a lot of money, but I also grew up with a mom who always gave to others and her church no matter what amount she had in the bank. She knew what I’ve learned and a lot of people don’t know, when you give you are putting an investment in your money. It’s an investment in people and trusting God with your finances. That’s an investment that will pay you back in ten fold, I promise!

All Other Money

Any and all money we make that is not budgeted out goes straight into savings. We put it all away and don’t touch it so that when unexpected things come up we have money to take care of them. If nothing comes up it stays in our account! Like I said, we are currently saving for a house which is why we initially started this “tight” budget so that’s what our savings is focused on right now. I say tight with quotations because it doesn’t actually feel tight.


As I mentioned Greg’s income was pretty fickle up until a couple months ago. Some months we made just a little more than enough but other months we were putting a few hundreds into the savings account at the end of the month.

Living well within your means, means that you don’t have to worry if you have enough money for that flat tire, or to help someone else out. You’ve already prepared for that. I truly believe it is the key in building a savings without a lot of money.

We’ve stuck with this budget for a little over a year now and even though we are making double our old income some months, we still live like we don’t. We still keep our mindset at “we can’t afford that” because the truth is, we can’t, we are still saving for a house. We still live with our budget under $1700 because, living within our means, even when our income grew, meant we could put hundreds of dollars away in a savings account each month.

I don’t say this to brag or anything! I say this to tell you to do it too! I’m telling you, don’t depend on money! Don’t work for it, make it work for you! As it is we just had to drop $2000 on my car and it’s not even fully fixed yet! You can’t plan these things, but you can prepare for them! We are able to fix the car because we had taken the precautions previously in building an emergency fund!

Now I want to address the fact that I totally understand that this budget is not for everyone. I don’t post it thinking, “If you just did this you’d be doing it right!” I share more so you have an idea of what living on less (but still having a full life) looks like!

Also, I know that where you live might not have exact prices of things or bills I described here. It’s all about finding, what I like to call “loop holes”. Find that cheap activity to do that you love or a way to make it cheap. Ask businesses about any deals like ladies night, or student discounts. Cover all your bases and figure out what your town offers and how to get the most bang for your buck!


Okay, that is my diary entry/soap box post for the day! I hope you enjoyed getting a little peek into our finances. If you have any questions ask! I’m pretty open as you can see. ;) Stick around for the How To Build Your Savings post coming up, as well as How To Eat Out Under $20 For Two.



26 thoughts on “Our Budget Under $1700

  1. Erika

    Do you have a recommendation for cell phones? My contract is up in two months so I’d like to get a head start on what my next plan will be. Thanks in advance!

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      Hi Erika! We bought older versions of iPhones online (so they were cheaper) and got the AT&T Go phone plan. So we pay $45-$50 a month per phone like with 3GB of data! It’s worked well for us and we’ve never gone over or ran out of data! :)

  2. Leah

    What a great post, Lydia! I love your blog. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical to read this post because I live in Manhattan where rent alone is usually $1700, and that’s usually for a bedroom within a three bedroom, crazy! So, though I think of myself as responsible with money, I thought this post might be unrelated to my life and also maybe make me feel bad about how much I spend on rent haha. But! You did a great job with simply inspiring readers! I felt very inspired to save more and cut down on unnecessary costs. That’s really what budgeting is about, not about the specific money amounts behind it. Thanks so much! :)

    – Leah from http://www.urban20something.com

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      It’s so true! It’s all about finding what works for you in your area and situation! Glad that came across in the post! Thanks for your sweet comment! :)

  3. Bonnie Stoltzfoos

    Hi Lydia! I just came across your blog tonight on Pinterest and love this post… I’m working on my family’s new budget as my husband just had an income change and I left my job (because we moved :)). I love reading how other people save money and spend wisely… it is so fun! Thanks for your honesty and great ideas. A big take away for me was to come up with a few cheaper date ideas, like sharing a meal or getting ice cream instead of going out for a big meal. I think another big one was the gifts category. I always think “Oh I guess my budget is like $50?” for a shower gift and I’m realizing that is really not necessary.. you can do something so special for less money! And add in something handmade. :) Thanks again, girl! I’ll be checking out your other posts!

