A Water Heater And Other July 2018 Expenditures

Water heater mania! Well, not really a mania since we only bought ONE water heater, but more of a mania than if we hadn’t bought any water heaters. As eagle-eyed devotees of my Instagram account know–thanks to incriminating photos –we installed solar panels on our barn roof at the end of 2017. I will, at some point, write a full post on our solar decision (complete with lots of math!! I promise!), but in the meantime, suffice it to say that our solar array generates all of the electricity we need and then some.

Solar on the barn!

In light of this, we’re in the process of converting our household machineries over to electric to the extent possible. The first conversion we made was our water heater, which previously ran on propane we purchased annually at no small expense. We converted to a heat pump hybrid electric water heater that eliminates our need for propane (for hot water) and allows us to leverage our solar power. It’s 3.5 times more efficient than a standard electric water heater and, due to its energy-efficiency, it qualified for two massive rebates:

  • $500 from Efficiency Vermont
  • $250 from our electric company (Washington Electric)

The water heater was $1,299 from Home Depot and these two rebates brought our cost down to a mere $549. These rebates coupled with the high price of propane made it a no-brainer and the water heater will pay for itself in short order. Hooray!

Water heater, installed by Mr. FW

Mr. Frugalwoods installed the water heater himself, which saved us several hundred (a thousand?) dollars on the cost of installation. This was no easy feat since we were going from propane to electric and so he had to install a new 220 circuit. He also did all the plumbing for it using PEX and added ball valve shut-offs. The water heater technically requires a condensate drain, but we’re just using a 5 gallon bucket right now since it doesn’t actually drain very much water. If it turns out to be an issue, we’ll put in a condensate pump.

We are absolutely loving this water heater and, due to our low usage of hot water, we’re able to run it in “heat pump only” mode, which means it’s extra efficient. If we had a lot of guests in the house all needing to shower at the exact same moment, we could switch it over to “hybrid” mode, which would use electric resistance heaters. As a bonus, it works as a light dehumidifier for our basement. Our basement isn’t very damp, but a bit of dehumidifying is quite nice. Another bonus is that it’s super cool and dry right next to the water heater, so I’m storing the early apples we’ve harvested next to it.

All in all, we’re thrilled to be off propane for hot water and delighted to be utilizing our solar more efficiently. We over-installed our solar–meaning we had more panels put on than our annual usage–to allow us to increase our electricity usage (i.e. this water heater) and decrease our dependence on other forms of energy, such as propane.

Bye-Bye Subaru!

You’ll see below the final (and I do mean FINAL) expenditure for our 2010 Subaru Outback: $125 for a professional detailing. This is the FINAL expense because I’m thrilled to report that we sold it to a happy new owner in July! Hooray! I’ll write up more on the process soon, but the quick version is that we sold it for $9,300, having purchased it (used) in 2016 for $12,000. This is a pretty modest depreciation and proof positive of why you want to buy used cars. I’ve written exhaustively on that topic, so if you’re curious, check out this, this, and this. Last month, we paid to have the Subaru’s brakes fixed, the oil changed, and the state inspection performed. Some readers asked why we didn’t sell it “as is” and the rationale was two-fold:

  1. We were able to command a higher price since we could cite all of the recent work performed
  2. We feel more comfortable selling a car that we know is safe and in good condition

We also made the decision to pay $125 to have it thoroughly cleaned and detailed because it was, uh, absolutely filthy. After carting around two kids, a dog, and a LOT of farm-type stuff, the car was a mess. After the detail? The thing looked brand new. I mean seriously, it looked GOOD. How they got those atrocious stains out of the upholstery, I will never know. I considered doing the cleaning myself, but that was before I detailed our Prius…. by myself, which took me THREE HOURS. Not an exaggeration. And the Prius is smaller and was a few grades cleaner to start with. Hence, I was happy to pay for the Subaru to be professionally cleaned since I view that as an investment in commanding a top re-sale price. On the other hand, I calculated that it wasn’t worth it for me to pay for the Prius to be cleaned since there’s not the same return on investment. I’m pleased to report that the new owner was delighted with the condition of the Subaru and it sold without a hitch. Hooray!

A Weird Car Thing I Bought

Reasons 1-2 why my cars are so filthy…

Pursuant to my three-hour scouring of the Prius, which entailed vacuuming and wiping every surface plus excavating all of the toys, books, and kids’ snacks (in addition to washing both carseat covers and bases… good grief that took another two hours… ), we bought this seat cover for the back seat.

