My Frugal Friends! I’m pleased to announce that September was one of the lowest spend months in Frugalwoods history. Mr. FW and I are positively delighted by the fact that we only spent $874.12 on everything other than our mortgage. Woo hoo!

I’d hoped this would be a low spend month as we didn’t have any periodic bills (such as water or car insurance), emergencies, or unanticipated expenses. Our only aberration was Frugal Hound’s annual vet exam. Spending as little as possible during months like September is a critical element of our frugal approach and helps us maintain our 65%-85% savings rate.

Frugal Hound: a portrait of good health
Frugal Hound: a portrait of good health

I’ve shared that we don’t budget in advance, because we approach each month as if we’re not going to spend a dollar. Since we obviously are going to spend, we consider all expenses as debits against this $0 budget. We review our expenses at the end of every month–and show the findings to you fine people–in order to track our savings rate and ensure that we’re not overspending in any given area. If we note high spending in a particular region, we recalibrate for the future.

Mr. FW & Frugal Hound (in her autumnal hound coat)
Mr. FW & Frugal Hound (in her autumnal hound coat)

If you’re curious about the things you don’t see on the below spreadsheet, check out last month’s explanation of why we lack many common expenses (such as health insurance, cell phones, cable, entertainment, restaurants, and more).

As I mentioned in How We Manage our Household Finances, we keep the money pretty fresh and simple in these here frugal woods so that the jokes can be complex. What you see is what you get–100% of our expenses are represented and we don’t have a dime of debt other than our mortgage. I don’t post our income, net worth, or investments for privacy reasons and I do apologize for that because I wish I could give you a more comprehensive illustration of our financial health.

But, for now, please enjoy reading about every dollar we spent in September:

Item/Vendor Amount Frugalwoods Musings
Mortgage & Escrow for Taxes & Insurance $2,741.01 Yep, it’s high. But, we live in a very high COL city (Cambridge, MA) and this house will be our cash-flowin’ rental after we decamp to our rural homestead.
Groceries $229.42 Not too shabby, though I always wish it could be lower. But, the majority of this is for fresh fruits, vegetables, and coffee–none of which we’re going to give up anytime soon.
Veterinary Clinic $176.00 Frugal Hound had her annual trip to the Hound doctor. This cost includes her check-up, Rabies shot, tick and heartworm tests, and Distemper shot. She received a clean bill of health and the vet complimented us on the fact that we brush her teeth, clean her ears, trim her nails, and keep her at a healthy weight. He did not compliment her sitting abilities :).
Costco $164.79 We are thrilled by how low this is! Our monthly Costco runs had been about $100 more, but with concerted effort this month, we were able to frugal it up. This includes bulk foods (oats, beans, quinoa, spices, olive oil) and household supplies (toilet paper, dog food, laundry detergent, vitamins, shampoo, etc).
Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile $73.24 Higher than usual because we took a few lengthy trips in order to go hiking. The longest was the drive to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for our epic Franconia Ridge hike.
Electric Bill $70.91 Pretty decent.
Internet $66.95 Consistent month to month.
Beer & Wine $26.50 A tad high as we purchased beer and wine to take to friends’ houses on a few occasions.
Gas Bill $24.15 Gas-tastic!
Household Goods $19.11 We made our first trip to the Ocean State Job Lot (think Wal-Mart but cheaper & less classy) and found swell deals on household goods. Plus, $1 for a pterodactyl dog toy for Frugal Hound!
Prescription Medication $15.00
Snacks! $5.18 We 100% splurged after hiking Franconia Ridge and bought snacks at a gas station to eat on the drive home. YUMS!
Parking Meter $2.00 Had to park at a meter in downtown Boston.
Photo Backup $0.87 Must preserve the millions of photos I take :)!
TOTAL SPENT: $3,615.13

 What do you think of our expenses? How was your September? Tips, frugal hacks, and advice always welcome!

