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We Live in Rural Montana, Have 3 Kids, and Make $33K/Year

YNAB Money Snapshots

Welcome to YNAB Money Snapshots—where you see a real picture of someone else’s budget and finances. They’re all anonymous, because sharing money is still a squirrelly topic for many, but we think airing them out in the open makes you better with your own money story. 

As you read these budgets, keep in mind that some people make lots of money and some people make a little bit of money, but we know it’s what you do with that money and how you feel about that money that means more than any yearly salary. 

See how a homeschool mom and retreat center manager in rural Montana making $33,000 a year spent their money in April.


  • Names: Jas & Mc. G
  • Ages: 30 & 31
  • Location: Southwest Montana
  • Jobs: Homeschool mom/part-time church administrator; Ranch/retreat center manager 
  • Living situation: Married with three kids: ages 7, 5, and 1

Income: $33,000/year

  • Jas makes $7,800 as a part-time church administrator
  • Mc. G makes $25,200 as a ranch/retreat center manager

Savings: $69,300

  • Savings: $16,300
  • Retirement: $50,000
  • Kids: $3,000

Debt: $0

April Inflows: $6,414

  • Payroll 1: $610
  • Payroll 2: $1904
  • Stimulus Money: $3900 

April Budget

Budget snapshot for family in Montana

My Savings Categories

Right now my top savings goals are:

  1. True expenses
  2. Savings
  3. Vacation/travel
  4. Skiing next season
  5. A new gun
  6. Kids’ photo books

There’s a fuzzy line between true expenses and savings. We’re not sure where we would go for vacation yet, but probably camping at a national park. We took a trip to SoCal in February. 

My Month

We spent a little more than usual in April in our household category because our regular rhythm was off due to Covid-19. On the flip side, we got our stimulus money and started giving a lot of it away. We also loaned some money ($4500) to some family members so they could buy cabinets (used) for the house they're about to close on.

My Story

We both grew up in families that were fairly open about money and gave us a good foundation in the basics of money handling. When we got married in 2011, I had already graduated from college with a very small loan ($2,500 to pay back). Mc. G still had three more semesters of school but was able to graduate debt-free with scholarships, grants, and paying out of pocket. Mc.G is definitely a saver by nature so when we got engaged he was able to pay off my student loan. We were also able to buy a fixer-upper house for $17,000 in cash. We took out a $10,000 loan from my grandparents to start renovations. 

Sometime during that first year of marriage, a couple from church took us through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and we started a spreadsheet budget. It was hard to reconcile throughout the month but we always settled up at the end of each month. 

In 2013, Mc.G graduated college, we welcomed our first child, and we moved out-of-state for Mc.G's first full-time job. The move, rental deposit, and new house supplies pretty much wiped out our bank account and we weren't sure how quickly the first paycheck and moving expenses reimbursement would come so we borrowed $500 from Mc.G's parents to have in reserve. 

Thankfully we didn't need it before the first paycheck came. I stayed home with the baby, we rented a house in our new city, and we rented out our house in our old city. We continued to budget using a mix of spreadsheets, cash envelopes, and freeware personal finance software.

Mc.G's salary was around $60K to start and we slowly built up an emergency fund, made some fun purchases, paid off the loan to my grandparents, and carried on with life. We welcomed our second child in 2015. 

Sometime around this time I first heard of "budgeting software" separate from personal finance software and tried a couple of different options. We went with YNAB and it was amazing the difference it made even though we had been budgeting the whole time! The ability to see exactly what we had available in each category instantly was a game changer! The process of taking a fresh look at our money was also really helpful in clarifying our priorities. 

We wanted to move closer to family, so we started job hunting around 2014. It took a little while, but a job opportunity finally came up closer to family that would be a reduction in pay but a much better life/work balance. We started the new job in 2016. 

It's hard to quantify the change in finances. Our new job pays about a third of what Mc.G was making. We pay for our own healthcare (healthcare sharing ministry), retirement, and other insurance (disability, etc.). On the flip side, our housing and utilities are provided and we get a business vehicle. 

With what we make at our main job plus my part-time job, we are able to cover all of our immediate and true expenses and maintain the level of charitable contributions we want to. Any long-term savings, including retirement, comes from side jobs, tax refunds, etc. It's not my favorite financial position to be in, but the lifestyle benefits outweigh my concerns. And we still have the emergency fund we saved while Mc.G worked a "regular" job. 

We also still had the proceeds from the sale of our first house and we've invested that in flipping a house that we just signed an agreement on yesterday. With the money from the sale (we’ve spent about $23K and should receive about $58K), we're hoping to get a rental property or two to supplement our income. Oh, and we welcomed a third child in 2019 and started homeschooling so, life is not lacking in adventures!

My Financial Goals

We’re looking for ways to increase our income so we can fund retirement and save more for our kids.

I would rate my current financial situation: 5/5

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We Live in Rural Montana, Have 3 Kids, and Make $33K/Year