Designed for dogs, it works just as well for kids and has holes for carseat buckles. My hope is that this’ll reduce my cleaning time next go around (which, let’s be honest, won’t be until next summer… ). Since both of our kids are rear-facing in their carseats, their little feets go up on the back seats (well, Littlewoods’ tiny feets don’t reach, but Babywoods’ sure do). Even though we take their shoes off in the car, dirt and sundry detritus still sneaks on in. With this cover, I am pleased to report that I can simply wipe it off and not fret about mashed cheese in the upholstery. I am now on a campaign to keep the car clean and junk-free after our experience with rodentia earlier this year… ick. Between having kids and living in the woods, our lives are often gross. Just sayin.

Restaurants! And Gifts!

My fab parents visited us for several weeks in June and offered to babysit while Mr. FW and I went out to dinner. At least I think that’s what they were saying as he and I ran out of the house and jumped into the car, leaving them gaping in the doorway with both kids… I jest. We actually put the kids to bed before we go out on date nights because it’s easier for everyone (and gives mama peace of mind). It was our tenth wedding anniversary in June, so we just kept right on celebrating in July with my parents-as-babysitters. Parents of small children must party when they have the option. We also went hiking sans kids, which was the free iteration of our date-days.

Happy toddler in a pool

Babywoods is THRILLED that her little friends are starting to have birthday parties and so you’ll see expenses for several toddler b-day gifts below. I don’t know that a kid has ever been so excited to go to birthday parties and it’s a joy for us to watch her (also, hilarious). My philosophy on birthday gifts for other kids is that I buy them new and try to stay in the $10-$18 price range per gift. This feels like a reasonable approach for us now and we’ll reassess if needed as she gets older and starts going to more parties. For reference, we bought the toddler board games Hoot Owl Hoot and Monkey Around (I haven’t played either, but they were both highly recommended to me by other parents of toddlers).

Additionally, one of my best friends had her first baby, so we sent along a gift from their registry to celebrate. Plus, Mr. FW’s birthday is in August and, for his gift, he went to the Stellafane Amateur Telescope Makers conference in southern Vermont. The perfect gift for a man who does not like stuff but does love stars. I’m all for gift giving when it makes sense and is done practically and affordably.

Homestead Paraphernalia

Garden mania

As I shared in this month’s installment of This Month On The Homestead (there HAS to be a less repetitive way for me to write that… ), we bought a used logging winch in July. Mr. FW also procured a snatch block, tree strap, and shackle to work with the logging winch.

Additionally, as discussed in This Month On The Homestead, our garden is producing prolifically and so we found ourselves in dire need of more canning and preserving jars, lids, as well as weights and airlocks for making our custom chard kimchi, known–of course–as Kimchardashian.

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Mr. Frugalwoods and I purchase everything we possibly can with credit cards for several reasons:

  1. It’s easier to track expenses. No guesswork over where that random $20 bill went; it all shows up in our monthly expense report from Personal Capital. This prompts me to spend less money because I KNOW I’m going to see every expense in detail at the end of each month.
  2. We get rewards. Who doesn’t like rewards? Credit card rewards are a simple way to get something for nothing. Through the cards we use, Mr. FW and I get cash back as well as hotel and airline points just for buying things we were going to buy anyway.
  3. We build our credit. Since Mr. FW and I don’t carry any debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years (which are fully paid off every month) has greatly helped our credit scores. By the way, it’s a dirty, dirty myth that carrying a balance on your credit card helps your credit score–IT DOES NOT. Paying your cards off IN FULL every month and keeping them open for many years, however, does help your score.

If you’re interested in opening a credit card, I highly recommend using this site to search for a card that’ll best fit your needs. And if you’re interested in travel rewards cards specifically, check out this list curated by my friend Brad from Travel Miles 101. I respect Brad’s work in the travel rewards space and I trust his advice on which cards will reap the best benefits.

Huge caveat to credit card usage: you MUST pay your credit card bills in full every single month, with no exceptions. If you’re concerned about your ability to do this, or think that using credit cards might prompt you to spend more money, then credit cards are not for you–stick with using a debit card and/or cash. But if you have no problem paying that bill in full every month? I recommend you credit card away, my friend!

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$

 

 

Mr. Frugalwoods and I use Personal Capital to aggregate and consolidate our transactions from across all of our accounts. We then drop them into a spreadsheet to provide the below analysis for you fine people.

