A Chainsaw And Other September 2019 Expenditures

Winter is coming and every year, we spend a boatload (an actual, entire boat) of money in preparation. It might cost us less to just burn dollar bills to keep warm. This September was particularly expensive because quite a few non-annual expenses all hit at once. Expenses we incur every two years, every three years, every five years–somehow they all aligned in September 2019. So let’s get to it!

Winter Preparations = $$$$$$$ and also $

September 2019 on the homestead

Since we live in the rural wilds of Vermont, we have a legit mandate to prepare ourselves for the snowy months ahead. Woe betides ye who does not accomplish this prep work before the snow flies. And I do mean woe.

Here’s what we spent in service of the impending snow:

1) Snow tires for two cars: $1,148.39 (an every three years expense)

It was time to buy new snow tires for both of our vehicles. The truck (a 2010 Toyota Tundra) got the Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT 2 studded tires and the car (a 2010 Toyota Prius) was kitted out with the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 studded tires. This is our second set of Hakkapeliittas for the Prius and we love them–they’re worth every penny. We just so happened to buy tires for both the truck and the car this year (via a Labor Day sale), but this is not an annual expense.

Our ice-coated driveway in wintertime. We really should rent it out as a bobsled course…

Our truck, which we bought used in April 2018, came with non-studded snow tires that were partially worn down. We figured we’d get one season out of those tires and we did. Since we don’t drive the truck as often as the Prius, we hope the new tires will last a long time.

The old winter tires on the Prius (also Hakkapeliittas) had 24k miles on them and were used for three winters. While we could get another winter out of those tires (especially if we didn’t live on such a steep, icy driveway), we decided to buy new tires so that we can re-sell the old tires while they’re still in decent condition. We hope to use the new tires for the next 3-4 winters.

Why studded snow tires? Our driveway is dirt, a quarter-mile long, our sole responsibility to maintain (hat tip to Mr. Frugalwoods and our snow-blowing tractor), and our only means of egress. Given this, and the fact that most of the roads in our town are dirt, studded snow tires are a requirement from both a safety and an ability-to-drive perspective.

Plus, we’ve found that by investing in these high-end (read: expen$ive) studded tires, we’re able to drive our fuel-efficient hybrid Toyota Prius year-round. There’s usually one day per winter where the ice makes it impossible to drive the Prius, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised at how effective these tires are in turning the two-wheel drive, tiny Prius into a winter weather hardy car! Buying good snow tires is much, much, much cheaper than driving a less fuel-efficient four-wheel drive car.

2) Heating oil for our home: $760.95 (an annual expense)

Reveling in the first fire of the season last year!

While we heat our home primarily via our woodstove (stocked with wood Mr. FW harvests himself from our land), we have baseboard oil heat as a backup. There are two 275 gallon oil tanks in our basement and we burn about half of that (275 gals) every winter.

We set our thermostats to 58 degrees and the oil heat only kicks on when the indoor temps dip below 58. When we’re out of town, and during especially frigid nights, the oil heat keeps the inside warm enough to prevent pipe freezing. As people who have personally dealt with frozen pipes, it’s not an experience we wish to repeat.

Since we only use half our oil supply every winter, we could technically buy oil every two years. However, oil is not something I want to run out of. Were we to run dry mid-winter, it’s unlikely the massive oil delivery truck could make it down (and back out) of our quarter-mile long driveway. Topping off our tanks every fall is an expense I’m happy to spend–I consider it cheap insurance against freezing people and/or pipes

3) Husqvarna 550XP Mark II chainsaw: $686.78 + chainsaw sharpening equipment: $32.51 = $719.29 (a once every 20 years expense)

Littlewoods: pro apple eater

What? You don’t buy a chainsaw to prepare for winter ;)? As noted, our primary heat source is our woodstove and our firewood is felled, skidded, bucked, split, and stacked by the one and only, Mr. Frugalwoods. Hence the need for a chainsaw. The summer we moved here, he bought a used 2002 Husqvarna Rancher 455 chainsaw for about $300.

Mr. FW initially bought a used chainsaw because, at the time, he hadn’t operated a chainsaw in over 15 years and wanted to buy a relatively inexpensive, used saw in order to test it out. He thought he’d be harvesting all of our firewood, but he wanted to test this theory in practice before plunking down the cash for a new saw.

As it turns out, 3.5 years later, Mr. FW enjoys chainsawing, he does it a lot, and it’s a mandatory part of our lives out here. Given how much he uses the saw (even more than he imagined because we’re now making maple syrup), he decided it was time for a new saw for the following reasons:

  • Mr. FW bucking a tree he felled

    He’s always wanted a back-up chainsaw. Since it’s such an essential tool for us, it could be a major issue if it broke and we didn’t have a back-up saw (when a tree falls across our driveway, for example, the chainsaw is how we get out).

  • His old saw is a hard starter, especially in the cold. He’s always been able to coax it into starting, but it wasn’t easy, which made it a reliability issue.
  • The older saw has maintence issues that Mr. FW fixes himself as they come up, but it’s a hassle to be constantly repairing it.
  • The new saw is more powerful and lighter weight, which matters when you’re bending over holding the saw out in front of you to buck fallen logs (see photo at right). This is good for Mr. FW’s back and his ability to saw safely.
  • The new saw has lower vibrations, which is good for his hands and wrists.
  • Both are 50 cc saws made by Husqvarna. By first owning a used saw, he was able to identify that he likes this brand and that this size saw is correct for the type of cutting he does.

