Our Family Budget

2021 January Monthly Budget Challenge By 7 Eager CBB Friends

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During the 2021 year, you will read about  7 CBB friends who share how their money is working for them.  

The 2021 Monthly Budget Challenge also includes our monthly budget at the very end of the blog post

We share with you all of our financial information and show you how we’ve become mortgage-free.

This is a revealing monthly budget challenge for all of us but it’s the reality of most Canadians who need to budget.

Your money doesn’t work on its own so if you want out of debt once and for all get a move on. 

There is plenty of information on CBB to help you get started such as my 10 Step Mini-Series for Budgeting

Let’s do this together. 

budget increase

Money Doesn’t Make People Rich Until They Work It Like A Boss

A Monthly Budget Challenge Is About Feeding Yourself Knowledge To Make Money Work Harder

I thought it would be a good idea to introduce you to our 7 CBB friends (readers of CBB) who want to boost their financial accountability.

We’ve never met each other but we all have something in common and that’s budgeting our money the right way.

No matter how you figure out your financial situation budgeting is the best way to know specifics about your spending habits. 

Another great thing about a monthly budget challenge is that it takes away some of that stress you tend to hang on to.

When you know where the money is going and how much is coming in the load starts to lighten. 

The more you work on your budgeting skills you’ll begin to cultivate improvements in places you never dreamed of. 

Down below one CBB friend says she is thinking about chopping her cable. 

We did the same thing last year and don’t miss television as we knew it as you can get everything online. 

So let’s dive into the new 2021 monthly budget challenge and meet my friends who will budget with us for the year. 

No names are being used unless the participant wants to share their name. 

2021 Monthly Budget Challenge Participants

Welcome, CBB Friends to the second CBB Budget Challenge starting January 1, 2021

Yes, we are all friends at CBB because we want to make changes to the way we take charge of our money.

One thing to keep in mind when reading each participant’s budget review is that they aren’t competing. 

The budget challenge is a challenge for the individual to get used to tracking their budget and improving it. 

This year we start with quite a few participants but let’s see how many of them stick around and take the time to share.

1. Budget Participant

January is a relatively quiet month for us financially because of the rule in our house that we do not carry debt of any kind from one year into the next. 

This year we are working with only 40% of the income that we previously enjoyed because of a corporate closure resulting from the covid-19 pandemic.

It’s going to be interesting trying to remain positive and live successfully on such a reduced income but I think we can do it. At least, I hope we can do it!

Hubby gets paid every 2 weeks or 26 paydays per year.

I budget based on 2 pays days a month or 24 pay periods per year.

The extra 2 paydays, which occur in January and July this year, are designated to paying his annual RRSP contribution. 

He has a work pension plan that he contributes to so his RRSP contribution isn’t large…and we can still swing it even with our reduced income.

What we can no longer manage to save up for are our annual TFSA contributions.

I told hubby that our contributions will involve moving maturities out of our taxable investment account into our tax-sheltered TFSA’s every year.

Although our net assets won’t increase as a result of NEW savings, we’ll reduce some of the income tax and ever so slowly increase our savings.

I sent in our 2020 Medical Extended Health Claim form and when we receive our refund cheque, it will be deposited into our savings towards a new car purchase somewhere down the road.

This will be the only deposit we can manage annually…there are simply no funds in the monthly budget to direct towards savings of any kind.

In fact, we’re running a small monthly shortfall and need to squeeze every nickel until it squeals!

It’s more important than ever that we funnel this annual refund cheque directly to a car replacement that is going to come down the pike eventually.

I can hardly believe it but the 2020 tax season has already begun! I downloaded our 2020 RRSP contribution receipts and printed them off for our tax files on January 7th.

Things will start coming fast and furious now!

Mid-month I paid my GST due for the period of Oct 31-Dec 31, 2020.

That’ll keep me in good stead with CRA until April when the Personal Income tax returns are due to be filed.

In January, I always make our “Christmas & Birthday Gift” deposits.

We NEVER spend any gifts or windfalls.

I consider that doing so would constitute “living outside our means”.

These funds were gifts from our families that we saved and tried to grow.

Isn’t that the wish of every parent or grandparent? Our gifts have been saved for 35 years now.

Long ago hubby found it odd that he never got to spend any of his gifts but now when he looks at the balance in his Mad Money Account…it’s rather comforting.

It’s not a huge balance but if he really wants something that we simply can’t afford he has options. 

Grocery Budget Struggles

I have to admit, I am struggling with our downsized grocery budget.