Homestead view in early July

Tracking expenses is, in my opinion, the best way to get a handle on your finances. You absolutely, positively cannot make informed decisions about your money if you don’t know how you’re spending it. Sounds harsh, but without a holistic picture of how much you spend every month, there’s no way to set savings, debt repayment, or investment goals. It’s a frugal must, folks. No excuses.

Personal Capital (which is free to use) is a great way for us to systematize our financial overviews since it links all of our accounts together and provides a comprehensive picture of our net worth. If you’re not tracking your expenses in an organized fashion, give Personal Capital a try.

How To Read A Frugalwoods Expense Report

Happy 4th of July!

Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Look no further than Our Low Cost, No Fuss, DIY Money Management System. We also own a rental property in MA, which I discuss here.

Why do we save so much and spend so little? It’s all in service of our goal to reach financial independence and move to a homestead in the woods (which happened in May 2016).

For us, embracing frugality is a joyful, longterm choice. We prefer a simple life to one filled with consumerism and we spend only on the things that matter most to us. Our approach isn’t one of miserly deprivation; to the contrary, we live a luxuriously frugal existence.

Interested in how we keep costs so low? Up for some hardcore frugal adventuring? Sign-up to take my Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which is the method Mr. FW and I employ to sculpt our frugal lifestyle. You can sign-up at any time and you’ll start with Day 1 so you won’t miss a frugal thing. P.S. It’s free! And if you’re interested in the other things I love, check out Frugalwoods Recommends.

A Note On Rural Life

Since we live on 66 acres in rural Vermont, our utilities and expenses are slightly different from traditional urban and suburban dwellings. We don’t pay for water, sewer, trash, or heating/cooling because we have a well, a septic system, our town doesn’t provide trash pick-up, we heat our home with wood we harvest ourselves from our land, and we don’t have air conditioning.

For more on our rural lifestyle, check out my series This Month On The Homestead as well as City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown.

But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z????

Wondering about common expenses that you don’t see listed below? Our August 2015 expense report has the answers you seek! Plus, as I explained here, we pay bills in full the month we receive them–that’s why you won’t see monthly payments for things like car insurance or property tax.

If you’re curious about how we handle charitable contributions, check out How We Donate To Charities Like Billionaires and also How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations.

Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in July:

Name Amount Category
Logging Winch $1,900.00 A used Norse 350 Logging Winch, which retails new for $2,600. Check out my This Month On The Homestead for the full story.
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Groceries $583.57
Water heater $549.00 Retails for $1,299 (from Home Depot). This is our price after a $500 rebate from Efficiency Vermont and a $250 rebate from Washington Electric.
Costco stock-up $347.81 We have a Costco membership and the closest store is 1.5 hours away. This was our quarterly stock-up of shelf-stable foods and supplies, including olive oil, oats, spices, work gloves, and more!
Six months of car insurance $278.40 Six months of car insurance through Geico for our Toyota Prius and Toyota Tundra. This is so low because: we shopped around, we are both accident and ticket-free, we live in a rural area, we don’t commute to work, AND we don’t carry comprehensive insurance because we could easily replace both of our cars (in full with cash) if we needed to. However, we carry the maximum in liability coverage because we feel that with healthcare costs as they are, the risk of a large liability claim is one we don’t want to self-insure against. More here.
Household supplies $177.71 Thrilling non-food items such as shampoo, laundry detergent, vitamins, toilet paper, and more! Including this car seat cover thing for the Prius.
Parts for water heater install $146.12 Parts is parts
Restaurants $138.17 DATE NIGHTS!!!!!
Detailing (cleaning) for the Subaru $125.00 A good scrub prior to selling
Gasoline for cars $82.76
Fiber internet $74.00
Gifts $69.13 Gifts (this and this) for several birthday parties and a friend’s new baby!
Supplies for logging winch $63.83 Snatch block along with a tree strap and shackle for winching trees
Canning jars $41.29 For our excessive amount of food preservation
Vermont Woodlands Association Annual Membership $40.00 Annual membership in the Vermont Woodlands Association
Stellafane Conference $35.00 Stellafane entrance fee for Mr. FW
Canning supplies $26.94 Weights and airlock for making our own kimchi from our chard and kale
Prescription medication $25.06
Cell phone through BOOM Mobile $19.99
Utilities: Electricity $15.60 We have solar; this is the base price to keep us grid tied.
Snacks! $4.98 I failed to take my own advice and forgot to pack snacks one day for an outing. The horror!
TOTAL: $6,137.22
MINUS MORTGAGE: $4,744.36

How was your July?