Thanks to spending three years using the old saw, Mr. FW was able to make an informed decision about buying his new, expensive saw. He maintains his chainsaws religiously and both are professional class saws that should last a long time. He hopes to get 20 years (at least) of service out of this new chainsaw and plans to continue using and maintaining the old saw as his back-up.

Side note: Mr. FW took a chainsaw safety course a few years ago and is very serious about saw safety. He always wears chainsaw protective chaps, boots, gloves, a helmet, ear protection, and a face shield. Don’t mess around with a ‘saw!

4) Septic pumping: $395.00 (an every four years expense)

Leaves on our driveway. Aren’t you glad I didn’t include a picture of our septic tank?

My life keeps getting more glamorous. Try to contain your envy. Since we live in the country, we have a septic system and a well. To put it politely, the septic system does what a city sewer system does on a much smaller scale.

If you’re dying to know more about rural septic systems, you may not be surprised to hear that I have an entire post dedicated to the topic: Frugal Homestead Series Part 6: Septic, The Other End Of The Water Equation.

Septic systems require pumping on regular intervals and ours was last pumped in 2016 as part of our home purchase.

The septic pumping specialist complemented us on the health of our septic system and suggested we have it pumped again in four years (circa 2023). Since the health of a septic system is the result of what goes down your drains, Mr. FW and I are tyrants about what gets flushed (septic safe toilet paper ONLY), what chemicals we clean with (mostly white vinegar and water), and how much water we use (good for the septic system and our well).

As you might’ve guessed, a septic system can only be pumped in good weather since the large truck needs to make it down (and back out of) our driveway. Further, they have to dig an access hole to the septic tank, which would be impossible to do in frozen ground.

5) Propane: $217.48 (an annual expense)

Heat two ways: solar panels + woodshed

We use propane for our stove and oven (no longer for our water heater since converting to a heat pump water heater to take advantage of the beaucoup solar energy produced by our solar panels).

Since we can’t reliably have propane delivered from November to May (given the conditions of our driveway), I schedule a propane delivery every year for late fall to ensure we’re stocked for winter.

I’ll be honest, we cut it SUPER close this year and I was worried we were going to run out of propane before our September delivery. We somehow squeaked by and did not have to resort to cooking everything in our crock-pot (although it stood at the ready on the counter).

6) Chimney cleaning: $175 (a once every 2-3 years expense)

Our driveway puts on a good leaf show… and is very steep

Once again we’re back to the fact that we heat our home with wood via our woodstove. Since chimney fires are a REAL BAD thing, it’s important to have one’s chimney swept and inspected periodically.

We do this every two years since we have a highly efficient combustion stove that burns the smoke from the fire and thus, emits very little up the chimney. Nevertheless, it’s one of those safety things that’s wise to have a professional check out. This is an early fall expenditure since one must get one’s chimney cleaned before one starts burning fires for the season.

7) Oil boiler servicing: $139 (a once every 4-5 years expense)

We’ve never had our oil boiler serviced, so we figured it’d be a good idea to have it done. The repair person noted it’s in great shape and, given how little oil we burn, we could probably go another 4-5 years before our next servicing. Since we only turn our boiler on in the winter months, it made sense to have it serviced right before we fire it up for the year.

8) Sauce maker: $68.19 (a one-time expense, we hope)

As our garden comes ripe and leaves crunch underfoot, we needed a way to transmute our tomatoes to sauce. Enter this sauce maker (that’s an affiliate link). We can report it works great and that we now have gallons and gallons of preserved tomato sauce in our basement.

A Few Frugality Lessons

Tomato sauce made from our tomatoes with our new sauce maker!

Believe it or not, there are some frugality lessons in this bonfire of spending:

  • Maintain your infrastructure:
    • We treat our septic system, our woodstove (and thus chimney), our boiler, and all the other systems in our home with care.
    • We use them thoughtfully and maintain them on our own to the extent possible.
    • This allows us to decrease the frequency of major maintenance expenses. For example:
      • Since we’re so gentle on our septic system, we can go four years before having it pumped again.
      • Since we burn seasoned wood correctly, and in an efficient stove, we can skip the chimney sweep next year.
    • Preventative care is important:
      • We pay for cleaning and maintenance on regular intervals to ensure the longterm health of these systems.
      • It would be extremely expensive, for example, to replace a broken septic system versus the nominal-by-comparison cost to have it pumped periodically.
      • I maintain a document with dates and notes of the servicing of all of our systems so that we know when we need to do what. Mr. FW has a similar spreadsheet outlining the service needs of our car, truck, and tractor.
  • Plan ahead:
    • Since I know it’d be tough to have propane or oil delivered in the winter, and impossible to have the chimney cleaned or the septic pumped, I take care of all this stuff pre-season. I got a massive discount on our boiler servicing because it was done in September, which qualified us for the early-bird early-season special. Yay!
    • None of the above are surprising or emergency expenses. They’re all routine spending for people running a homestead and living rurally. Knowing this allows us to budget, plan, and pay for it all without a hitch. It’s not an emergency to need new tires–it’s a 100% expected part of owning a car.
  • Tomatoes coming ripe!