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  1. Yay for Frugal Hound’s clean bill of health! Yearly checkups for pets are definitely a non-negotiable expense in our minds – well worth the peace of mind since pets can be bad about telling us when they’re not feeling well.

    Our September was a little higher than average, but mostly because we’re prepaying some of our 2015 kitchen renovation expenses in this calendar year, so that added an extra ~$1500 to the monthly tally. Without that expense shift we would have been around $2700, which is fabulous for us!

    1. Agreed, absolutely worth the peace of mind–plus, preventative care (for humans and creatures) is usually cheaper and more effective in the long run. Well done on September! And, it’ll be nice to reap that kitchen reward in 2015. I’m really looking forward to seeing the after photos 🙂

  2. I didn’t track September the way I normally track my spending because I spent a week and a half on vacation spending what feels like a small fortune after being first in debt repayment mode and then in trip saving mode. But I will say I’ve stayed on budget since I got back. I budget bi-weekly and I started a new budget when I got back. It now has a focus on a planned spending account and an emergency fund. I try to live pretty frugal but I in no way have it mastered like you guys.

    1. Vacation sounds divine to me right about now :). Congrats to you for getting back on track after coming home–that’s the important part! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. Those are some pretty sweet numbers! We spent more than you entire monthly budget on sports fees. Yikes. Your grocery budget is epic. Interested to see how electricity and gas bill changes over the winter – looking forward to the next update. Cheers

    1. Thank you, May! Well, we only have 2 (human) mouths to feed, so we get away with a lot less food. We’re hoping to be able to avoid turning on the heat until November…. we’ll see how that goes :).

    1. I know it! And it’s actually on the lower side for the area we live in. The Boston/Cambridge market is just red hot. Definitely looking forward to charging rent and being on the other side of things! 🙂

  4. I love Frugal Hound’s sweater! That is so cute. I have a little sweater for Ruby but she is not really a fan of wearing it : ) Our September spending was higher than most months because we had our car insurance premiums and we went on a long weekend road trip. Looking forward to hopefully lowering our expenses this month!

    1. Awww hound sweaters! I wouldn’t say Frugal Hound loves her sweater coat, but she does wear it uncomplainingly when it’s cold out :).

  5. I love frugal hound’s coat and Mr. Frugalwood’s expert hiding of his face….although now that frugal hound is famous now and not anonymous, y’all will totally be recognized in your area if there are any readers of your blog who happen upon you! :). Has that happened yet?

    1. Hahah–you’re describing my dream come true! I would get a huge kick out of being recognized IRL. We’ve actually made a few IRL friends here in Cambridge through the blog and I’m all for meeting fellow frugal folks!

  6. How stylish is Frugal Hound? 🙂 Takes after her Mama I guess. You know I was thinking “Wow that’s low on how much you spend aside from mortgage” but really if I take rent out, I am right there with you. I’m just not used to looking at it that way (though I know it is quite common in the FI/ER community).

    1. Oh yah, she’s one stylin’ greyhound :)! We do think of our expenses separately from our mortgage mostly because we made the decision to incur that mortgage very carefully, with the full knowledge of how much it would cost us every month. We’re at peace with the high price because we see it as an investment. Also, I like feeling as though I can control the rest of our expenses (which I largely can). You have an awesome savings rate too!!

    1. I wish we didn’t have the car & gas costs, but, at least we have just one car and our gas is usually fairly low. We were car-less for a number of years and we’ve found that our quality of life is dramatically better with one car. We’re able to access hiking trails, etc, which was impossible without a car.

  7. You are reminding me that Kitty Paragon has not been to the vet in an embarrassingly long time. Time to find a nice cat vet in our new area.

    I am completely in awe of your low expenditures! Mr. FP has a bad habit of suggesting we get a pizza or stop for dinner which I can’t always control. Sigh. We have to pay our own cell phones and they are actually going up this month, because we are switching from super-barebones Airvoice to secondhand smart phones with shiny new Ting plans.