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75 Responses

  1. Tara says:

    Do you think you guys can eventually convert your baseboard heat to the solar panels? That would be pretty snazzy to get off of heating oil too, although I could imagine waiting until the furnace goes out makes more financial sense since the cost of a new furnace is significant.

    Also, I see your daughter is still rear-facing. My son is 6 months younger than your oldest, but his torso so much longer for his height (and the distance from top of seat to top of his head so much shorter) when he’s seated that we had to switch at 2 years old. Do you guys think you can keep it going for longer? I know it’s much safer for the kiddo to be rear facing as long as possible so it’s great you’re still able to do it.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Fortunately, we don’t use much oil to heat our home since we heat primarily with our woodstove (with wood harvested from our land). Our baseboard heat is a back-up that we rarely use. Since rear-facing is so much safer, we’re going to keep her like that as long as we possibly can. Our pediatrician said it’s best to do that, so we’ll stick with it. So far, she still fits :)!

  2. Susan says:

    I feel stupid asking, but how do you get your credit card expenses to show up in Personal Capital? I converted over to credit card buying for the points and seem to have lost my data.

    • Monty says:

      you’ll need to relink your credit card account to personal capital

    • Jana says:

      Susan, when you’re logged in to PC and viewing your dashboard you’ll see all your accounts listed to the left. (If not there is a small arrow in the upper left hand corner, click it and your accounts should appear.) Scroll to the bottom of the list and click on “+ Link another account” and follow the instructions to add your CC! 🙂

  3. Monty says:

    regarding road trips – perhaps when Babywoods faces the front – it will improve on your rider experience. Changed night-day when we flipped the seats around since they could actually see what we were seeing.

  4. Looks like you got a really nice water heater. Did you guys consider tankless options or is it too cold in VT for those to work well? We installed one a couple years ago here in VA and we’ve loved it. Cut our electric bills by about 40%.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We looked into tankless water heaters, but it wasn’t a good option for us. Glad to hear your bill went down so much–that’s awesome!

    • Bruce says:

      So, you got a electric tankless? Wondering how well those actually work!!!

    • Danielle says:

      Can you tell me more about the costs of converting to tankless? And how long did the project take? It’s something we have considered for the future but haven’t begun researching.

  5. Chris says:

    Did the water heater swap out this year too. Got solar panels in October 2017 and made sense to remove our very old oil burner based water heater. Now our water is much more consistent. We also have ours in the basement and does a good job of removing moisture.

  6. jestjack says:

    Bravo on the water heater install! I bought a GE hybrid after a lot of research about 4-5 years ago. Our electric bill “fell off the table”. If memory serves these units come with a great warranty as well….ours was ten years…. The generous rebates really help make the decision much easier. Looking forward to your post on the solar….I could never get those numbers to work for us. And did anyone ever explain to you why propane pricing is so insane. I swear it is like the “Wild West”.

  7. I’m loving your decision to add solar panels! Unfortunately our home is backed up to a stand of trees so we don’t have the option to add any, though I have considered building some sort of covered area in our front yard someday just so we can have a spot for them (lack of sunlight is also why our garden sits in the front yard as well, so spots for a covered area are a bit limited). So for now I’ll just live my solar dreams through you 😉

  8. Torrie says:

    I, for one, am super excited for the post on solar panels, as it’s something we’re super interested in (even if it’s several years off for us, likely), and I’m curious to see how you frugalize it!

    • Torie says:

      Me too! I can’t wait for the solar panel post. (I mostly just added this comment because my name is also Torie)

  9. Margie says:

    Best frugal birthday gift we have found for little kids? One of those pads that they use to take your order at a restaurant. They are about a dollar a piece and they are great for encouraging kids to play restaurant.

    https://www.amazon.com/Adams-Single-Perforated-Sheets-525SWMT/dp/B0038JSLBA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1535383852&sr=8-3&keywords=restaurant+order+pads

  10. Bye bye Subaru ✌️I would love to hear more about solar panels since it’s something I’m curious about. Another thing would be how they would impact the resale value of a home too because the installation gets pricey. Diy doesn’t work if we’re terrified of heights haha.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, yeah we DID NOT install our solar ourselves–that is something we were happy to pay the professionals to do :)!