    Try out the cheap, used option before buying the expensive, new option:

    • This applies in the case of the chainsaw. See notes above!
  • Track your spending:
    • Months like this are why I harp on (and on) about the importance of tracking your spending every single month. If I only analyzed one, or two, months’ worth of spending, I’d have a distorted view of how much my family spends in a year, in two years, in three years…
    • A lot of folks come to me wondering why they’re barely making ends meet and the answer is often that they’ve based their budget on just one months’ worth of spending data.
    • To truly know what to expect, track your spending for at least a year and then review twelve months of data.
    • While not perfect–because no one’s budget is a carbon copy year after year–this will give you a better sense of what you’re likely to spend on an annual basis.
    • I use the free expense tracker from Personal Capital and there are plenty of other options out there as well (affiliate link).
  • Shop around for deals!
    • Even with things as seemingly fixed in price as propane, oil, boiler servicing, and septic pumping–shop around!
    • Every year, I call all the companies that deliver propane and oil to our area and ask their prices. And every year? A different company is cheaper. We switch each year to take advantage of new customer discounts, paying-in-full discounts, bundling discounts, and more. See below for my price comparison spreadsheets from this year.
    • As you’ll see, there’s a $2.28/gallon difference between the cheapest and priciest propane companies and a $0.28/gallon difference with oil. When you consider that most people order hundreds (if not thousands) of gallons of oil and propane every year, the savings are enormous!
CHEAPEST BY PROPANE 2019
Company Propane Price Per Gallon Oil Price Per Gallon
Perry $1.95 $2.65
Dead River $2.94 $2.70
Irving $3.04 $2.60
Suburban $3.69 $2.49
Gillespie $4.04 $2.77
Rymes $4.23 $2.77

CHEAPEST BY OIL 2019
Company Propane Price Per Gallon Oil Price Per Gallon
Suburban $3.69 $2.49
Irving $3.04 $2.60
Perry $1.95 $2.65
Dead River $2.94 $2.70
Gillespie $4.04 $2.77
Rymes $4.23 $2.77

Credits Cards: How We Buy Everything

Kidwoods helping to load up the sugar shed (aka the wood we burn to make maple syrup)

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. I 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. 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 debt other than our mortgages, having several credit cards open for many years (that are fully paid off every month) has helped our credit scores. By the way, it’s a 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 does help your score.

For more on our credit card strategy, check out The Frugalwoods Guide to a Simple, Yet Rewarding, Credit Card Experience.

If you want a simple cash back credit card, I think the Fidelity Rewards Visa (which is the card that I have) and the Chase Freedom Unlimited are good options. Both of these cards have no annual fee and offer cash back on purchases.

While I like the Fidelity card, it does require you to have a Fidelity account. If you’re not already banking with Fidelity, the Chase Freedom Unlimited might be a better choice since it doesn’t require a specific bank account. Plus, it has no annual fee and offers a great cash back percentage. Another thing I like about the Chase card is that they’re currently offering double cash back. You get 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000. After that, the card delivers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Pretty good deal, I’d say!

The best way to find a credit card that’ll work for you is to search for it yourself. Fortunately, there’s a website, CardRatings.com, with a search function that aggregates information about tons of different credit cards.

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! (note: the credit card links are affiliate links)

Cash Back Earned This Month: $109.77

The kids playing on bucked log rounds

The silver lining to all this spending is our cash back credit card. We earn 2% cash back on every purchase made with our Fidelity Rewards Visa and this month, we spent $5,488.85 on that card, which netted us $109.77. Not a lot of money, perhaps, but it’s money we earned for buying stuff we were going to buy anyway!

This is why I love credit card rewards–they’re the simplest way to earn something for nothing.

I will note that if we instead had the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, we could’ve earned 3% cash back, which would be $164.66.

Personal Capital: How We Organize Our Expen$e$

Mr. Frugalwoods and I use Personal Capital to 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.

Oh Glamour Shed, you handsome dog

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 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, you might consider trying Personal Capital (note: these Personal Capital links are affiliate links). 

How To Read A Frugalwoods Expense Report

Want to know how we manage the rest of our money? Check out Our Low Cost, No Fuss, DIY Money Management System. We also own a rental property in Cambridge, MA, which I discuss here. Why do we allocate our money like we do? 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).

Mr. FW and Kidwoods down at our pond

For us, embracing prudent financial management and 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 in which we maximize efficiency.

Why do I share our expenses? To give you a sense of how we spend our money in a values-based manner. Your spending will differ from ours and there’s no “one right way” to spend and no “perfect” budget (perfection does not exist!). 

We’re not the most frugal people on earth (far from it) and we’re not spendthrifts either.

We fall somewhere in between and I hope that by being transparent about our spending, you might gain insights into your own spending and be inspired to take proactive control of your money.

If you’re wondering where to start with managing your money, or if you’d like to save more every month, you might consider taking my free, 31-day Uber Frugal Month Challenge. 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 different from traditional urban and suburban dwellings.

Fall view of the house

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 take it to a transfer station once a week in bags we purchase from our town), we heat our home with wood we harvest ourselves from our land, and we don’t have central air conditioning (we use window units during the hottest parts of the summer). We also have solar panels, which account for our low electricity bill.

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 you don’t see listed below?

  • 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. These expenses show up as the full annual amount in the month we pay them.
  • We don’t have any debt (other than our mortgages) and we paid cash for our cars.
  • Our health insurance is paid for by Mr. FW’s employer (who he works for from home).
  • Here’s how we make charitable contributions: How We Donate To Charities Like Billionaires and also How We Make Meaningful And Tax Efficient Charitable Donations.

If you’re wondering about anything else, feel free to ask me in the comments section!