Currently, we now have a whopping $100.00 per month for 2 adults.

We re-stocked an assortment of vitamins for each of us this month, while they were on sale, so it only left about $40 for actual groceries.

Our meals are going to have to be 95% vegetarian/vegan and focusing on “in season” and “sale items”. 

It’ll also mean working with what we have on hand and simply forgetting about what we would like to have.

With our $40 this month we re-stocked hubby’s English Muffins at RCSS and his 900g jars of Cheez Whiz at Walmart.

We caught both items on deep discount thank goodness.

He eats them for breakfast EVERY morning and he was very nearly out of both.

I am going to have to adjust my grocery shopping methodology to shop only once a month.

The online minimum order of $50 before tax and fees will certainly help keep me on track.

However, I will only use “click and collect” now so that we no longer pay for any deliveries. 

I plan to stay as close as I can to $50 per month so that I set aside $50 each month for medical needs, re-stocking sales, and possibly any holiday extras if there’s anything leftover.

The 3rd week this month had some great grocery sales on items that we use regularly BUT I was out of grocery money and had to just ignore them. That was really hard!

Sure I have next month’s grocery money already in the bank account but drawing from it ahead of time is a real slippery slope and one that won’t lead us to a balanced grocery budget at the end of the year.

Now, I just have to reach down deep inside and muster some extra willpower to stick to our plan!

I really wanted a McDonald’s cheeseburger for $2.38 this month BUT hubby asked me how I was going to pay for it after I had just told him that we had no more grocery money until February.

That was the end of that discussion!

I still wanted the burger, and in fact, have been dreaming about it at night, but WANTING is not the same as NEEDING. 

However, I have to shift my focus onto what we actually NEED.

That $2.38 plus the cost of the gas to go and get it would buy us a dozen eggs and be enough protein for multiple meals for each of us.

Fast food and convenience foods are like little vampires just waiting to suck the life out of my grocery budget if I let them. 

Cooking from scratch extends what we can do with such a small grocery budget.

I think this is also going to be a year where I cut my portion sizes even further…as a cost-saving measure.

Hubby is still working full time, so I will make sure he has enough food to fuel his day. 

You’ll notice in the “What’s For Dinner” Facebook feed that I am putting my plan into motion.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Mr.CBB- It sounds like your grocery budget will be challenging just as ours will be for the year. Good luck and I look forward to reading your updates. 

2. Budget Participant

Hello Mr. CBB and all,

I’m off to a great start to my budgeting year as I forgot about this until the very last minute!

But, I remembered, and I’m putting the effort in, and sometimes we have to give ourselves credit for the little wins.

However, better calendar management should be one of my goals for this year. 

Speaking of goals for this year:

I have taken part in this challenge for the last 2 years and I’ve found that it keeps me accountable for my money.

I’ve never really been strict in my spending, having savings allows for that leeway, but I’d like to move away from that mindset and be better at not going over certain amounts.

Budget Goals 2021

As mentioned, I’m doing this last minute so I’ll have to better hammer out my budget goals in next months posts, but here’s some I’m thinking:

  • Try not to eat out more than twice a week for work lunches – I know that this is probably excessive to a lot of people, but I hate cooking, so that brings me to goal 2.
  • Make more meals at home with leftovers so I can have lunch the next day –
  • Take better note of how gift cards are used. I generally write them down as an expense, but then I write down that I bought $50 in groceries (for example) thus counting the gift card twice as an expenditure. Perhaps I may start looking at when I buy take out for others as a gift, rather than a fast-food expense, whenever we go home to visit our families we eat at our favourite Thai restaurant as there isn’t one local.
  • I generally buy for more than just myself which makes my fast food budget look super high 
  • Limiting the amount of clothing I purchase throughout the year
  • However, since I follow this now sometimes I feel I spend way more than I should.
  • Start putting aside money for a large vacation – either I’m going all out when COVID is no more and having a crazy good time, or vacationing is going to be super expensive so everything will cost a ton more to start building back harder hit industries.

Either way, time to save!

So here’s where my money went in January

January 2021 Monthly Budget Challenge Update

  • Gifts: 66.55
  • Internet: 95
  • Spotify: 12.99
  • Gas: 86.78
  • Groceries: 149.69
  • Fast food:99.65
  • Clothing: 60
  • Glasses: 209.50
  • Direct to RRSP: 200
  • Netflix: 9.99
  • Cell phone: 57.99
  • car/home insurance: 161.92

I have paid off my mortgage and my car payments so that definitely frees up a lot of money, though I feel like I will be coming due on a lot of expenses soon.