  11. Elisabeth says:

    We are building a house right now and I am have had a hard time picking a water heater. We are going to do solar panels, so we would like electric, but our water heater will be in a closet (this is our only option), and all of the high efficiency water heaters with a tank need to be in an open room like you all have with your basement. I think we are going to go with a tankless electric water heater instead. Does anyone have any advice on this? Has a tankless electric saved energy, and what make/model did you buy?

  12. Caroline says:

    we have nothing to do with propane and bought our house with them already in place, but in sunny South Africa, our 2 little solar panels mean we switch off our geyser completely circa November and switch it back on again around April. It has saved us thousands and thousands! Sunlight is free… thank goodness. It’s also why we don’t have any sort of tumble dryer, and yes of course winters (especially in Cape Town) can be rainy and cold – it’s freezing as I type this, with snow in higher elevations – but even so, it’s for literally just a few weeks. Line drying and solar heating is the way to go!

  13. Bruce says:

    I see your Sharkbite Connectors Mr. FW. Love those things.

  14. Mollie DeFont says:

    Glad to see the solar system is working well for you guys (proud wife of the Catamount Solar guy!)

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes! Hi Mollie! We love our solar!! I still need to write up my post on it and give a shout out to Catamount 🙂 ). P.S. you all should come over for a visit!!

  15. LongTime Frugal says:

    Thrilled on your solar wins and the ability to DIY where applicable. However I need to state a few things: first is please check your homeowners insurance re: coverage for your solar panels. My insurer will only cover panels that are needed to generate 125% of my previous 12 months usage. While we don’t plan on installing enough to eliminate the power company and sell electricity back, some people do. Second is my insurer will only reimburse the depreciated cost for a covered item and when we replace said item, will receive the difference between depreciated and replacement cost. No more cashing out on the insurer’s dime. Third – if you do put in a pump to handle the condensation, route it to sump pump if you have one. We do this with our A/C (alas water softener and dehumidifier are too far away) – the less extra to the septic, the better.

  16. FI Athlete says:

    My July was appalling, but part of that is due to getting LASIK. Your blog post was one thing that swayed me to finally get it done. I’m 4 days in so I’m still dealing with eye drops seemingly all day long and sleeping with the mask on. I’m hoping once it stops feeling like I just slept in contacts that I’ll start to enjoy it more.

    I did stick to my food spending goals, so we can count that as a small win in a sea of losses.

    • LongTime Frugal says:

      I don’t regret getting LASIK – worst part was having to wear glasses for, I forget how long, prior to the surgery. But of course I now have reading glasses but all in all, that is a nit.

  17. james Gruden says:

    Hi,
    What do you do when you hav snow up to your eyeballs for electricty. Climbing on the barn roof is pretty riskey in the winter. Who did you purchase your solar panels from?
    Thanks,
    Jim

    • Kellyn says:

      I have panels in Boston – which doesn’t see as much snow as Vermont – but they aren’t covered for long. When we had a terrible winter and broke snow records a few years ago (I think we had 110″+ of snow – the panels were probably covered/out of service for 2-3 weeks for the whole winter. The snow slides off them much sooner than it does off the roof.

  18. AMP says:

    we love our solar panels. installed in 2012/2013. We have 27 of them, and have not paid an electric bill in 5 years! we have two mini splits, which we use conservatively for heat and ac depending on the season, and they are so efficient, we still do not have an electric bill. Our hot water is a tankless, natural gas system; it’s new and efficient, but the thought of NOT paying for hot water sounds awesome 🙂

  19. Nora says:

    I hope this is your forever home and I’m glad you’re keeping some of the oil reliant heating in place. I grew up in a home that was converted to electric heat in the 1970s when oil was expensive. It is a nightmare to heat without solar panels!!

  20. Ilene says:

    You recently mentioned chopping and storing salad greens and veggies for a week’s worth of salad. How do you keep this from turning brown? I really want to do this to save!

  21. Susan says:

    This Month On The Homestead…TMOTH…This MOTH…but you’ll probably still have to spell it out at least once in each article. If you write in Word, you can set up a code word and do a replacement. Looking forward to your article on solar panels.

    • LongTime Frugal says:

      lol.. I emailed her the same acronym. Some moths are quite stunning so perhaps a graphic to go with the acronym.

  22. Mr. Tako says:

    Wow, solar panels in VT? Those are some numbers I have to see. Living in a northern state like I do, I would have assumed your numbers would look very similar.

    We just don’t get enough sun here in Washington state for solar to be worth the massive investment. My money is better spent investing in the stock market. Maybe you get more sunlight in VT though.

