Budgeting Tips For Families – Frugal Doctor’s Wife Perspective

Budgeting Tips For Families – Frugal Doctor’s Wife Perspective

Budgeting tips for families – frugal doctor’s wife perspective.

It turns out that to maintain my day job , which is our source of income for now, i have to pass my critical care board exam. My wife, otherwise known as Mrs Breathe Easy Finance or Breathe Easy Mamma (we haven’t solidified the name yet- work in progress) has decided to take over the blog for the next few weeks. I promised not to change her voice on whatever she writes.  Here, she gives insight into some of our family dynamics and how I became the no fun finance husband. She is on board now, so I am beyond excited. In this post, she is coming from the perspective of a physician wife, I am sure most of the tips can be applied to either sex. To the financial bloggers out there, what better way to get your spouse on board than for them to write a blog post.  I am hoping this would be a long term gig. 

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For years I waited, in agony at times for July 1, 2018. It was the date my husband would finish his fellowship.  The date, the skies would open and money was going to pour down on us. I had hoped to live in a mansion and have several luxury vehicles. However, with being married to Dr. Breathe Easy, things didn’t quite work out that way. With each year that passed, he became more entrenched in the world of finance. He preached financial independence, to just about anyone who would listen. If you weren’t listening, that definitely did not stop him. He would go on these rants about investing, using terminologies that literally sounded like a foreign language. The more he talked about investing, the more I talked about spending. I was resistant to setting a family budget and was turned off by the idea of renting, instead of buying a house. He would quote excerpts from financial gurus, such as Dave Ramsey. A typical conversation over dinner was discussing, the latest blog or hot topic on White Coat Investor. I finally conceded, when he convinced me that we could secure a future for our girls, if we made sacrifices and practiced financial discipline.  For their sake, I was ready to live like a resident.

I’m not a financial “anything”. I’m a former bedside nurse, coming up on my first year anniversary as a stay-at-home-mom. I have however experienced the journey of family budgeting during residency and fellowship.  There are some basic essentials to family budgeting, especially for those who would like to live below their means. Our personal goal is to live like a resident for at least the next 2 yrs, to supersize our savings/investment and paying off residual debt. More writing on that below.

12 toddler steps to financial freedom

Roth IRA trick to become a millionaire 

Pretax VS after tax calculations 

Pay off debt

In anticipation of having our second daughter and becoming a stay-at-home mom, we focused on paying off debt. Paying off debt, in my opinion is the single most important factor for increasing cash for family budget.  Disclaimer: Dr Breathe Easy may not agree! I say this because; in my husband’s final year of fellowship, we aggressively paid off my outstanding student loans and car loan. Without the burdens of these monthly payments, cash flow increased. I was a stress free Mama, with more cash. Yup! Happy wife happy life! It was exciting to have more cash, but we decided to use it to pay more debt.


Budgeting methods

 Using an excel spreadsheet or a budgeting app is the ideal method for successfully budgeting. There are countless user-friendly apps. We have tried Mint, and several others. Truthfully, none of them really worked for me. I prefer the “reverse budgeting” method. We get paid, we take out the money allocated for saving/investments and strategically use the remaining funds for rent, utilities, food, entertainment and miscellaneous. I keep tabs on our accounts and take mental notes of our transactions.


Food budgeting

Food is one of the largest parts of our family budget. Dr BEF, is pretty relaxed on spending and budgeting, when it comes to food. We both agree that the quality of food takes precedent over spending a few extra dollars. When we were in our  20s we ate unhealthy and our grocery bill was much cheaper. “You are what you eat.”  Eating healthy will cost more than junk or processed foods and we are ok with that.  We love to feed our kids fresh fruits and vegetables, which aren’t cheap. We minimize spending in other areas, such as cutting back on dining out, to compensate for a high grocery bill.  We also stretch our money by eating leftovers.


Date nights on budget

We try to do at least one date per month. Dates do not have to be at a 5 star upscale restaurant. When you’re living like a resident, you get creative. We grab a drink at Starbucks, play mini golf or just go on a walk for free. We glance at our budget(account), to determine what we can afford. There are those occasions that require, a special celebration, but date night can cost $20 or less. You do not have to literally eat up the budget! Be realistic, save and then spend.


Entertainment budgeting

UNSUBSCRIBE! Gone are the days when you can just pay for the service you want. Every product/service now requires you to subscribe. We all sign up for those 30 day free trials, where we miss the deadline to unsubscribe and end up getting charged for the full service. Just stay clear of subscriptions. You can only justify a subscription to Netflix and Sling, if you are using it to replace cable, which is ridiculously expensive. 


