Magical Budget Jars Changed Our Life

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

In today’s blog post, you’ll learn how one couple went from two incomes to one and managed to turn some glass jars into magical budget jars.

If you don’t take your finances seriously, someone else will, but that someone else won’t be on your side.

Each of these budget stories inspires others, including me, to believe in the power of positivity and not give up when the going gets tough.

There is a financial solution out there for everyone, whether they choose to believe it or not.

It may not be what you want it to be, but it’s likely for the best in the end.

budget jars

How Using Budget Jars Saved Our Lives

Hello Mr. CBB,

Here is our budget story…

When my husband and I met, we were both struggling from breakups, leaving us with less money and more things to pay for in our own lives.

I had little debt (just one credit card and my student loans).

However, he had quite a bit from being left with a house he couldn’t afford (he was finally selling it when we met).

Even with my meager debt and full-time job, I still couldn’t pay my bills on time or every month.

I could never figure it out but knew I had to invest some time into controlling this money situation.

Related: One simple tool to help beat Budget Anxiety

Somewhere in the first six months of our relationship, we discussed finances and realized how BADLY we were managing our money; we made enough money.

Still, take-out food and random shopping trips were happening before our bills got paid.

Soon after moving in together, making us a household of four (I have two kids), we found ourselves on only one income and had to figure out how to make it work quickly.

Related: How to support a family on one income

After looking at our monthly spending, we realized our one income would be ENOUGH money to pay for everything we needed, but it left us very little extra money.

You would think it was fantastic, and it was, but neither one of us had ever been very good at managing the money that came in. Here is where the magical Budget Jars enter our lives.

Magical Budget Jars

We had both watched the now-retired show ‘Till Debt Do Us Part‘ and understood how the budget jars worked but had never thought it was for us.

After discussions, we decided why not try it out; worst case scenario, we still don’t manage our money.

Related: How to keep debt from causing a marriage crisis

We are, approximately three years later, still using our jars successfully.

But our budget has changed and evolved over that time. We started with the basic magic jars that Gail Vaz Oxlade used on her debt repayment show (housing, transportation, clothing & gifts, entertainment) and added a couple of our own (Bell Canada (internet and cellphones), dog, Christmas savings).

This worked for the most part, but after about a year, we decided to break our budget down even more because we had a lot of extra monthly money (we were both back to work).

We also had expenses we weren’t prepared for but should have been that kept coming up for payment.

Related: How many budget categories should you have?

Starting Over Is Part Of The Budgeting Process

Back to the drawing board, we developed a way to prepare for things that happen every year (i.e., Halloween and Birthday Parties)(See Budget Below for our ‘Magic Savings Jar’ breakdown).

We figured out approximately what we would need a year for everything planned for and divided it by 12 to get our monthly amount.

Related: Why you must calculate Projected Expenses into your monthly budget

From there, we looked at the money coming in and determined the actual obtainable amount.

Things were going smoothly, and we were building up a good amount of money in our jars from when we ended up with three paycheques instead of two.

You Have To Be Financially Ready For Life

how some magical jars helped one couple out of debt
How budget jars helped us out of Debt

At that point, we were on track to pay for our wedding in cash, which we had wanted to do, but then life happened.

We lost one income almost entirely and took on my kids full-time, which we had shared 50/50 beforehand in December last year.

Our budget took a big hit, and we couldn’t put as much toward the wedding as planned.

Adjusting the amounts we put in the savings jars every pay allowed us to ensure the bills were paid with money going towards our wedding fund.

We cut back on things for our wedding, but in the end, it ended up putting us $3500 into debt which sucked because we wanted to buy a house early the following year.

With our jars, we are optimistic that with our debts paid off, we will be able to get into the real estate market within the next two years.

Dave Ramsey- Debt Snowball Repayment

I recently came across Dave Ramsey’s Blog, where I found his baby steps to debt repayment, which we have started following loosely along with our budget jars.

Step one is a $1000 emergency fund which we were able to check off our list this month.

We are now working on our debt snowball ( paying down our debts from smallest to largest).

Related: Download the Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet FREE!

How To Handle Extra Cash

What do we do with the extra money? 

Early in our budgeting adventure, we discovered we were not super strict frugal people.

We need to allow ourselves to get take-out occasionally or buy that video game we love (video games are our entertainment).

These ‘extras,’ however, needed to come from the extra money we had to come up with.

As we stick to that rule, we can’t pull money from bills for the extras.

However, we also use our extra money to ‘top’ up budget jars that might need help.

Kids’ clothing takes a hit with snowsuits this time of year, and Christmas sometimes requires extra attention.

If we can add some extra to the budget jars, we do, so we can do the things we want to do.

We will also funnel extra money into our debt repayment plan to help quickly reduce debt.

And where does the extra money come from?

Our extra money usually comes from one of two things.

My commission at work or my husband picking up extra hours during that pay period.

We also used our income tax returns to pay down our debts (I used my last three years’ tax returns to pay down my provincial student loan, leaving me with just my federal portion)

Related: How to track your over-time hours so you aren’t missing out on cash.

Breakdown Of Money In Our Budget Jars

  • Rent: $350/ pay
  • Gas & Car Upkeep – $200/pay
  • Food – $230/pay
  • Bell – Internet & Cellphones – $200/pay
  • Hydro- $100/pay
  • Lunches – Kids Lunch Days at School & Costco Trips – $80/pay
  • Dog & Cat – $40/pay
  • Christmas – $40/pay
  • Other Holidays – i.e., Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Easter – $20/pay
  • Emergency – $20/pay (which is now being diverted to debt because we have our $1000 fund to start with)
  • Adventures – We use this jar for season passes to the zoo & days out with the kids – $40
  • Birthday – our birthday parties and presents for friends – $40/pay
  • Kids Clothing – $20/pay
  • Adult Clothing – $10/pay
  • Small Purchases – Anything for the house under $200 – $10/pay
  • Big Purchases – Anything for the house over $200 – $20/pay
  • TFSA Contribution – $25/pay

Long-Term Plans Budget Jar

Long-Term Plans – This budget jar is us saving for significant life changes (the wedding we just paid for & now saving for a house) – $100/month.

  • Debt Repayment – $200/month
  • Kids Activities – $200/month
  • Car Insurance – $360/month
  • RESP Contribution – $60/month
  • Daycare – $225/month

We know there are places in our budget where we could cut costs and have more money towards debt repayment or a house sooner, but we are taking it step by step.

We are 1000x better than we were three years ago when my cellphone was cut off every other month, or rent wasn’t paid monthly.

Our budget keeps evolving to improve, we may not be super frugal right now, but the jars have given us the tools to manage what money we have coming in at that point in our lives.

We are willing to make cutbacks when needed, but we can afford certain things right now, and we are making the CHOICE to do them, not just mindlessly spending money every paycheque.

I hope this gives you insight into how the budget jars work.

Please comment below if you have any other questions, and I will respond.

If you have a budget story you want to share with the CBB readers, please email me at:, and your story may get featured next.

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