    1. Kitty Paragon! That would be a really cute cat name :). Avoiding the restaurant/fast food temptation is tough for us too, but, at the end of the day we’re happy to save the money. It’s definitely a challenge though!

  8. It’s funny how mortgages are totally relative compared to where you live. I am sure some people look at your number and think “high” and for me I think “Wow that’s cheap,” but we live in New York and it’s hard to own anything with taxes and insurance thrown in for under $3,000 a month. Great job on everything, though, you guys are going to be rural homesteading in no time!

    1. Thanks! I’m always comforted to hear from other high COL city dwellers :). Yeah, ours is actually not that high for our region!

        1. I wondered if any San Francisco readers would comment :). It’s definitely unavoidable in these cities.

  9. Very respectable considering the high COL. Your savings rate for the month was probably awesome. Our expenses for September were the second lowest on record. Like you, we did not having any non-monthly or unexpected expenses this month. This gave us an 82% savings rate for the month.

  10. Thanks for sharing your monthly expenses. You continually inspire me to be more frugal! I particularly enjoy seeing the pet-related expenses because a frugal corgi is on my wishlist in the next few years, so I’d like to know what to expect financially. Just curios, why are groceries and Costco separate?

    1. Good question! I separate groceries and Costco because the grocery expense is 100% food while the Costco expense is partially food and partially household goods. We get our toilet paper, laundry detergent, dog food, vitamins, band-aids, shampoo, soap, dishwasher detergent, trash bags, etc from Costco. So, in a given month, the Costco expense might be weighted more heavily towards household goods than food. I probably should go through the Costco receipt and itemize the food v. the household goods, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that yet 🙂

    1. Thanks! Our tracking is made super simple by the fact that we use credit cards for everything (even the parking meters here take credit cards!). I cannot remember the last time I paid cash for anything. I can’t even remember the last time I went to an ATM! It would be much more difficult to track if we were cash-ing all over the place, for sure.

  11. My September bill was not too great. It’s usually anywhere from $400-$800 on other months but this month was $2172!
    3 kids in dance-$264
    Summer and school clothes for 3 kids $800 (a lot…but I only shop 1-2 times a year and everyone’s feet grew)
    School supplies and class fees $250
    Groceries were about $450 (much more than usual)…lots off snacks and beer (way too much company over)

    Next month should be around $800….but the kids are the majority of our expense.
    Thankfully we have no rent or mortgage to pay.

    1. I’m so impressed that your normal months are $400-$800 with three kiddos–that’s amazing! And, how fantastic that you have no rent or mortgage. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing!

  12. I’m impressed that with a high mortgage, you’re able to keep your expenses so low. Nice job! I also love that I could afford all of this, too, if I didn’t have pesky student loans! ha. I’m actually going to be launching a no-spend year in January, so I can get as much done on my student loans as is possible in a single year. I think reading about your story makes me think about what more I can do to minimize spending, too. You guys rock!

    1. Thanks so much, Natalie! I appreciate it. I’m excited to hear more about your no-spend year. I look forward to following along :)!

  13. Amazing work because it takes conscious effort to pull off what you both are doing when it comes to spending. Our September was pretty good except for a car repair bill and travel to NOLA which I did fairly well to keep the spending reasonable.

  14. I like how you separate out household goods, groceries, Costco, and alcohol. I lump those all together, but it seems like separating them would give use a better idea about just where our money is going.

    1. I do like separating it out–it just gives us a clearer picture of each line item. I think either way works, but, it is nice to know exactly how much we’re spending in each category.

  15. Wow that is awesome! Good job! Our cat went to visit the vet this past weekend and rack up a similar bill as Frugal Hound too. Considering she’s part of the family, I could justify spending a few hundred dollars each year on her.

    1. Glad to hear Perlemus did well at the vet’s. They’re definitely part of our families–agreed!

  16. Whoa…nice month and nice beard for Mr. F! I have total beard envy over here. Mine comes in very patchy so I often just shave it off in shame! haha.