Rent vs Buy – the ultimate debate

This is a touchy subject, and by far the most difficult to convince women/doctors’ wives in general. I’m in a particular group, with the wives of residents, fellows and early attendings. The question of rent or buy is asked daily. It’s usually posed by a wife whose husband is completing his program. I’m not sure where the impression that buying a house is some sort of a requirement after training came from, but it’s a phenomenon. I ask the same questions, that DBE and I discussed when we were contemplating purchasing a house. The most important question being, are you financially ready for a house?  If you are debt free, you have 20% percent down payment and an emergency fund. Congratulations! You’re ready to be home owner! If not, stand down. Pay off some debt and save, it’s a simple formula. I still send my husband pictures of beautiful houses with the sad emoji. I often make snarky comments when we visit the homes of his colleagues. Owning a home is a short term goal of ours, which we are working towards. However, we just aren’t desperate enough to add a hefty mortgage to my husband’s student loans.   For more information on what needs to be in place before buying a house, see below. 

Reasons not to buy a house

For now I’m satisfied with seeing our debt shrink and our net worth increase.

Please let us know what you think. Is this series a good break from my version.

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This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. Mama needs to get a blog!! She already has her own brand, she’s READY! loool – enjoyed this. I’m not married but a lot of this advice could be applied to singles as well. I used to only buy expensive food and now that I am on the strictest budget to man I’ve learned where to shop for affordable yet quality food. It’s a game changer. I also liked reading about the buy vs rent. I think this would apply more to people in a country where housing is actually attainable. Having lived in London I can say buying a home is a DREAM; it is so expensive here. I’m trying to change the way I think and remind myself if I don’t have a home I can still be successful.

    For me, that way of thinking is from my Caribbean upbringing. Having your home shows you made it. Now, after living in London for a bit, I just want a house so I can live in peace. This house sharing stuff is NOT THE BUSINESS.

    Anyway, great post! Welcome to blogging Mrs BEF

    Olli – http://www.olliviette.com

    1. Buying a house is a bit overrated. My parents are from Jamaican, so I know the struggle. Nice to connect! I’m not sure how the housing market works in the Uk. However, I will still encourage you to pay off any debt and save for an emergency fund. You said it best, Do Not let a house define you. Thanks stopping by!

  2. Hello Wife
    So great to hear your voice and perspective on family budgeting. I am not married yet but I do hope to be one day and budgeting skills is something that I need to have together. I am currently paying student loans and living at home with my Mother, so I am really focused on better money management.

    This was a great read and also a good reminder to stay on top of the finances.

    Great read

    Happy Sunday Breathe Easy Finance family!


    1. It’s a wise decision to stay at home and pay off your student loans.I did that until I got married. Save every cent! I cannot emphasis that enough. I’m glad that you are aware of your challenges with managing money. It’s better to become more financially disciplines when you’re single. Family budgeting is a little more complex. Please subscribe to our blog!

  3. I’m lucky to have a partner that’s very good with saving and budgeting, and we’re both quite debt averse. That said, I really struggle with keeping a handle on how much we spend on food – cooking is both a recreation as well as fuel for me!

    1. Having a partner with the same goal is more than half the job. In your case, if cooking is a recreation and fuel for you, you can make it the item you can be a little bit lax about. You gotta live a little especially when it comes to what goes in your body. Its a different stody if you said you spend it at restaurants. Thanks for stopping by. We appreciate you.

  4. Love the alternative perspective!! You should make it a continual theme!!

    1. We shall see. That is the goal. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. The food budget is a big expense. Some weeks it higher and some weeks it is lower. Everything depends on what you are making for dinner that week or if you ran out of items and had to replace it. My food budget is constantly changing but I keep it within a certain dollar amount.

    1. Sounds like a good alternative. A realistic range is not a bad idea. As long as one eat healthy and do not compromise because of money, especially if you have a decent income. Thanks for stopping by. Very much appreciated

  6. Excellent job Mrs. DBEF. Great post. Besides using your girls as bait, what else did DBEF use to convince you to be on the same page? And even get you to write a blog post? He deserves double honors for that feat! I’m glad both of you are working together on your family finances. The journey is much sweeter when it’s shared this way. On the ever escalating food budget, make sure to always check our Aldis when you shop. We’ve noticed groceries can be 20-30% cheaper than Walmart, so something to think about. Hope you’ll post some more. And Goodluck to your husband in his board exams!