    Also — $1900 for a logging winch is pretty expensive. Hope you get a good ROI on that one.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      It’s actually a really good deal on a good condition logging winch–they’re $2,600 new and very hard to find on the used market (in good condition). We’re thrilled we found it! And, for the solar, most of our energy is generated during our amazingly long and sunny summer days and then stored for wintertime. But yes, definitely have to do the calculations depending on your climate :)!

  23. Christina Ingersoll says:

    Happy belated anniversary! We celebrated our 10th anniversary in June also, in fact, we got married the day after you guys did, and at the same church. We shared the floral display, remember that? Pretty well in keeping for both couples 🙂

    We’re also going solar next month here in Colorado, although intentionally aiming to meet 80% of production. That decision was also based on long-term financial calculations + being something we want to do. (I.e., environmental and economic reasons.) Our electric rates are so low here in Northern Colorado that we have to take resale value into consideration to make the economic argument work, but we’re excited to be at least partially solar powered soon!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hey Christina!! Fun to see you here! Yes, I definitely remember sharing our floral arrangements–that was a perfect arrangement :).

  24. Soggysuzzi says:

    You folks are really jogging along at a high clip on your homestead improvements. I get tired just reading about all you are accomplishing. What a good idea about the seat covers for the little ones. I’ll bet that idea will help a lot of people who are in a similar situation. They look so cute in their little seats.

    You might want to think about an alternative for canning if you decide to get an electric stove. If I understand it correctly, the new ones all seem to have glass tops. Most manufactures seem to recommend that you not use heavy pots or canners on a glass top as the top may crack. Jaimie over at You Tube (Gilbrook Farms) apparently had an electric stove that oked her using the glass top stove with her canners when they still lived in town but she came up with a better solution. She and Jeremy bough a two burner Camp Chef. It runs on a small propane tank. They also come with an optional accessory to hook up to natural gas (which I know you don’t have but I do). If interested look up her recent post on canning roast on her front porch. She also has (in my opinion) the best visual on canning, both water bath and pressure canning). She calls it Canning 101.

    I was so impressed, I put this Camp Chef on my wish list, and low and behold a three burner Camp Chef plus a grill showed up as an unadvertised special at Costco and I grabbed it and saved over $100. WIN. No more heating up the house in the summer.

    Also, if you decide to learn to pressure can, please don’t make the same mistake I did. I bought a canner at the local farm store and I absolutely hate it. BUT, I have it so I make do. Get and All American as they are as solid as a tank and will last for generations. This is one of those things that make sense to get the best. The one Jamie uses is the best size. You can use it for quarts, or double stack pint jars. The smaller one is too small and the larger one weights a ton and is probably too big for you. I didn’t know any better at the time so somewhere along the line I will probably spring for an All American. Not this year. Amazon had this model on sale on black Friday last year, but who knows if they will again this year. Check it out if you are interested.

    The best place to get canning jars is garage sales and thrift stores. Just check them for cracks or stains, etc., wash them good by hand when you get them home and recheck them carefull then toss them in the “sanitize” cycle of your dishwasher. I just got 3 boxes at a thrift store. No luck here so far with garage sales, but if you luck out they are usually cheaper at garage sales. Either way, it’s a big savings over retail. I paid 29 cents a jar at the thrift store. I always keep an eagle eye out for them at either garage sales or thrift stores. I only get Kerr or Ball. There are a couple of other brands out there that have no markings on them and look like the old glass mayonnaise jars, but they aren’t as heavy duty as the name brands.

    • Lindsey says:

      As a long time canner, I want to echo what Soggysuzzi said above. I am one of the sad ones who cracked her glass cooktop with a water canner, so am here to tell you it happens and it sort of caved in a little so the canner tilted and boiling water poured out all over the floor and cabinet to the side. I have also learned since then that the heat is uneven on those cooktops–cycles on and off essentially, so not really great for canning. And I, too, buy my jars at garage sales and have had good luck with them. Just run your fingers around the top to feel chips you cannot see.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Yes! We will not be converting to an electric stove because Mr. FW loves to cook with gas. But we are researching induction stove tops! To be determined what we’ll end up with…

        • LongTime Frugal says:

          Electric stoves consume a lot of “juice”. We have a back-up system to run part of our house via generator (I lost the battle for a whole house generator). A/C and electric stoves (which I hate) require a bigger generator. We don’t need to run the A/C if the power is out (we’d just go down the basement) and stove is gas. Our main issue is when the power goes out, we have no water. The well was top priority. We can run the furnace (both rural houses we’ve owned had natural gas) but we’d use the wood stove. When you get older, not having to get the wood stove going in the morning is nice. Run for a couple of hours then switch over to the wood stove.
          Like other readers, can’t wait for your solar panel article. Perhaps you should have been writing it when the grandparents visited lol..