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      Thanks for your sweet comment Bonnie. I actually was just talking to one of my friends the other day about how to give cheaper gifts. Finding discount stores that sell homeware is always a good gift. If you can find them cheap cute signs or home decor is always a “wow” gift I feel like. Something people don’t buy for themselves but still love. It definitely takes practice but is so worth it!

      I’m glad you enjoyed my transparency! I feel like it helps to put things out in the open, especially when it comes to money. No body really talks about it in real life numbers so it can be hard to know exactly how to work your own budget! Good luck with your new adventure and finances! If you need anything else let me know!

  4. Jess

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your budget and being so honest about it! This is what I strive for, unfortunately my other half isn’t so committed haha. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      OH jess! It definitely is much easier with your other half is committed with you. I’m glad you enjoyed the peek into our finances! haha :)

  5. Allie

    Hey Lydia! Love your blog, you have some great insight about budgeting. I am wondering if you’ve thought about how to reconcile a minimalist budget with other values like eating locally produced food and only purchasing clothing that has been made ethically. A lot of what your saying can be applied to these values when you think about buying better things instead of more, like saving up for a quality, ethically made shirt that won’t wear out quickly, or just buying second hand to keep textiles out of the landfill. I have a hard time with budget-minded advice that doesn’t take in to consideration the fact that third world countries absorb much of the cost of goods and food because the system is broken. Products and food in the West are at an all time low because our industrial complex is cutting corners in the kinds of materials they put in our products and in the way people are treated. Can we really feel good about saving a few bucks on items that take advantage of other people and our ecological resources? I think you are really smart and you probably have some great ideas on how to live more simply and mindfully on a budget.

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      Allie, I have actually thought about this a lot as there is a really popular store in my area that focuses on making cute clothing in a really ethical way, but is also very expensive because of it. I love the clothes there but simply can’t afford to shop there.

      I think that one thing with budgets is that they should reflect your values. So if someone values not buying cheap clothes that are unethically produced, and instead purchasing ethical clothing that is more expensive, they would have to just cut back elsewhere to make up for that. I don’t do a one size fits all budgeting system, instead I think everyone has different situations, goals and values and that their budgets should reflect that.

      I personally don’t have too strong of a pull to NEVER shop unethically but I will say that I’ve thought about this topic before. I would never want someone to use that as a crutch to try and not live on less. I feel like that is like when people say that don’t eat healthy because it is too expensive. (No saying you are doing this just giving an example. ;) ) It’s all about what you value, where you spend your money is where you value.

      I personally shop mostly at thrift stores either and that shop I told you about has a sale once a year that you best believe I am at! ;)

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I love that you are taking that into account and agree it is something other budgeters don’t really mention much.

  6. Gwen

    Inspiring! Can I ask how you manage a $200 grocery budget? Also how do you budget for heath Iinsurance and or copays etc?

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      Hi Gwen! The best way I know how to explain our food budget is to explain what type of meals we eat because that is what we buy usually. :) For breakfast we eat a lot of eggs. My husband has an egg burrito everyday and I eat a hard boiled egg on toast with avocado. For lunch and dinners here are some meals we cycle through, tacos, spaghetti, stir fry (we buy a stir fry mix of frozen vegetables for a little over a dollar, add cut up chicken breast, and top ramen noodles. It’s actually really good!), we have chicken with rice and vegetables, we make hamburgers with fries made from potatoes we cut up, and we have sandwiches for lunch a lot too! Those are just some I can remember. I think one key thing we do is buy things that are not convenient. For instance we don’t often buy prepackaged food. It can be really cheap to buy some of those things but some are not and even the cheap ones add up. We don’t shop at stores like Fred Meyer, Albertsons, or Safeway. I hear a lot of people that do and really don’t know why because they are super expensive in my opinion. Some people don’t compare prices I guess. :) Anyways, I hope that gives you an idea of how we do $200. I definitely don’t love cooking but my husband and I do eat pretty big portions! haha :)

      The way we “budget” things like health insurance, copays, christmas, car repairs, is simply that since we live on such a little amount we put SO much away every month in savings. So instead of budgeting out a certain amount every month for specific categories, we just kind of bundle it all into savings. SO, when a doctor visit rolls around we know we are prepared for any bills that come in. (Which they did this last year seeing as I had strep throat twice!) It’s a different way of doing it but I honestly think if you can have that discipline, it’s the BEST way to do it.