    Anyway, the one grumble I’d have on this is that darn parking fee. I HATE paying for parking! I follow the Mr. Money Mustache credo that, “if it’s somewhere you need to pay to park, it’s probably a place your car doesn’t need to be.” Downtowns suck for driving/parking and I’ve sacrificed by walking blocks and blocks away from my destination just to avoid plugging meters or paying for garages. I feel the pain. That $2 bothers me more than spending even more money on pretty much anything else. Fortunately Milwaukee isn’t as big and busy as Boston so I may have an easier time scoping out free parking than you guys.

    Anyway, awesome month! Very inspiring! 🙂

    1. Thanks! And, I totally agree with you and MMM on the parking fees. We actually walked to Fenway Park last month (to attend a free baseball game) just to avoid parking fees and public transit costs. The parking meter costs are almost always for medical appointments, so I’m more OK with the expense. This particular $2 was for a visit to my eye doctor, which is located in an odd area that we have to drive to. Other than that, we avoid driving in the city as much as possible! Thanks so much, as always, for stopping by 🙂

  17. Glad to hear that Frugal Hound is in good health 🙂 Our spending was a little higher than usual in September, but that’s because we were in Bulgaria and weren’t going to spare any expense when it came to eating, drinking, and shopping. Things are much cheaper over there when you’re looking at it in terms of USD, so we were still frugal!

  18. Fantastic numbers! You’re doing so well 🙂 vet trips are so important, for peace of mind if nothing else 🙂 looking forward to seeing your October numbers!

  19. Man, I love Ocean State Job Lot. For some groceries, of course. We are doing some major outdoor work and found tools there for cheaper than if we had bought them used, and it’s not junk either. My favorite though, and I was just telling my co-worker today about this, are the snowshoes we got for $30. Keep Ocean State in mind for random purchases like that, you never know what they’re going to have.

    1. Nice! It definitely struck us as the sort of place that consistently has a totally random assortment of cheap stuff. The one closest to us is in the same shopping center as an Aldi’s, so it was a pretty great frugal shopping trip!

    1. Thank you! I keep trying to figure ways to lower the groceries even further, but, at a certain point, we do want to eat good and healthy foods. 🙂

  20. No docking fees for the yacht?

    That is really impressive. You guys rock your spending almost as well as Frugal Hound rocks that coat. And that’s saying something.

    1. Oh the yacht ;)! And, thank you! It’s a pretty rocking coat, there’s no doubt. She was a bit pouty about it at first, but then I think she realized it was cold outside and snuggly in her coat.

  21. I really toyed with the idea of getting dog shots at the low cost clinic that they do every fall in the parking lot of one of the farm and ranch stores. It is a free for all and most unpleasant, but would have saved about $40 on the cost of getting them at the vet. Mo is also freaked out by crowds, so I caved and went to our vet because it took 10 minutes and I love, love, love our vet. Some things are just not worth the time and stress to save a few dollars. Great job on a frugal September.

    1. Agreed. We could probably find a less expensive vet, but, we really like our vet and the clinic staff. Plus, we can walk there from our house and Frugal Hound loves the treats they give her 🙂

  22. Hey! Congrats for the month of September. It should be the “September-Budget Saver” month! 😀 Such an orderly liquidation of everything related to that month. I think I’ll be doing the same thing, too. This is a very strategic way to save and earn 😀

    1. Thanks! It’s sometimes challenging for us to stay the course and not eat out or spend any money on entertainment, but, overall, we really don’t miss it. I’d much rather see the money in the bank :)!

  23. Amazing! That sweater of Frugal hound looks so good. I tried my dog to put on, but Sarah doesn’t like wearing it. I should have trained her when she was still young. By the way, our September was lower because of the improvement we had in our basement. But, we are still looking forward for a better month this October and November. December would be the lowest for sure because of X-mas.