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

Item Amount Notes
VT Mortgage $1,392.86
Snow tires for both vehicles $1,148.39 It was time to buy new snow tires for both of our vehicles. The truck (a 2010 Toyota Tundra) got the Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT 2 studded tires and the car (a 2010 Toyota Prius) was kitted out with the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 studded tires.
Three plane tickets $1,086.30 Three plane tickets for us to visit my in-laws over the Thanksgiving holiday. This is the first time we’ve ever had to buy a plane ticket for a kid and we’re glad Littlewoods still qualifies for the free lap-infant ticket!

We were able to get cheaper tickets ($362.10 per person) by off-setting our travel dates. We’ll be arriving and departing slightly out-of-sync with the holiday week in order to save on airfare. If your family is flexible with holiday celebrations, it’s worth checking out neighboring dates for deals!

Daycare $960.00 This is for Littlewoods for two days each week so that I can work. Kidwoods’ preschool is free through our public school district.

I’ll write more later this month about why I choose to work and choose to pay for daycare.

Heating oil for our home $760.95 Notes above
Chainsaw $686.78 Husqvarna 550XP Mark II (notes above)
Groceries & household supplies $642.10 We accidentally lumped the household stuff in with the groceries this month, so this is food and non-food things like toilet paper, shampoo, etc.
Septic pumping $395.00 Notes above
Mrs. FW’s new wardrobe $248.45 I didn’t actually buy all of this in September–this is the sum of several months of updating my wardrobe.

Read the full story here: How I’m Learning To Love My Body, Find A Middle Ground, And Buy Clothes Without Regret

Propane $217.48 Notes above
Farm/garden and household supplies $212.63 More household supplies (in addition to the stuff lumped in with groceries above) as well as things like tools and oil for the tractor and chainsaw and other farm-like things.
Chimney cleaning $175.00 Notes above
Boiler servicing $139.00 Notes above
Gasoline for cars $104.76
Beer, wine, and–not gonna lie–caramel vodka… $85.99 Life is too short to drink bad beer. This is mostly for beer from Upper Pass, a local brewery that makes excellent beer.

And also, of course, my caramel vodka (don’t knock it ’til you try it… or, in Mr. FW’s case, knock it EVEN MORE after you’ve tried it… )

Date Night!!!! $76.23 Our customary one kid-free dinner out per month, courtesy of our fabulous adopted grandma neighbor who stays with the girls after we put them to bed.
Utilities: Internet $74.00 LOVE our fiber internet
Tomato sauce maker (affiliate link) $68.19 Notes above
Leggings for Mrs. Frugalwoods $64.95 Funny story: I bought a pair of these leggings at a garage sale and loved them so much that I bought a six-pack of them (affiliate link).

I wear them every single day. I will never wear anything else on my lower half as long as I shall live. They are BEYOND comfortable and they look nice too!

Ladies’ Night $50.31 My monthly girls’ night out with my gal pals. We leave our kids and husbands at home and go out to dinner together. It’s glorious.
Chainsaw Sharpening Equipment (affiliate link) $32.51 Notes above
Cell phone service for two phones $29.48 This is so cheap because we use an MVNO called Ting (affiliate link). MVNOs resell wireless service at discounted rates (but it’s the same service). MVNOs are basically the TJ Maxx of cell phone service.

If you’re not using an MVNO, check out this post to see if you can make the switch. The savings are tremendous.

Utilities: Electric $19.37 We have solar (which I detail here) and this is our monthly base price for remaining grid tied.
Total: $8,670.73
Minus mortgage: $7,277.87

How was your September?

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65 Responses

  1. Charlotte Keys says:

    Always a fascinating read though it has no relation to my city life! Are you going to stagger some of the repeatable expenses to avoid high spend years every 3-5? I almost started a chart to see how to do that, then I realized I need to get ready for work!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m not really inclined to try and stagger the expenses–I don’t mind having them all hit at once. It actually made me more organized because I was dealing with all the home systems at once!

  2. Kristin says:

    Ooh, two things:

    1) I’d love for you to share the template of your home maintenance spreadsheets for your VT and MA properties (and their unique considerations) and do a post about it, including how you select the vendors. We own three properties, including our primary residence, and we need to get way more organized about this.

    2) I can’t wait to read your daycare post!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      1) For our MA rental, we have a property manager who handles all of that for us and we’ve found our PM to be worth every single penny! For our VT property, my spreadsheet is super basic–it lists the system (i.e. septic), when the maintence was performed (i.e. 9/2019), the contact info of the company we used, notes from the service provider (i.e. recommends next pumping for 2023), and a notation of whether or not there’s anything in our paper filing cabinet regarding the system (i.e. septic system map on file). For vendor selection in VT, I ask local friends and neighbors for their recommendations and then I call every company to get their prices. I hope this helps :)!

      2) I can’t wait to write the post :)!

  3. Cait says:

    I’m curious–given your water heater decision, are you looking at the life of your current stove and considering an electric model? Seems like it would be great to eliminate the propane expense (plus remove a tank of explosive fuel from your property). Induction stoves are way better than gas!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You are right! We are considering replacing our stove and are really intrigued by induction stoves. Mr. FW prefers to cook with gas vs. electric, so it seems induction might be a good option.

      • Shilo says:

        I love our induction stove. Beware that not all pots and pans work with it though… So you may have the added expense of replacing those. It is safer with kids (eg. stove gets hot but not like other types of stoves), boils/heat things in no time, and lots of control.