          • E says:

            I know if I were a mother with a toddler and a newborn, I wouldn’t love other people suggesting how I spend my time, especially if the beneficiary is them…even if it is in jest. I’m sure she was enjoying a much well deserved break when the grandparents were visiting!! 🙂

          • LongTime Frugal says:

            BTDT with a newborn and toddler with both sets of grandparents within a 20 minute drive. Grandparents are godsends and I do suspect Mrs Frugalwoods still has a sense of humor. If she doesn’t, then it is really time for grandparent(s) to visit!

        • Anne says:

          Be careful with induction cooktops you need to switch to all stainless steel/induction cookware. It drove me crazy. I ended up using an old nearly flat lid from a pot to create an induction disc to use under my wok, which only kind of worked

  25. Deb Holst says:

    Did you know Home Depot gives you 11% off if you purchase it the same time Menards is running their 11% off, which seems to be every other week! You submit it online, and get a home depot gift card within 2 weeks of submitting. Great deal!

  26. Sounds like another great month on the homestead is under your belt. 🙂 How funny! We had to get a new water heater back in June or July as well. Ours was decades old (from the early 80s according to the sticker), so it was high time for a new one. We didn’t qualify for rebates from the state, but our final price was around $700. Ouch. Eh, but that’s why we have savings, right? 🙂

    From what I remember, our July wasn’t too terrible budget-wise. We’ve really been on spending lockdown so we can pay off our student loans by the end of September (!!!). But I can already say we did waaaay better in August, and will (hopefully) have a surplus!

  27. Natasha says:

    The pet seat cover is a BRILLIANT idea! I’m about to do a deep cleaning of the back seat/carseats after a recent road trip (to Vermont, no less!) with our two kids, and will go out and buy a seat cover posthaste.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, yes! It’s working well so far and I figure it’ll save us from needing to have the seats professionally cleaned. Good luck!

  28. Julie Tucker says:

    We build up credits from our solar panels that take us thru most of the Vt winter. We have a propane on demand water heater. The only issue we have is where it is located, we don’t get instant hot water in the kitchen. You just learn to turn the water on and use the water before it gets hot to fill up water bottles and watering cans.

  29. Blair says:

    TOTAL: $6,137.22
    MINUS MORTGAGE: $5,494.36

    The math is off here, no? 6100-1400= 4700.

  30. Fannie connaker says:

    My daughter in law let me read your book. It was inspiring. I love being somewhat frugal. I live in Minnesota and we have winters like you. I live in a condo on the 2nd floor and due to the fact that I live in the middle I don’t have to turn on my heat at all. I’m surrounded by heat all around me (what a savings). I love all the info you give keep up your frugal ways it certainly pays dividends 👍👍👍

  31. Christine Weadick says:

    Nice work on the Subaru!! I just sold my Dads truck, he’s in a long term care home with dementia so won’t be driving anymore, 2010 GM pick up truck. Sold as is and got a good price for it. The truck was low mileage and fairly clean. I had it safetied back when I had the ownership moved to my name so it could be plated and insured. The money will go to his care.
    As for the birthday gift costs, when mine were in that age group, I watched the sales and stocked up on popular toys then. A local store used to clear out it’s toy dept. right after Christmas and I made out like nobody’s business!! I got some gifts to stash for birthday parties as well as get birthday gifts for my kids!! Those hid in my closet until needed. The kids thought it was great and they knew if the Jolly Old Gent didn’t bring a certain something down the chimney, Mom would likely find it for their birthday!!

  32. Lindsey says:

    Several years ago I was talking to my husband about wanting to buy him experiences rather than things for gifts. His response? “Great! Get me a gift card to a car wash/detailing place, so I can experience the thrill of having someone else do my work while I read.” So, every year I buy him a gift card and he uses it for a fall and spring super detailing (after an Alaskan winter, it needs shoveling out!).

