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See My Budget: A Family of Five on $12K/Month in Seattle

Welcome to YNAB Money Snapshots—where you see a real budget in action! 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. 

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 family of five in Seattle that took home ~$12,000/month in 2020 budgeted their money.


  • Names: Mimsy & Jax
  • Ages: 41, 46
  • Location: Seattle 
  • Jobs: Nonprofit fundraiser and home inspector
  • Living situation: We’re married and have three elementary-aged kids.

Salary: ~$155,000 in 2020

  • I (Mimsy) make $90,000/year as a nonprofit fundraiser
  • Jax has highly variable income as a home inspector and made about $65,000 in 2020.

Savings: $55,000

This is money in our checking account and it covers the current month, plus two months of expenses, plus about $25K in true expenses saved. Beyond that, we don't have savings built yet. We had been paying down non-mortgage debt and just finished early in 2020.

We were going to add a dedicated savings category with the extra money, but instead we moved the dollars towards getting more than a month ahead, which seemed more prudent due to COVID-19 uncertainty.

Debt: $275,000

  • Mortgage: $275,000

That's it! We only have mortgage debt as of February 2020—thanks to YNAB and fully funding our true expenses.

Monthly Take-Home*: $12,117/month in 2020

This is made up of: 

  • Mimsy’s paycheck
  • Jax’s variable income as a home inspector
  • Stimulus money
  • Tax refund

*The monthly take-home is the amount of money available to budget with after taxes and pre-tax savings are taken out, and it’s not simply a salary divided by twelve. Monthly take-home also accounts for inflows beyond paychecks—like tax returns, stimulus checks, and other windfalls averaged out over a year’s time.

Our Budget

I'm Currently Saving For...

Right now my top savings goals are:

  1. Budgeting in future months
  2. Big surgeries
  3. True expenses

We are two months ahead after using YNAB for three years. We are currently saving for a third month.

We have several big surgeries coming up in our family that will not be covered by our not-so-great health insurance, so we're saving up for those. 

We also save for many true expenses—the most important and impactful thing we have learned from YNAB. Christmas, annual trips to visit our respective families (currently on hold), back-to-school shopping, car replacement, computer replacement. We took our wish lists offline when COVID hit, other than saving for a big 15th Wedding Anniversary shindig in 2021 (fingers crossed).

My Story

We both come from upper middle class families, and due to that privilege, scholarships and generous grandparents, we came to our marriage with no college debt or personal debt. 

We shifted our spending to allow for a significant job change for my spouse, who was unhappy in his more lucrative corporate job, and stopped generating as much savings. 

We had a long, expensive road to pregnancy and our second pregnancy unexpectedly ended up being twins—which meant more costs for the pregnancy and beyond. 

We ended up with about $40,000 worth of debt that we consolidated into a home equity line of credit (HELOC). About three years ago, we found YNAB

Figuring out your true expenses and funding them was magic. When we started our YNAB journey, I was only making $50,000 a year and Jax wasn't working because we couldn't afford our fixed expenses, food, and childcare for a two-year old and infant twins. We would make our way out of some debt, and then "be hit” with a car repair or the holidays or plane tickets (five of them!) and then be back where we started or slightly worse. 

When we figured out our true expenses and fully funded them, that changed things. To fund our true expenses, we had to cut back on some things we cared about and we let go of some true expenses that weren't worth it. 

As our income grew, we continued our debt pay-down plan, but we didn't add to it at first. Instead, we got a month ahead. Then we added to true expenses: we made a computer and a car replacement category; we budgeted more towards home maintenance. Our budget also made us be honest with ourselves, and we increased budget categories where we always overspent.

Now, after three years, our true expenses are broad (and expensive), but worth it. When we learn about something new (like a surgery that our insurance won't cover), I immediately add it as a true expense category (with a due date) and rework the budget to cover the new true expense. It may mean we build savings more slowly, but it also means we won't be using up the savings we have built or go back into debt. It seems so obvious now, but it still feels like magic.

My Big-Picture Financial Goals

  • Build three months of savings
  • Retirement
  • College savings for kids

We’re currently two months ahead and are about halfway towards a third. It’s been a journey so far: we’ve paid off all that debt, gotten over a month ahead, built our true expenses and we’re now at a point where we’re thinking about financial things we had neglected like retirement and college savings for our three kids. Thanks, YNAB. We know how lucky we are.

I would rate my current financial situation: 5/5

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See My Budget: A Family of Five on $12K/Month in Seattle