family frugal

Finances for a Frugal Family of Five

What do our finances as a frugal family of five look like? Read on to find out! In this post, I use Sankey diagrams to illustrate the sources of our total income and expenses. Furthermore, I break down where we are saving our money and what our biggest expenses on. It’s financial voyeurism at its finest. Check out what finances for a frugal family of five look like below!

Overall Breakdown

Frugal family of five finances: total breakout of income and outflows
Frugal family of five finances- the big picture


Mrs. GovWorker and I both work normal, W2 jobs. Our jobs account for most of our income. The non-W2 income on the graph comes from our tax return, money from informal side hustles, selling items we no longer need, and gifts. Yes. I know. Our tax return is not “income”. However, we treat it as such. My blog, my rules.

I was surprised at how large our amount of non-W2 income turned out to be for 2019. Since it comes in throughout the year in drips and spurts it never seems like a lot. However, over the entire year it ended up being equal to 6.5% of our gross paychecks, which is a sizable number. We save 100% of our non-W2 income, so this money really fuels our savings!


This category includes everything that the government takes out of our paychecks on a biweekly basis including medicare and OASDI. I did not include our property taxes. We escrow our property taxes with our mortgage so I put it in the “expenses” category. When I saw that 22% of our income went to taxes it seemed like a lot. It’s no wonder that the government breaks our taxes into a lot of subcategories on our pay stubs– it makes our taxes look a lot smaller.

Savings and Expenses

We saved 32% of our income and spent 56%. If you follow our monthly spending reports, you’d know that I claim we save closer to 50% of our paychecks (after taxes are taken out). That’s because I include our mortgage principal reduction in our monthly savings rate. If you remove the principal payment from our mortgage from our expenses category you end up with the diagram below. (We pay a lot of principal each month because we have a 10 year fixed mortgage) You can see there that of our income left over after taxes we save 41% and spend 37% (for a savings rate of 53%).

frugal family of five finances with mortgage
Diagram with our mortgage principal counted as savings.

Frugal family of five finances- expenses

frugral family of five sankey diagram of our expenses
Sankey diagram showing a breakdown of our expenses

Frugal family of five finances- savings

frugal family of five finances sankey diagram for savings
Here is a breakdown of our savings. Note the lack of optimization!

Get ready to throw your stones and bring your pitchforks. What kind of a personal finance blogger puts 32% of his savings into paying off his house?


Yup. This guy. I wrote a little bit about it earlier. Yes. I know we should max out our tax advantaged accounts first. But– it’s super motivating to watch that number shrink to zero. And paying off the mortgage will give us financial freedom to live on a very small fraction of our income if one of us were to lose our jobs before we reach financial independence.

We are also putting a healthy amount into tax deferred retirement accounts, a little bit into Roths and some into our HSAs. I know there are optimal tax minimization strategies we could be implementing. However, I feel like we’re doing a lot of things right by saving a giant chunk of our income and I don’t have the mental bandwidth to optimize this further today. Maybe 2020 is the year I get my shit together and implement a tax optimization strategy.

Mrs. GovWorker and I also have to contribute a fair chunk of change towards our pensions. While we don’t include this money in our financial independence calculations, there is a high likelihood that we will both receive a pension around age 60±3.

The last thing to note is that we are putting a small amount into 529 plans for our daughters. We have a lot of conflicted feelings about that. But at this point, we feel like putting a small amount away for their college is the best of both worlds for us at this stage.

 Note- Sankey diagrams inspired by code I found on the MATLB(TM) file exchange. Citation: James Spelling (2020). drawSankey (, MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved January 18, 2020.    

What do you think of our finances for a frugal family of five? How do yours stack up? Leave a comment!

6 replies on “Finances for a Frugal Family of Five”

Thanks for stopping by SP!!

Yes- our transportation budget is in that tiny “misc” category (I didn’t show anything less than 2% of our spending). I think we’re lucky in that we live East of the Mississippi River and there is a lot higher population density here which means it’s easy to live car free.

I can’t imagine it being our 4th highest expense. Are your top 3 housing, food, and health care?

Thanks again for stopping by!!

First time visitor to your website. Appreciate the open discussions. Curious as to why you’re conflicted about saving for your kids’ college in 529s? Which part are you conflicted about? Forgive me if this is a topic you’ve previously addressed…

Hi Gerry!
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am conflicted about the 529 plan because I’m not sure I should contribute anything if I’m not maxing out all of my retirement accounts. I also am not sure exactly how much I want to help my kids through college. I don’t want them to start with a giant debt, but I don’t want them to think I’ll bankroll their dream college. It probably deserves it’s own post. I’ll let you know when it’s out.

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