  33. mollyjade says:

    We like to get art supplies for toddler birthdays. Playdoh tools for 2’s, Do-a-Dot markers for 3’s, and Kwik Stix tempura paint sticks for 4’s. With the 40% off coupons at Michaels, it ends up a good deal. And I figure most kids like doing art, and it’s not an annoyance if you get duplicates of art supplies since they get used up. Mostly I like it because it saves me from decision fatigue, and I don’t have to keep track of what I got each kid the year before. I suspect I won’t get away with it much longer though, since older kids have more distinct likes and dislikes.

  34. Lilah says:

    I’ve also enjoyed some fun birthday parties with my daughter’s classmates. (and since we live in a HCOL area we’ve gotten to enjoy some swanky kid places!) We usually buy books as gifts and I’ve even gifted used books if they were in pristine condition.

  35. Laura says:

    Our solar panels are scheduled to be installed on September 10! I am so excited!!! We are going with a system without a battery system that is plugged directly into the grid because of how our utility handles solar here. I am curious how others have their systems set up. We can always add batteries later (hopefully the price will drop if we decide to go that route). We figure the first year or two will be an experiment with how to handle this. For example we have gas heat but we’ll probably keep the temperature low and use space heaters this first winter to see how much we generate and use.

  36. JD says:

    We are going to have to replace a water heater before too long, and I’m investigating heaters, mostly tankless. Thanks for mentioning this one, because that is another option.

  37. Very Cool things going on at the Frugalwoods homestead. You’ll have to do an article on the solar system and how you like it. Id love to Add one here in MN but im not sure Id get a return fast enough due to long winters and cloudy fall and spring seasons. I could be totally wrong tho. Very cool that you added them!

  38. PY says:

    Sooooo admire your insourcing & DIY efforts!!!! Being a ‘non handy’ person, reading about you or Mr FW using logging winch & installing a water heater by yourself is very inspiring! Motivated me to replace a broken tile in the bathroom instead of paying someone to do it … taking baby steps, haha. Thank you for sharing

  39. Cindy says:

    Great post. One day we’d love to have solar panels but we’re not 100% we’ll be in our home long enough to justify the cost. The incentives are great for your water heater! Good job! I like budgeting $20-25 for kids bday gifts, I usually do giftcards since I know the kids/parents love getting to decide a gift. My July was pretty good considering we went on vacation and stayed within our budget for food and activities (while doing the Uber frugal month challenge). I even continued to do it in August tracking everything we spent-it’s eye opening how much we spend every month!!! Anyway we’re working hard to curb that and save more than ever….

  40. Chris Owen says:

    Very interesting post as ever, thank you! I I love that you bought Mr. Frugalwoods a ticket to Stellafane. I am an amateur astronomer here in the UK but sadly I live not far outside our second largest city so the light pollution is not great here. I imagine you must have some amazing dark skes where you live. Can we expect some Astronomy related updates in due course?

  41. Thanks for sharing; another great post! Also I’m really looking forward to hearing more about the solar project. I’m hoping to look into solar myself at some point in the future and would love to hear all the details.

  42. Ooooooh solar. I am so jealous. I WISH our management company would spring for panels on our rental because we get oodles of sunshine here and it would make a big dent in electricity costs.

    I am always impressed by how much DIY you guys do. Installing a hot water heater on your own? Wow!

    Congrats on selling the Subaru!

  43. Natalie Jenkins says:

    Another idea for a seat cover: We use a fitted twin sheet to cover the backseat for our dogs. It covers the seat and the back part (don’t know what that’s called haha). We just cut holes in it for seat belts, and it’s been working great for about a year!

  44. Mrs. LSF says:

    Canning is the best! It is so satisfying to be self sufficient and live off your land in any way you can!

  45. Amanda says:

    I thought I spotted solar panels in a recent post! We’ve thought about doing the same, but they can cost a lot of money (and we might not stay in our current home for much longer). I’m definitely looking forward to your detailed post about your solar panels!

  46. frogoutofwater says:

    I’m interested in why you’ve decided to buy new items for birthday gifts for other peoples’ children. I would think that toddlers are the last people to notice whether something is “store-fresh”. In my limited experience, they’re just interested in things that are new to them, and so used toys and games (in good condition) make great gifts. The only challenge is having a good gift on hand, but that can be solved by some thrift shop purchase stockpiling (in a small way).

    • LongTime Frugal says:

      While I agree with thinking, not all parents think along these lines. Even older children (ages five or six) enjoy tape, scissors, glitter etc. My daughters loved receiving fabric remnants. I guess you have to know “your audience”.

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