      • Tara says:

        Induction is amazing!!!! I have a Natural gas stove and I want to go inducing. They heat super fast, maintain an even, exact temperature, are much safer for kiddos since surface doesn’t actually get hot if nothing on it, and are simple to clean (just wipe down, vs process of cleaning massive gas grates in our tiny sink). You just have to avoid aluminum cookware, but you shouldn’t be using aluminum for a lot of cooking anyways (like tomatoey things as it affects flavor) so it’s not a problem in out household.

      • Victoria says:

        I have induction in our rental. It’s easier to clean, but also easier to damage. Moving a pan around while stirring or using a heavy Le creuset scrapes the glass and it’s annoying because it freaks my partner out so we argue about which pans to use.
        Ikea UK do cheap glass covers that are great for making the space usable if the hob isn’t on though.

  4. Emily says:

    You’re right I’m saying that you should really track expenses for about a year before you know what your “normal” is. In my experience, there is no such thing as a “normal” month. Emergencies pop up, big and small. I really appreciate your attention to prevention and maintenance now rather than emergency repairs later. It can be difficult, but so important to be responsible and grateful when servicing and maintaining our homes / cars, etc. And a reminder that the less you own, the less you need to maintain. Yay, minimalism 😉

  5. Monty says:

    Surprised you have propane costs for cooking – have you looked into replacing your stove/oven with electric since you have solar offsets?

    Have you considered buying the heating oil in middle of summer when pricing may be better than start of oil season?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We are indeed considering replacing our stove and are really intrigued by induction stoves. Mr. FW prefers to cook with gas vs. electric, so it seems induction might be a good option. And I probably should call for oil in the summer, but I always end up doing it in the fall when I take care of all the other home systems. Next year, perhaps :)!

      • Monty says:

        Your story of the chain saw inspired me…You could experiment with a table-top induction “burner” those are about $50 new vs a full on stove.
        I used to like gas cooking as well – but I found that the flat electric glass is easier for clean up with just a wipe of towel and its efficient as it you don’t really need to keep it on for the entire cooking time since the heating element stays hot for quite a while (good for stews).

        Induction vs Electric – I’ve done the research and if my electric cooktop ever dies – I’d go with Electric again as I think induction needs to stay on the entire cooking time, vs residue heat from the Electric cook-top. Though induction is pretty cool since just the pot heats up – that said I may just get a portable induction cooktop one day because of the lower entry point than committing to the induction stove.

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          We’ve been eyeing those table top induction burners :)! We would definitely get one to try out before replacing our stove.

        • Anne says:

          I’ve had induction a few times in rentals and never really liked it. I found that if anything boiled over the stove would give error messages and refuse to work for up to an hour. And the heat from the pot/pan then heats the glass, so the whole surface gets hot anyway, so not Super safe. I got to where I specifically looked for rentals with gas stovetops.

      • Claire says:

        Regarding induction stoves : by experience it’s a love it or hate it experience. Do you have any chance of testing one first?

  6. Michael says:

    Great read! It’s really interesting seeing these costs add up. Winter is definitely not kind to one’s wallet lol.

  7. Elaina Barbaree says:

    At the risk of sounding “stalkery” (sure…let’s use that), I noticed there was no medication expense this month.
    Are you still taking meds for PPD? As a doula, I’m all for it! So this is just a inquiry regarding the cost more than anything. I’m debating it this year myself since losing my son in Feb to depression. Especially with winter coming and the light decreasing.

    Looking forward to your daycare post too! Not that you should ever have to justify yourself…but I love that you’re open and share all of this!
    Thanks!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      A good question and from a kind and loving place–I always appreciate that :). YES, I am definitely still taking my PPD meds! We had a wee bit of trouble separating out groceries/household supplies/medications this month because they were all purchased in the same transaction (usually we do separate transactions at the store–in the self-checkout lane–to have them categorized correctly). So, my meds are lumped into that Groceries + household supplies line item.

      I am so sorry to hear you lost your son. I cannot imagine the pain you must be feeling. I am very pro-SSRI; they changed my life for the better, so I encourage anyone thinking they might benefit to seriously consider discussing it with their doctor.

  8. Ilene says:

    Please give Mr. F a pat on the back for cutting that enormous amount of wood…and stacking it..and building the shed to store it…and playing with his children all the while. What a guy!

  9. Did you ever see the Hannah Montana movie? Don’t laugh too hard….as your girls get older, you’ll be surprised at the kid movies you never thought you’d enjoy! Every time you post a picture of the glamour shed, all I can think of is the chicken coup from that movie that she helps Travis fix up. Someday, that may be a fun project for the girls! 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’ve never seen it! Is it good for little ones? I know we’ll be doing some family movie time over Christmas break this year 🙂

      • It’s cute. I’m sure they’d have fun with the music, but the story is probably more of a pre-teen and while it isn’t “bad,” it may not keep their interest (kid gets famous and is getting a little too diva so dad is trying to rope her back in to reality). You can google an image of the chicken coop though 🙂

  10. Cindy in the South says:

    I get it. Taxes for my mom’s house and my house for the year hit me in October. I pay them in October, rather than delaying until the end of December. They have also gone up. We just do what we have to do. I had to have an oil change for my Toyota Yaris. I also have a plane trip planned so, while I already bought my round trip ticket in September, I am trying to determine If I am going to need to purchase a hotel room for one night (staying with relatives the other nights.) I also am debating the Park, Sleep, Fly option as opposed to leaving my car at the airport. My son had a birthday, and I always pay the utilities for the month of all my kid’s birthdays. That came to $250. I also paid the insurance on my house for the year, over $800. So, yeah, October is chock full of non recurring expenses.

