Real Life Family Finance: Blogger and Family Man

Sometimes we find ourselves in family life, struggling to maintain a budget, and think we are the only ones out there dealing with similar issues. I mean, it’s easy to look at the neighbor across the street with the new truck, your best friend who is excited to spend money for the entire bottle of wine EVERY time you go out with her, and even family members that seem to have it all together when it comes to their finances.

The truth is…things aren’t always as they appear…am I correct?

I’ve been really nosey lately, asking questions about people’s financial lives…even some of the uncomfortable ones…so that we can all better understand that we are not the only ones struggling (or succeeding) when it comes to making the right financial decisions for our families, or powering through when times get tough.

It’s my pleasure to have the opportunity to feature Dale today. Dale lives in California with his wife of 17 years and four kids, ages seven, ten, fourteen, and sixteen. Although Dale works primarily as a gas utility supervisor, he can also be found blogging about personal finance over at

Tip: If you want help getting your own budget in order, grab this FREE Family Budget Template. Find yours HERE.


One or Two Incomes? 


What’s the biggest struggle your family has when it comes to income?

No struggles. We make enough for our needs and most wants.

What method do you use to keep track of your budget and why?

We use a homemade Excel spreadsheet. I track the purchases and we have a short weekly budget meeting to look at how we’re doing and make adjustments. We tried apps and didn’t keep up with it. This is the method that works best for us.

How do you budget for kids clothing, school supplies, shoes, activities, and everything else kid-related?

We have them as separate budget line items. Clothes and shoes are in one, school supplies, books, etc. each have a line item. We homeschool so our school supplies and books are significantly higher than most people, so it makes sense to track them separately. For events and sports fees, we have a few “other” line items that we use for specific things for that particular month. Our kids have regular chores that they do not earn money for, but they have others that they do. Weekly they are paid according to their age. The sixteen-year-old earns $16 per week, the seven-year-old earns $7. They pay for their own movies, toys, some clothes, etc.

What is the biggest struggle you are currently having related to your budget?

Staying on track with grocery spending. We need to plan meals better.


What percentage of your income do you save each month?

About 15% between savings and investment 

Do you have an emergency savings account?


Would you consider your emergency savings to be able to cover one major emergency, or to be of long-term assistance if, for example, you were to lose your income?

We’re still working on it. Right now it is equal to about two months of expenses, so enough for a major emergency and we’re working on getting it to six months of expenses.

Do you have special savings or “funds” set aside for vacations and/or other big purchases your family plans to make in the future?

No. We will once we get a few other goals accomplished.

What is one of those funds you’d like to create?

Vehicle replacement fund


Do you have debt that you are actively working to pay off?

No, but when we did, I used the snowball method, paying off the smallest balance first then moving on to the next.


Have you made short and/or long-term goals that you and your family are working toward? If so, will you share one or two of those goals and the steps you are taking to reach them?

Yes. Short-term: Save six months’ worth of expenses for our emergency fund. Putting away a set amount every month. It will take us about nine more months to get there. Long-term: Save and earn through investments $2 million with a target date of July 1, 2042. It’s impossible to know if we’ll make it, but we will be on track once we can focus more money into investments.

How did you come up with those specific goals?

We just sat down and talked about where we want to be financially and what will help us get to that point. My wife and I talk about these things occasionally and my older children are interested in finances so we discuss some of it with them.

Do you engage in a reward system for you and your family to celebrate the accomplishment of those goals?


If so, what do you use as rewards 

We use vacations as a reward for the big stuff. When we paid off our debt last year we saved the same amount we were paying toward debt for three months and then went to Disneyland. When we hit $10,000 in savings we saved up for a few months and did a road trip through Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, going to national parks.


What is the biggest success you have had to-date when it comes to your finances?

Having a written budget each month for the last year and a half. The budget makes all the rest possible.

Do you have other successes you’d like to share related to your finances?

In about nine months we had a $25,000 turnaround from $15,000 in debt with $3,000 in emergency savings to $0 in debt and $13,000 in savings.


What is the biggest struggle you have had related to your family finances over the past year?

Trying to do too many things at once. Take the steps one or two at a time, not everything at once.

If you could pinpoint one major failure you’ve had in your finances over your adult life, what would it be?

Getting in the cycle of revolving debt. It has slowed our financial progress by at least a decade.

Have you overcome that failure or is it something you are still working on? (Explain how.)

Yes. I’m done with debt. Budgeting and saving are now a way of life.


If you could go back and tell your young adult self how to handle finances differently in the future, what is the one thing you would most like to share?

Get on a written budget. Save for what you want to buy and don’t get into debt. Be generous with charitable giving. Save for emergencies, then for retirement.

For those with children, how are you currently educating your children when it comes to finances?

We talk about it. The kids are in on some of the discussions when we put our budget together for the month. We have used some of Dave Ramsey’s books, videos, and materials to teach them as well.

What is one topic you wish you knew more about, related to budgeting or family finance?

I would like to learn more about investing. I have done a fair job of it so far, but I would like to learn more.

If you could share one piece of financial advice with those reading today, what would that be?

Get on a budget and tell your money where to go. Decide what reasonable expenses are and then work to cut them back a little.

I’m grateful to Dale for being so open with his family finances. It’s quite the feat to be debt free and stay true to that budget month after month and is definitely something we should all aspire to do! If you are interested in connecting with Dale you can find him over on his blog, My Best Friend The Money Guy, or on Twitter.

Tip: If you want help getting your own budget in order, grab this FREE Family Budget Template. Find yours HERE.