  • Looking at getting CAA for my car
  • New tires for winter, and summer
  • Saving for a new car
  • Possible new deck this year (or next if I’m lucky),
  • Saving towards a new roof (though I should be able to get 2 more years)
  • Any unexpected expenses

I may be helping my mom buy a house so I don’t know exactly what that will look like, but something I have to be keeping in mind.

So far my finances are good, but they can always be better!

Speaking of better, and going back to what I said earlier about better calendar management, I forgot to pay my power bill which was due January 28th.

I’m remembering at this moment, oops.

I think this is the first time in my life I have forgotten to pay a bill though, so no huge concerns.

I guess I’ll get to see what kind of late fees they charge when I get my next statement.

Looking forward to keeping myself accountable for another year, thanks to Mr. CBB for the opportunity to do this. Happy 2021 everyone!

Mr.CBB- Let me know what happens with your late payment. Great start to your year. 

3. Budget Participant 

 Good morning,

I am attaching a copy of my Jan 2021 budget for the Budget Challenge. 

It’s pretty detailed – will probably condense this in the following months.

I hope this helps me keep up with working my budget monthly

Monthly Budget Challenge Successes

There were some successes this month:

  1. I didn’t eat out
  2. Paid off some of my credit cards last month
  3. Increased the amount I put in my retirement by $5 a week.

The Retirement increase may not seem like much but right now I’m dumping $772 every two weeks in my 457. 

I started 4 years ago with nothing in my 457 and I’m now over $35,000

I’m 55 years old and want to retire someday, so I’m maxing out what I can put in this year. 

Hopefully, come June my husband can start putting money away as well.

Monthly Budget Challenge Failures

House taxes were due 2/1 but I paid them in January. 

Taxes for the QUARTER were $1958.27!

I only had $1200 put away for taxes so I pulled from my other long-term savings account to pay the remaining balance. 

When we bought our house four years ago, taxes were $650 a quarter. 

Man have they increased! Other than that, this month went pretty well

Next Months Plans

Cut the cable cord – I’ve wanted to do this for well over a year but my Hubby would freak out anytime we would talk about it. 

Thankfully, he talked with some friends about their cable and found out that they all cut the cord years ago!

The influence must have worked as he came home and told me to get it done in February or March.  WHOOT!

Even with keeping the internet, this will be a savings of $150 each month. 

His credit card will get the difference.

That’s my January update – see you next month. 

Next month I’ll try to access the 457 so I can put in exactly how much I have in there.

You can see her actual budget here Jan 21.

Mr.CBB- I love how you increased your investments by $5 because for years I’ve said even saving a dollar or 5 dollars is better than nothing. Good luck in 2021. 

4. Budget Participant 

Hi everyone,

I’m legally separated as of November 2020 so lots of new things are happening in my life. 

Upon selling our house I was left with $23000 for a down-payment for this house.

I live with my 18-year-old son and 15-year-old cat.

The mortgage payments on our new house start in February 2021

I’m 52 years young and work full-time at the hospital and plan on learning more about budgeting and how to increase savings and pay off debt. 

January 2021 budget April

Mr. CBB- I love that you use the basic budget printable as it’s simple to use.

Do you keep all of your receipts when you go shopping or buy coffee etc?

We do and they go into a yellow basket in my office and then entered into our excel spreadsheet. 

Do you know how to use excel?  If no I can help you by customizing the basic budget since you are in the challenge to whatever budget categories you’d like. 

My first thought was there is that there are too many things going on. I would do all of the adding on a separate piece of paper and then transfer it nicely to the basic budget sheet. 

The reason is for organizational purposes and review at the end of the year. We all say we will remember what we scribbled about but we don’t. 

A 3-hole punch and a binder are ideal to keep your budgets organized or even a duotang.

Check the dollar store or any second-hand shops as you can often find them there for cheap. 

Upon testing this budget with our monthly budget Mrs. CBB did the exact same thing as you and I couldn’t understand it when I put it into our excel spreadsheet. 

So, let me know what budget categories you want and I’ll send you a copy, do your math on a separate paper, and then transfer it nicely to the budget sheet. 

What budget categories would you like to see improve? These are the target areas that you need to look at.

Your fixed expenses you can’t do much about but you can work on balancing your budget by starting at the trouble areas. 

For example, ours is grocery shopping which we often go over budget and it’s hard for us to say no to a deal. 

You can email me with your thoughts and we can go from there. 


5. Budget Participant


So here I go with my debt story and what I’m committed to do and not do anymore. 