    • Meghan says:

      I LOVE the idea of doing something like paying utilities as a birthday gift! I am a minimalist and married into a family of ‘gift-givers.’ I never know what to say when they ask what I want and I usually end up with a stack of gift cards that I rarely even use on myself! My birthday is in December and I may or may not just bring my utility bills to Thanksgiving dinner and start handing them out to folks who ask me what I want!

      • Lindsey says:

        My standard answer is “a case of really soft toilet paper.” This started when I lived in bush Alaska and it cost $7 for a four pack, but now that we have moved to town I still ask for it. People can order it on Amazon and have it sent straight to you, so no extra packaging. One year I ended up with seven cases and was THRILLED. It took some time to get people on board with it; they thought it was a joke at first. However, now my family members say they love knowing that I will really appreciate their gift AND I DO!

  11. Lisa says:

    What a perfect storm of expenses! It sounds like you guys are battening down the hatches for winter. Do the preparations involve placing the maple sugar taps? I’m excited to hear how year two of sugaring goes!

    Out of curiosity, is the $960 fee for daycare for the semester/school year? My husband and I work mostly offset hours, but we needed part-time care for our daughter so he could work some daytime hours. We ended up signing our infant daughter up for a Parents’ Day Out program through a local church because most daycares in our area either wouldn’t accept part-timers or were ridiculously expensive for the amount of time offered. We pay about $200/month for the service.

  12. Mrs. Finance says:

    I always love reading these even if it’s completely different from my apartment life right now. It’s fascinating reading all of the equipment you have that we don’t even consider here in the city. We only just started tracking our expenses in August and every month we’ve had something hit us outside of our usual expenses, so we’re more flexible now. That wood shed looks amazing.

    This past September, I finally changed my car from TX registration to WA registration. The taxes hit pretty hard, but I’m glad it’s over with. Now to just consider the yearly tab registrations. We also bought tickets to visit family for Thanksgiving, but we couldn’t stagger due to our full-time jobs. Our two tickets were so much more than your tickets for 3(4).

  13. Jim Wang says:

    Does Vermont (or your county) have a septic pumping rebate program? In Howard County in Maryland, we can get a $100 reimbursement every 3 years as long as we use a licensed hauler. It takes a big bite out of the cost.

  14. Derek says:

    Nice! Those Husky XP saws rip! For around the house stuff the DeWalt battery powered chain saw is really nice for small stuff and can even be used inside. Eventually, Mr FW is going to need a cabbed Kubota for all that snow blowing in winter. Brrrrrrr….

  15. I have also had a number of expenses hit at once. Earlier this year I hired a personal stylist to tell me exactly what I should and shouldn’t be wearing. It turns out my season of clothes is “warm autumn” so now that it’s fall, I’ve been buying clothes that work for me. (and getting clothes from my Buy Nothing group that fits the requirements). VA requires annual inspections, so I’ve had to do a bit of work on the car in order for it to pass. I could do some things, like changing the rear window wiper, but changing the rear third brake light was beyond my ability. I also had to replace the driver side mirror after someone in DC knocked it off! Add in car insurance and FinCon and I’m just trying to hold on!

  16. KN says:

    Liz I am wondering if you’d consider a post about home maintenance in general–kind of like a: If you own a home, here is a good list to start from and how to pick vendors etc. We are looking at buying a home next summer and I have only owned a condo once before. I am concerned I don’t know what I am getting into. This would be a home in the suburbs of a major US city so many of the needs would be a bit different than yours listed here.

    You’ve def. got me thinking perhaps I should invest in a set of winter tires for my 2008 ford with FWD that struggles mightily in the snow.

    Re: Leggings, I have learned of the wonder of maternity leggings now that I am pregnant. They sit down around your hips rather than at your waist! They should just market them as low rise leggings. I am never going back to high waisted leggings again LOL.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hmmmm interesting idea for a post! let me see if I can come up with something…

      I’ve been AMAZED at the difference good snow tires make!

  17. I love seeing how your spending is evolving as a growing family. Adding things in like part-time daycare and ladies nights makes the frugal lifestyle seem much less austere. And your homestead pictures are breathtaking this time of year! I miss the preschool days when we could travel any time of year without repercussions (school absences)!

  18. JD says:

    So much work to get ready for winter! Here in Florida our winter prep is mostly deciding which potted plants to bring in, letting the grass get a little taller, and maybe filling the propane tank for some, although not for us. Summer is our high-expense prep season.
    Since you are throwing all that money around anyway :), I’m going to suggest a good portable generator to keep your well and lights going in the event of a bad winter storm.
    We just had our well pump worked on and the tank replaced, which is an every-so-often expense for us. A water heater is going to be needed before too long, as well, and the car will need new tires soon. One really can’t go on just a few months’ figures to plan expenses, as you said. There is always something that’s going to crop up now and then, and some months are like your September — everything crops up. Here’s hoping October will be a less expensive month.