      Hope that helped explain a few things! :)

      1. Gwen

        Yes thanks so very much for the quick and detailed response! Truly appreciate it! Our grocery budget is ridiculous for two people and something we definitely need to work on. We’ve cut back so much elsewhere but this is one area tgat There is a lot of room for improvement. I tried the coupon thing but just got overwhelmed and didn’t stick with it. We don’t have those stores you mentioned In our area but we do go to the local chain store Giant a lot & Costco. I’m not sure if Walmart is a lot cheaper but worth checking into. Thank ks again!! Another thing is we just have to say NO more to convenience or to wants vs needs…We do cook at home ALOT and pack lunches bit still there are many times when we get take out or buy something else because is SEEMS faster, less work or just sounds more appealing than what we have at home in our fridge & pantry ;) just say no has to become our new mantra. :)

        1. Lydia Lois Post author

          I totally understand! We aren’t immune to buying for convenience sometimes, but all in moderation! :) We usually shop at Winco. Not sure if you have that in your area but it’s sort of like costco prices without the bulk. It’s all about finding the stores in your area that are the cheapest! :) I also can’t handle couponing! haha Good luck!

  7. Heather

    Great post! In regards to finding cheaper household products and name brand whitening toothpaste for less, if you live near a Dollar Tree…you can get Crest or Cologate whitening for $1, 2.5 oz. also name brand cleaning supplies and TP for $1. I live in NYC so wherever I can save, I’ll walk a mile to make it happen😉

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      Thanks for the tip! I do have a dollar tree but I didn’t know they have name brand tooth paste! What?! I’m going to be checking that out now! And that’s awesome, I admire your dedication! haha :)

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      Hi Mina!
      The $25 a month is for gifts for others, so like birthdays and such. Instead of budgeting out a certain amount every month for Christmas and each other’s birthdays we just put it all in savings. Since our budget is so low we are able to save a lot! Then come holiday time we budget an allotted amount to spend out of our savings and go from there!

      I think this last Christmas we budgeted $500 for us and alllll our family! Does that make sense?

      Also the iPhone was the older generation so only like $99 online.

  8. Jai

    Thanks for sharing how you budget. The one thing this article needs is upfront disclosure about where you live. This would not work on the North East section of the U.S. where I live .
    Full price adult movie tickets are $20. Housing is very expensive. Food is high as well. Thanks for showing your thought process, but the $1700 wouldnt even get me a decent 1 bedroom apartment

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      Hey Jai,

      I totally get that a lot of things depend on simply where you live. I do however share this post not because I think everyone can live off this exact amount but more to show them one example of how to live on “less”. Also it’s all about finding “loop holes” or free things in your community, or cheaper clothes at that one store in your town. Things like that! I love that our town offers $5 movie nights on Tuesdays but I also know places in other towns that offer things like ladies night, or other fun free events that our town just doesn’t ever have. We aren’t that hip! ;)

      Thanks for commenting, I’ll definitely add a little geographical blurb in the post! :)

  9. Esther

    I just found your blog, and feel like I could have written this post. 😊 I think it’s wonderful to break down the actual numbers and it’s very empowering to show what it’s possible to live well on. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      Esther! Yes! I think so often money and income becomes a place of secrecy and never showing real numbers. I try to have full disclosure here on the blog and get rid of all the fluff! :) Thanks for reading!

    1. Lydia Lois Post author

      Haha my movie theatre does $5 Tuesday’s where every movie all day is only $5. Because of that we simply only go to movies on that day because otherwise it is $10! And we live in a smaller, older apartment in order to keep the rent low while we save for a house.

      We do live in a town not a city though in Washington State. That makes a difference. It’s all about making dye with what you’ve got! :)


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