Magical Budget Jars Change This Couples Life Forever

how some magical budget jars helped one couple out of debt



Every so often I get an email from a CBB fan which sparks a conversation which then turns into sharing their budget journey on Canadian Budget Binder. I absolutely love sharing fan stories because they are real and all of us can relate to them in one form or another.

In today’s blog post you’ll learn how one couple goes 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 inspire others including myself to continue to believe in the power of positivity and not giving 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 what you want it to be but in the end it’s likely for the best.




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 didn’t have much 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 on his own (he was in the process of selling it finally when we met). Even with my meager debt and a full-time job I still wasn’t able to pay my bills on time or at all every month. I could never figure it out but knew I had to invest some time into getting this money situation under control.

Related: One simple tool to help beat Budget Anxiety

Somewhere in the first 6 months of our relationship we discussed finances and realized how BADLY we were managing our money, we made enough money but take-out food and random shopping trips were happening before our bills got paid.

Soon after moving in together making us a household of 4 (I have 2 kids) we found ourselves on only one income and had to quickly figure out a way to make it work.

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 left us very little extra money. You would think is awesome 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.


Enter Magical Budget Jars


We had both watched the now retired show ‘Till Debt Due Us Part’, and understood the idea of how the budget jars worked, but had either never thought it was for us (ME), or tried it but it never stuck (HIM). We discussed it and 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

Here we are approximately 3 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 we needed to break our budget down even more because we had quite a bit of extra money every month (we were both back to work at this point) and expenses that we weren’t prepared for but should have been kept coming up.

Related: How many budget categories should you have?

Back to the drawing board we went to develop a way we could prepare for things that happen every year (ie. Halloween & Birthday Parties)(See Budget Below for our ‘Jar” breakdown). We figured out approximately what we would need a year for everything that could be 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 took a look at actual money coming in and figured out what was an actual obtainable amount from there. Things were going smoothly, we were building up a good amount of money in our jars from the months where we end up with 3 pays instead of 2.


You have to be ready for life


At that point we were right on track to pay for our wedding in cash which was what we had wanted to do but then life happened. We lost one income almost completely and took on my kids full-time (We had shared 50/50 before hand) in December of last year.

Our budget took a pretty big hit and we weren’t able to put as much towards the wedding as we had planned, but we readjusted the amounts we put in the jars every pay so bills could still be paid with money still going towards our wedding fund.

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


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. Now we are working on our debt snowball ( paying down our debts from smallest amount to largest).

Related: Download the Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet FREE!

What do we do with extra money? 

For us we decided early on in our budgeting adventure that we are not super strict budgeting people. We need to allow ourselves to get take-out once in a while or buy that video game we love (video games are our entertainment).

These ‘extras’ however needed to come from extra money which we have to come up with. We can’t pull money from bills for the extras as we stick to that rule. We also use our extra money to ‘top’ up budget jars that might need some help. This time of year kids clothing takes a hit with snow-suits and Christmas sometimes requires some extra attention.

If we can add some extra to our budget jars we do, so we are able to do the things we want to do. We will also funnel extra money into our debt repayment plan to help reduce debt quicker

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 3 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 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 – ie Valentines 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 seasons passes to the zoo & days out with the kids – $40
  • Birthday – our own 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 – This budget jar is us saving for big life changes (our 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 that we could cut costs and have more money towards debt repayment or a house sooner but 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 every month.

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 right now we can afford certain things and we are making the CHOICE to do them not just mindlessly spending money every pay cheque.

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

If you have any other questions please feel free to leave me a comment below and I will respond.

Thanks for reading,


  • Thank-you for sharing your story. Mr.CBB

CBB Readers

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  1. Monique Ashby says:

    Is this the right link for the Canadian Budget Binder Spreadsheet?

    • Hi Monique,
      Thanks for letting me know. The link jumped when I was linking up. My fault for not checking. Good thing I have awesome fans like you! MR.CBB

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