  19. Lynne says:

    This will be a long comment about your driveway (I worked in road construction almost my entire career): Great to see the fall driveway pictures, it gave me some ideas that may be of long-term help to your family regarding the steepness/winter access, etc. IF you have enough property on both sides of the driveway, it could be made ‘considerably’ less steep by curving back and forth across the hillside instead of plunging straight down to the house. Yes, this will be a Huge project, but it could be budgeted for and undertaken in phases. For instance, Mr. FW could start by cutting firewood from the future driveway construction areas, the clearing has to be done anyway. The tractor could pull the stumps as time allows. Using the time honored half-width cut/fill construction method, the material that is cut out of the hillside half width of the roadway is used to ‘level’ or fill in the downhill side of the roadway. A good ‘cat’ operator would know how to do this, or find it online. There would probably be added drainage costs (culverts, etc.), but mostly should be able to be handled by inside roadway edge ditches running off into the woods above each turn, with properly installed stormwater berms to slow siltation, etc. Make the switchback curves wide and open to accommodate service/delivery vehicles. Add in the cost of surfacing material (base rock, etc.). Check that your county does/does not have grading permit requirements. Placing the road across the face of the prevailing hill(s) would make it much longer, but allows the grade/steepness to be ‘much’ less/more gentle. YES, this is a ‘huge’ project, but it can be done in small pieces as time/money allows. Most of it could be constructed without much disruption to the current access if planned correctly. New trees/bushes/even flowers could be planted along the new cut banks and new fill slopes to beautify and replace woodlands removed for the work. In the long run, it would greatly improve getting in and out of the property. Construction expenses would be a capital improvement to the property, and ultimately deducted from any capital gains if/when the property must be sold in the far future. There should be an opportunities to use local labor/barter for much of the project. Sitting down and working it out on paper would help with a rough budget/saving up for and performing phased work. Hope this long-winded post gives you some ideas that may be useful in the future!

  20. Monica says:

    Love your blog! Although I live in San Diego I grew up in the PNW and winters could be *gripping*!

    Question on the leggings: I am fairly tall and I find leggings bag in the crotch area. How would you say these fit in that “area”?!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m 5’7″ and have always struggled to find leggings that are long enough but that also fit in the waist/crotch region and these do the trick! They aren’t baggy, but super soft and stretchy. I truly love them.

      • Jen says:

        I hope you’ll report back on how long they last. Though I recall you don’t seem to have the issue many of us do with holes developing in the inner thigh area. I bought some highly rated leggings on Amazon that all developed those holes more quickly than I would have liked. I switched to leggings I found at Costco and so far, so good so I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          I will report back! Holes in the inner thigh aren’t an issue I’ve had before, but I’ll let you know if it comes to pass. I wash them inside out and hang them to dry, in the hopes that they’ll last longer. So far, so good! And it doesn’t hurt that they were so cheap!

      • Clancy says:

        I just ordered these in a medium. I’m 5’10” and 155 lbs. I wear a lot of Lululemon ( I know…expensive, but the do last!) and am hoping these will supplement my work-in-a-home-office wardrobe! Thanks!

  21. monica says:

    Quite surprised that you would jollily forgo buying your youngest a seat on a flight since you wisely don’t skimp on other thing that involve health and safety!!!! Just Think: airlines will not let you hold anything – even a laptop – on your lap during take off and landing, however you are “allowed” to hold a human life!?! Just makes non sense Is is really worth risking the safety of your child to save a few hundred dollars? I think not, but gather you must think otherwise since I assume you have thought this through Also, I would think it would be worth the minimal added expense (given that you have the funds) just to have a seat for your child and a comfortable flight for you and the child. https://www.consumerreports.org/airline-travel/why-you-should-never-fly-with-baby-on-your-lap/

    • pauline says:

      if the plane crashes I don’t think it’s gonna matter if you were holding the child, or she was in her own seat belted in – family members have taken many flights holding a child and were perfectly fine.

      • Victoria says:

        The previous poster may have sounded judgmental, but it isn’t just crashes. Even a relatively small amount of turbulence can cause injuries even for those strapped in.
        I’m not judging either way, I don’t have kids, but wanted to make that point.

        • Cara says:

          I was going to comment about the seat safety too. my children have flown since they were infants- always in their own seat in an FAA approved carseat. Most airplane crashes have survivors. Most airplane crashes occur during takeoff and landing- going much faster than a car. There is no way you would be physically able to hold your child. There is a woman (i wish I could remember her name) who has done a lot of work to raise awareness, after her infant died on impact in a plane crash she herself survived.

  22. Noel says:

    This is great advice about tracking annual expenses rather than monthly. We aren’t great about organizing our expenses and when tires, appliances, dental work, etc come up it’s always surprising. I never know how to look at my budget due to infrequent annual or semi-annual expenses like these. I think I’m sold on your monthly expense reports and ready to get my numbers down so that in the future I’ll have annual reports to consider. The sooner we start the sooner we’ll have solid numbers like this!

  23. Josie says:

    Can I just say it is great to have the more frequent posts! Even if it means Littlewoods has to go to daycare. 😏 Seriously, your writing is exceptional and your topics very relatable.

  24. pauline says:

    I continue to be amazed how organized you are! We have it a lot easier, all we do is drain the water & cover up the cooler, get the lawn sprinkler system blown out, and stow the water hoses inside the shed so they don’t freeze & crack! LOL My trusty brother in law comes over every year to light the furnace for us and we are good to go for another Colorado winter.

  25. Joanna says:

    I love love love my Victorio food mill. I got the four piece accessory pack and use it to strain my blackberries for jam. Keeps the vast majority of the pulp, and no seeds! I also use it for applesauce, just chop the apples roughly, simmer them to the texture you want, and send them through the mill, seeds, skins, and all.