I get paid bi-weekly.

My daughter contributes to my overall help with groceries etc.

I’ve purchased a planner and have included how I’m set up.

Now January when I looked at it was unorganized chaos.

February looks much better to look at reading and understand. 

My furnace needed work in December with parts ordered used my EF.

Sad but that is what it is for so now rebuilding this up. Slowly it goes.

Christmas happened and that went on my visa card. 

My house mtg and SUV payments are bi-weekly.

Everything else is monthly except for Fairstone (Dufresne furniture) every two weeks. 

My city water has a resting credit that I’m using for January and February.

Yeah for me.

So I will not be paying but saving this $115.00 / month = $230.00.

My natural gas (heat) and electrical (power) also have small resting credits so will use that for February.

I’m just waiting for online bills. 

I’ve also included a pic of my snowball of debts. Not included is a house mortgage.

My awareness of my own behaviors and outcomes with regards to my finances can and will create change. 
Mr.CBB– I hope by participating you will get organized which will certainly reduce chaos stress. I find it interesting all of the motivational notes you leave on your budget. Very cool. I look forward to reading about your monthly budget challenge. 
Jan 2021 budget

6. Budget Participant


I have always been budget-minded, but never in actual practice.

My husband was laid off from his plumbing job while I was on maternity leave last year and, due to COVID, we have made the decision to have him stay home with the toddler and the kindergartener.

This move made the most sense to ensure COVID health practices and to accommodate the kindergarten schedule.

My husband had a part-time job that he would work in the evenings but was laid off at the end of December so this whole budget thing has become critical in practice.

So currently, we are running on one budget.

Using the Gail Vaz-Oxlade tools, we started January with the best of intentions.

We don’t have any debt besides our mortgage which we recently renewed with money added onto the mortgage to pay down the purchase of a family property.

However, we are trying to be a bit more aggressive in our mortgage payments which means our house costs are much higher than the GV-O budget recommendations (25-35%).

Please note that I am currently working from home and my husband is the primary caregiver so the budget reflects this current stage of life.

The January Budget

It changed. Or was it blown-up, or was it an opportunity to re-evaluate the poor spending choices?

Depending on one’s take, it has been an opportunity to incorporate the lessons from January into February.

The transportation budget was more than doubled- we traveled to an uncle’s cabin to stay for a few weekends which increased the gas costs.

Those trips also increased the food budget and the entertainment budget as we were eating more “luxuries” and drinking liquor.

The mental break was priceless.

I was able to cover these additional costs as I was recently paid retro payments from my job but obviously, that won’t happen again. 

As I type all this out, I see how blessed I am.

Regardless, I was $645 over budget for January which is exactly why I have re-tooled February’s budget.

Day four in February is right on target. New Start!

Thank you!

Mr.CBB- Welcome to the monthly budget challenge 2021. I look forward to watching your improvements. 

7. Budget Participant

Hello! My name is Rebecca.

I am 29 years old and I work as a medical office administrator for a wonderful doctor.

Currently, though I am on maternity leave until November 2021.

I am married (coming up to 8 years) to T who is 37 and he is a carpenter.

We have three children, F who is 7, L who is 4, and S who is 8 months now.

Almost 2 years ago we decided to sell our home as my in-laws gifted us a house.

Keep in mind, they built a new home on a vacant lot that just happened to be beside their old house.

So we sold our home and moved to T’s childhood home.

We have NO mortgage or rent to be paid!!

Currently, the only debt we have is our car and about $3000 on my line of credit from home

We already try to stay within our means, but I am really wanting to make sure we do.

My biggest goal I would like to achieve (probably during the whole year) is to reduce our grocery bill.

I know it can be hard, but I really want to. Looking back at January, we spent about $1300 on groceries
(and household things like detergent etc.)

One way I want to try is by sticking to my list and bringing my calculator into the store to keep track of how much I am spending.

Another goal I hope to achieve over the coming months is deleting my credit card from apps such as Amazon, Poshmark, and any other place I have it saved and shop closer to home!

January 2021 Monthly Budget Update

Here is a quick summarized budget for January 2021

  • T’s income can vary but mine is always the same.
  • Total take-home pay for household: $3400
  • Canadian Child Tax Benefit: $1095
  • Total: $4495
  • House taxes/insurance: $301
  • payment/gas/insurance: $845
  • Hydro: $175
  • Internet/cell phone/netflix: $225
  • Groceries/household needs(including pet needs): $1400
  • Medical: $100
  • Dining/Entertainment: $400
  • Clothing/Hobbies: $300
  • Line of credit: $475
  • RRSP/RESP: $200

There’s not too much money left for “saving” but anything helps.