    1. He definitely knows the girls are my weakness. I have heard good things about Aldis, 20-30% cheaper is pretty significant. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. You better watch out DBEF, I think your wife may have just as an amazing voice as yours. Very cool that you have a partner that can share blogging so that if someone is busy (i.e you studying for the boards. the other picks up the slack).

    Great work Breathe Easy Mama (I hope that moniker sticks). You have a great writing style and it is nice to get a perspective from the non-physician spouse.

    I fell for the trap (multiple times) of buying a house. In the end it set me back a few years but I’m in a very good place now so I don’t feel like I destroyed my financial future with it. If you can resist the temptation to buy a house and rent, especially if you get a new job, you will do yourself a huge favor.

    You never know if you even like the job until you are in a few years, you will also be able to find subtle nuances that may make one neighborhood more appealing than the other which you can only find out after being there for some time. If you bought a house you don’t have the luxury of switching to a better place (or even worse don’t like the job and have to move anyway) without some negative impact to your finances (transaction costs etc).

    Anyway hope to see more posts form you. And DBEF good luck on your boards. I took my first set in 2003 and already did the 10 year re-cert exam in 2012 (although the board of radiology has irritated me and invalidated this 10 year certificate by switching to a new maintenance of certificate system (only got 6 out of my 10 promised years).

    1. Wow!! your comment deserves its own blog post. She read the comment and loved it. she is framing this as her best. I agree, it is nice to have the different perspective. Maybe I have finally found my edge haha. With your encouraging words, hope I can convince her to stay on board. Owing a home is an emotional decision. It is difficult to avoid. In our case, after the two years, we are not fool proof to error. The job part is actually the most important for us and knowing the area. We are just learning more about the school system and the nuances of each area. Wow you are an oldie. From what i heard , i thought you can still do the 10 years if you want . At least in Internal medicine, there is a choice to do the open book check in vs every 10 years. Either way, lets FIRE haha.

  8. Nice article. I agree on cheap date nights…the important thing is to make them happen!

    1. Yes! Quality time is what really matters. I can have a blast with DBE just about anywhere. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. what a nice post! Nice to “meet you” Mrs breath easy! Your husband has been so very helpful with my own blog. I think rent vs buying is more than even just when you are financially ready for it. Even if the debt is paid, the 20% + emergency fund is raised sometimes prices are just way too high in an area and you know that they will be coming down. I do believe real estate is somewhat cyclical. When you buy for the long term it doesn’t effect the buyer as much but i’d still like to try during a downward trend than upward. I think you get more for your money that way. I have seen some prices coming down a bit in a my area. Looking forward to your other posts!

    1. Agree! I think we are heading into a buyer’s market. That is another factor that we will consider. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Thanks for stopping by:)

  10. Must have been a rough adjustment adapting his frugal budgeting, but it is awesome to see he brought you on. I love the part about home buying. Everyone wants to buy a house ASAP when it is not always the best move. Your tip on waiting until you have 20% down and are out of debt is a good rule and so simple that everyone can follow it!

    Anyways, excellent post and can’t wait to read more!!

    1. It was tough but at the end of the day, i feel like it is better to move with the current than against it. He is not going to change and it actually makes sense to work together to reach financial independence. House buying is like an instinct, but it could be the wrong one. We still want to buy, but making sure all the stars are aligned. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  11. This article is so innovative and well constructed I got plenty of information from this post. Keep writing related to the topics on your site.

    1. I am hoping Mrs BEF would feature more in the future. Thanks for stopping by, I am glad you find our content useful. Please grab your budgeting E-book on the homepage.

  12. Loved that you jumped in and shared your perspective. I’ve been riding solo on my blog for a year now and trying to get my husband on board to help with content. We, too, are budgeting like mad…luckily no debt, other that the house we own, which has been a great investment for us where we live, but saving like mad to throw it all away for a year of travel with our kiddo on the roads of Central America? Crazy? maybe… Keep it up!!

    1. The most important thing is to only spend money on things that matter. Not designer shirts or wants. However, traveling with family is an investment in your relationship and enriches your life. Keep up with being money conscious, you are doing awesome. Sometimes, partners might not be on board, its ok still. As long as you both have a focus and walking towards the same goal. Thanks for stopping by. It delights me when people give feedback.

  13. I am very fond of this article because it gives a lot of inspiration thank

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