  26. Kristen says:

    September was EXPENSIVE. We were 100% debt-free for a few weeks after selling one home and before closing on our new one. I seriously wondered why we didn’t just rent for a while, but home prices in Colorado are high and rent is high… we purchased since we expect to be in the same location for the next 10 years or so. Now comes the added expenses that often follow a new home purchase. Certain furniture doesn’t fit right in the new spaces. I’m having a hard time parting with a perfectly good (and beautiful) dining table that takes over the new dining area. It fits just fine, but it looks too big and bulky. I know we’ll get next to nothing for it since folks don’t spend on used furniture, then we’ll drop another $800 on the table and chairs we want. And why? For aesthetic reasons. I keep going back and forth on this and leaning toward just making our current table work. Husband wants it to go. When did he start caring about aesthics anyway? 😀 I did promptly schedule a chimney inspection after your post though. Hubby can do the cleaning and keeps saying he will, but hasn’t done it yet so taking this matter into my own hands so I can have a fire without being concerned with starting an unplanned one!

  27. Lindsay says:

    I would love some day to read about how to used your new sauce machine and the process you used to get from garden tomatoes to sauce in your cold storage! 🙂

  28. GMP says:

    Hi! Great post as always. You really are ahead of the game, we still are preparing for the winter.
    The person that has been cleaning our boiler has retired and since I think we live in the same general area, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind to share with me the name of the person that has cleaned yours if you were happy with the results.

  29. LongTime Frugal says:

    How many gallons does your septic tank hold? Ours is 1500 gallons and it costs us $175 to pump. We go every three years. First our system is not new and while I’m geared up for a fight IF it comes time to replace, I’d rather not have to fight. Don’t get me started on the schizophrenic rules on where one can and cannot have a septic in my area. Health department blames it on the county board “approving” septic systems on lots that are *barely* a half acre (and has the same soil make-up as we do). Second is the kids out of the house and hence less “activity”. Solids are not ones friend. Third is we are cognizant of well contamination (not just ours but others). But I digress. Or is it the dumping fees that are higher in your area?
    Yes, the new chainsaw should last 20 years but giving our experience, it won’t be your primary chainsaw in 20 years. A backup is essential so kudos for having the foresight.
    How much information do you have on your well (depth, size of pipe)? Pressure tanks don’t last forever and a well pump can also fail. You may want to have your water tested on some recurring basis. I need to take in a water sample as it has been a few years since last tested (was free as some wells not far from us were contaminated – source was suspected to be from a farm). The homeowners had to drill new wells. None of the homes had wells with the larger casing (I think that is the term) that is required today. You’re not surrounded by farmland so that should decrease the chance of high nitrates (and you don’t treat your lawn). There is an acceptable nitrate level for young children – found this out at our prior home.
    Chimney sweeping sounds reasonable – are there a number of “sweepers” in your area? I know of one in our area, had to use them the year my husband had knee surgery. And will most likely start using them again in the near future. My husband has made it to his target age of sweeping it himself. Sweeping does require one to be on the roof but cleaning out the wood stove post-sweeping isn’t my favorite chore.

  30. Rebecca says:

    Question out of left field: do you get those green worms that devore tomatoe plants? We get them and I can’t find a natural way to get rid of them. Please share if you know of any methods. Thx

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We do indeed get those Tobacco Horn Worms and they’re a menace. Since we garden organically, we’ve found we have to go through each and every plant and pluck off the worms… This year, we were more proactive and got to the worms early on, which meant they were smaller and had inflicted less damage. It’s time-consuming, but it did yield much healthier tomatoes.

  31. Katie Camel says:

    Whoa, expensive month! (For me too.) I like to think examples like these are where frugality really pays off. Since this month is not your average month, it’s much more manageable than dealing with huge expenditures every month – and these are largely predictable enough that you can plan ahead and budget for them.

    When I have months like September, I find solace in the thought of having more travel points, but I see you choose cash back. Just out of curiosity, why have you chosen cash back? I know it’s harder for you to travel these days with two little ones, but I wasn’t sure if using travel points to visit your families would be a good option for points (I know they’re not nearby). Do you save your cash back for something specific, like girls’ night out or date night?

  32. Educator FI says:

    Reading these summaries always make me simultaenously want to live in a homestead type situation and realize we probably won’t ever go all in. I love the descriptions and pictures. Thank you!

    This one made me realize I’m not very good at all about tracking expenses across multiple years. While we are aware of our annual expenses and spread them through any budgeting/tracking we do, those once every few year expenses hit more like one-time surprise expenses. Those months where many of them hit, like your September, can be a big shock! We definitely need to get more organized about it to better hit our goals.

  33. Leah says:

    Woosh, your daycare is crazy expensive. We pay $175 a week for 45 hours a week of care, and that’s a bit pricey for our town. Tho, honestly, our daycare is fine but not amazing. If we had a better option in town, I would be willing to pay a bit more. But I can’t imagine paying $960 a month for part time daycare. I wouldn’t be able to afford to work full time if we had to pay those rates.

  34. Shelley says:

    Not related to this post but just wondering when you’re going to update your photo above “About Us” to include all four of you? Love your writing, please keep it up!

  35. Amanda says:

    My interest was piqued with all of the links on this post , even the septic! Ha! Going to start with sauce maker and wardrobe stuff. Thanks for sharing the New England foliage. We miss it so much!

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