How Do 5 People Live Off 1 Income: January 2019 Expenses

My employer declined to allow for a cost of living increase for 2019. My bill collectors, however, did not feel the same. Health insurance, Life insurance, Child’s activities, HOA, Internet, Car registration, and Car insurance all recently increased. Plus, sales tax in my area went up 1.5% starting in January. How does a family of five living on one income get by when bills go up as take-home pay does down?


Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

January 2019 Expenses

Electricity $101.57
Internet $73.98
Water $30.34
Cell phone $70.00
Restaurant $314.62
Groceries $320.28
Gasoline $96.00
Other vehicle expenses $0.00
Home maintenance $12.68
Medical expenses $0.00
Gifts/Entertainment $487.07
Kids’ activities $0.00
Other $69.30

Income and Deductions

Our only source of income is my salary as a clinical psychologist. While that might sound fancy, do not confuse psychologists (who are PhDs) with psychiatrists (who are MDs) – our pay is substantially less. My husband and I decided to not disclose my income or the exact number we contribute to our retirement plans. But I will say that my take-home pay is less this year.

The following are taken directly from my pay:

Health insurance premium for the family plan through my employer has increased from $136.78 per pay period ($3,556.28 in 2018) to $145.67 per pay period ($3,787.42 in 2019). That’s an increase of $231.14 for 2019.

Life insurance for me also increased. As if turning 40 isn’t difficult enough, actuarily speaking I must be closer to death since my life insurance increased at this joyous milestone. All previous years, the basic insurance was $15.60 a pay period and I had a supplemental plan for an additional $4.71 per paycheck. Starting in 2019, the basic plan stayed the same but my supplemental insurance increased to $6.53 per pay period. That’s an increase of $47.32 a year.

Health Saving Account contribution limits increased in 2019 from $6,900 for a family to $7,000 (including employer’s contributions). With a large family and high deductible, I voluntarily decided to increase my contribution up to the max. That’s an increase of $104 a year.

Between the pay freeze and increase in health insurance, life insurance, and my decision to increase my HSA, I am taking home $382.46 less income in 2019


My husband and I decided not to disclose our mortgage payment.

But I will say that my mortgage is 18% of my gross income and 23% of my net income (after deductions for taxes and social security, retirement, HSA contributions, and insurance). This is better than the recommended amount that housing be ≤ 25% of income.

I will also say that we are contributing additional principle to our mortgage payment each month. Given my personal circumstances, paying off my home is my #1 priority. I need to know that should I become sick or injured (or furloughed), my family will still have a roof over our heads.

Electricity (we do not have natural gas)

We live in a warm climate and did not turn on the heat, but we did fire up the hot tub, which does draw a significant amount of energy. We also use space heating fans on those cold nights.

January’s bill of $101.57 is only $0.14 more than this month last year.

We previously posted about  electricity saving tips. While doing our research for that post, we came across a tip that was new to us: washing clothes in cold water. We have continued to use this tip and this does help.


We have been living without an internet contract since our last company was bought-out by another company. The good part about not having a contract is that you can change providers any time. The bad part is that the company can raise your prices any time.

Our bill recently increased from $71.98 per month to $73.98 per month. That’s an additional $24 a year.


Our water bill of $30.34 is the same as last month, but higher compared to January of 2018.

Of note, our water bill was higher in 2018 compared to previous years. I have a feeling 2019 will be the same.

Cell Phone

We continue to use a pre-paid cell service. The cost stays the same at $40 per line ($35 each with a family plan) for a total of $70 per month. I love that there is no contract or fees.

I wrote more about our cell phones when we disclosed our 2018 Q3 expenses.

I’ve considered getting an i-Phone, but have yet to find an answer to the question of what an i-Phone can do that my phone cannot. I refuse to pay exponentially more for basically the same thing.


Last year, we had one category for food and aimed to spend $100 per person per month (excluding going out to eat for special occasions such as birthdays, which I included under gifts and entertainment).

This year, I decided to make a separate category for how much we spend going out to eat.

Groceries (including food, household products, and diapers) came in at $320.28. The reason it was so low is because we went out to eat a lot.

Restaurant spending was high this month at $314.62, as we took all 3 children out to eat for their birthdays. I was also out-of-town for a few days on business, which added to this expense.

Vehicle Expenses

Gasoline was more than usual because we did a lot of traveling in the New Year — the beach, kids’ birthdays, and my business trip. This month’s cost of $96.00 is higher than last year’s average of $67.92.

Insurance we pay every six months, which saves over $200 per year compared to paying monthly. Our last bill was in December (which was $77.80 more than the previous six months). 

Registration is due annually and was also paid in December.

Maintenance was $0 this month.

Home Maintenance and Expenses

Our HOA increased for the first time in 20 years. It cost $439 for 2019. We paid this bill in December.

Home repair of $12.68 is for when both toilets broke on the same day. Fun!

Medical Expenses


Gifts and Entertainment

We spent a lot in January. For New Year’s we went to the beach. Then, all 3 of my kids celebrated their birthdays in one week! We went to a few attractions, including Disney!

Our family was gifted passes to Disney, but the parking ($25), gifts for the kids ($125.43), and entry to a smaller nearby attraction ($67.06 for 3: birthday child and two-year-old got in free) were still expensive. Not to mention the food and gas. A huge thanks to the grandparents for contributing to this experience of a lifetime.

As a birthday gift to myself, I also had my wedding ring and another piece of jewelry repaired ($101.65).

We had a fun month, but it was expensive!

Kids’ Activities

My kids activities were on break Dec-Jan. However, they are starting back up next month. My son’s sports nearly doubled in monthly cost. However, we decided to keep him in the program. This will take some adjusting in our budget. We’ll see how we swing it next month.


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Final Thoughts

Now that birthday month and work travel are over, hopefully we can get back on track with our spending. Many costs increased from last year’s expenses. I will have to make some changes to our lifestyle so that we can continue to live within our means and continue to spend consistent with our goals.


How does my family’s spending compare to yours? 


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