    1. Thank you so much :). Mr. Frugalwoods gets all the credit for the table formatting–looks far better than the excel spreadsheet I pasted in our first month.

  24. Minus mortgage we’re at ~$2200. Minus SL debt, we’re at ~$1300 for a family of 5. That’s month in, month out, since we tend to use sinking funds to plan for larger expenses.

    You guys are awesome and hope some day I get to meet you in person 🙂

    I don’t think income, net worth, or investments is a privacy thing but everyone has different comfort levels. I know quite a few people are surprised at how transparent I am about money. The way I see it, money is only taboo if you let it be!

    1. Your expenses are fabulously low! I’m continually impressed at how you keep things so frugal with three kiddos. Likewise on meeting someday–it would be great to hang out face to face :)!

    1. I know, I know ;)!! I was actually thinking about that this morning… not that I did anything, but at least I thought about it.

    1. Thank you! Our only tactic on the low gas is that we just don’t drive much. Mr. FW bikes to work, my drive to work is quite brief, and we rarely drive anywhere else except to go hiking. We’re able to walk or bike to the grocery store and everywhere else in town. It’s a great benefit of living in the city! Of course the downside is our relatively expensive mortgage 🙂

    1. Haha! It’s an interesting place, the old Ocean State Job Lot. And agreed, totally overboard on snacks ;)! There’s just nothing quite like chips and soda after climbing a mountain!

    1. Thank you so much! Ocean State Job Lot (or at least the one we went to) is sort of a run-down, messy store, but hey, they have some low prices! Most of the aisles are a hilarious jumble of miscellaneous things. We found the dog toy in an aisle with off-brand snuggies, gardening equipment, and bottles of wine…

    1. Most definitely :)! We take our responsibility of her very seriously–she’s absolutely our fur-baby 🙂

    1. Mr. Frugalwoods set us up with Dropbox, which I really like. It’s entirely web-based, and, it automatically uploads photos from our phones (ideal for me since I take all my photos of my phone).

    1. Haha, thanks! It actually doesn’t take us very long at all. We just export all of our expenses from Mint into a spreadsheet. Since we buy everything with credit cards, it’s pretty easy to track.

  25. Wow, very cheap! Great job!!
    I love what you said “like Walmart, but cheaper and less classy.” For some reason, that really made me laugh.

  26. $5.18 on snacks is splurging? OK. I feel shame . . . You’ve even got the $2.00 parking meter up there! I don’t even count expenses like that. You are an inspiration. If I keep reading your posts, I’m sure I’ll up my game. Thanks.

    1. Don’t feel shame! 🙂 We do track every expense because it helps us to have a comprehensive picture of our overall financial situation. While the $2 is a negligible cost, I still like accounting for it. And, for me, if I didn’t include every single expense, I wouldn’t know where to draw the line. It’s partially me being lazy too–it’s easier to just wholesale export from Mint 🙂

    1. Thank you! I know we’re kind of odd for detailing every single expense, but, the system really works well for us. It just helps us keep tabs on what we’re prioritizing, etc.

  27. Wow, very impressive and motivating!

    I’ve been spending a crap load of money recently due to all the home remodeling. Just spent $1,300 for a custom closet solution coming this week for example, and probably another $800 to tape and sand a hallway room.

    After the bathroom and decks are done, I’m going into savings over drive!


    1. Thank you! I appreciate you stopping by! Renovations will get you every time, but it’s usually worth it in the long run. We’re doing a number of projects this month, so I’m sure our October numbers will be a bit higher.

  28. I totally understand the high mortgage costs – our previous mortgage was $2700 (P&I and escrow). Daycare gets us every month, or we’d have relatively low spending as well. At least we’re not at the $1200-$1500/mth range we had in DC!

    1. Oh high-COL cities, how I love thee :). It’s tough to see how much our mortgage is every month, but, it’s actually a good deal for our area! Which is kind of wild!

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