Also, once I am back to work our budget will change a bit as my son will be going to daycare and I am
wanting to up our RRSP a bit.

So in October, I will be giving it a bit of an update.

The last thing, I have made a list on my phone about things I want. For example, both my sons need new dresses for their bedrooms. I am hoping I can find something on Kijiji or a local Facebook page.

Hopefully, over February I can snag up a good deal!

CBB Family Income Report January 2021

Monthly Income

Hi CBB Friends, 

There’s something about January even before Covid-19 that keeps us away from the stores. 

Often we find that we don’t spend as much in January as we do other months of the year.

If you’re like us after Christmas we don’t want to shop or spend any money that we don’t need to even if a sale is good.

Although we still fight the battle of the 50% off food prices we find at the grocery store and not on our grocery list.

For example, we bought 4 packs of provolone cheese 50% off at Zehrs as it was a great price for $2.50 each. 

Again for 2021, we plan on working on our grocery budget which we slightly increased as we’ve noticed prices on some products we purchase went up. 

I’ll be buying renovation materials on sale as we go through the year but I think I’ll be doing the deck next. 

I’m hoping we kill our budget this year and save as much as we can. I’ve got 7 years before my wife says we can move. 

Our son is in public school and it’s close for him to walk although Mrs. CBB said we probably will stay in this house. 

We’ll see who wins but until then we will save as much as we can so if we do move we can be mortgage-free or relatively close to. 

House prices in our area have shot up so high as the inventory is low and people are moving to the outskirts of Toronto. 

Have a great February and I’ll report back with how we made out with our expenses. 



household percentages budget

Our savings of 75% include investments as well as any savings for this month based on the net income of $11,768.73

We save money in our projected expenses for things that need to be paid for in the coming months such as Christmas.

All of the categories took 100% of our income which shows that we accounted for all of the income in January 2021.

This type of budget is a zero-based budget where all of the money has a home.


Monthly Income

Below is a breakdown of our expenses which helps us to understand where all of our money goes.

  1. Chequing– This is the bank account where all of our debt gets paid from. We use Simplii Financial, TD Canada Trust, and Tangerine Bank.
  2. Emergency Savings Account– This is a high-interest savings account.
  3. Regular Savings Account– This is a savings account that holds our projected expenses.
  4. Monthly Budgeted Total: $6545.80
  5. Monthly Net Income Total$11,768.73
  6. (Check out our Ultimate Grocery Guide to see where our grocery money goes)
  7. Projected Expenses: These are expenses we know we will pay for throughout the year = $915
  8. Total Expenses Paid Out: $4570.40
  9. Total Expenses Paid Out: Calculated is $11,768.73 (total net monthly income) – $915 (projected expenses) – $6283.33 (savings to emergency fund) = $4570.40
  10. Actual Cash Savings going into Emergency Savings: Calculated is $11,768.73 (total monthly net income) – $4570.40 (actual expenses paid out for the month) – $915 (projected expenses) = $ 6283.33


Below you will see two tables, one is our monthly budget and the other is our actual budget.

This budget represents 2 adults and a 6-year-old son, plus retirement investments.

Budget colour chart: If highlighted in blue that means it is a projected expense.   

Since May 2014 we’ve been mortgage-free so much of our money will be directed at savings, investments, and renovations.

I appreciate that you enjoy this budget update each month but I do hope you view this as an educational tool rather than comparing your financial numbers as our situations are all unique.

Spending less than we earn and budgeting has been the easiest way for us to pay down debt and save money.


family budget chart 2021

Actual  Monthly Budget Expenses 2021

Budget example

That’s a wrap on our family January 2021 monthly budget so check back in March to see how February went. 

Discussion: What type of budget do you use? Have you learned anything from budgeting that has helped you save money?

Leave me your questions and comments below and I”ll be sure to respond to you. 


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  1. Great to see the budget of 7 people in different situations. I like to get my son and his family to budget this year so I ask him to read your stories. .

    1. That’s a great way to start Dale. My wife is working with a family member as well right now. The first lesson, keep the receipts. Apparently last night at the grocery store she crumbled it up and put it in her pocket. It’s a change that must become mindful if a budget is to work.
      Let me know how it goes with your son and his family. MR.CBB

  2. I’m rooting for #3 and #4 – just liked them the best! Really hope #4 stays focused all year. #5 seems the most dedicated to their financial goals. I like this person’s plan. Good luck to all!

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