Happy New Year! I hope you all had a frugal and fabulous start to 2015! Mr. Frugalwoods and I* managed to stay up until 10:30pm on New Year’s Eve, so I’d count that a roaring success.

*Frugal Hound was out by 9:30pm, so don’t be impressed with her.

December Was Expensive (by our standards)

A sweet Christmas hound peeks up
A sweet Christmas hound peeks around

December was a predictably expensive month since we booked our flights to visit my family later this month ($216.20/person round-trip Boston–>San Diego, baby!). We also spent $104.17 on Christmas-related festivities. Our total expenses are almost identical to November 2014, which was another abnormally costly month due to hosting Mr. FW’s family for Thanksgiving and our weekend trip to Vermont to homestead hunt. It’s reassuring to see that our standard expenses are dialed way down and super consistent.

Our Christmas was delightfully cozy this year and Mr. FW and I were pleased with our decision not to exchange gifts. Keeping our frugal wits amidst the materialistic panoply that Christmas has sadly devolved into is core to what Mr. Frugalwoods and I believe. In addition to saving money, we avoided the deluge of unneeded junk that would clutter our lives and minds. My well-being and ability to think clearly is directly correlated with how tidy and organized my space is. Clean house = clean mind for Mrs. Frugalwoods. Thankfully Mr. FW is an avowed minimalist and basically the cleanest man I’ve ever met.

Why It Doesn’t Matter That December Was Expensive

Frugal Hound relishing her Christmas toys
Frugal Hound attacking her toys

The fantastic thing about our habitual frugality–and the fact that we’ve been saving mammoth amounts of money for years–is that an aberrational month honestly doesn’t impact our bottom line very much at all. We have a hefty cash cushion, which enables us not to worry when our spending is higher than normal.

The key is to ensure that these pricier months truly are exceptions to the frugal norm. By adhering to our lifestyle of frugal autopilot, we consistently spend less than pretty much everyone we know.

Cooking From Scratch Is Where It’s At, Yo

We continued our trend of not eating out for any meals, drinks, or coffee and not getting any take-out. People, it is DANG CHEAP to cook all of your meals at home from scratch.

Frugal Hound is the ultimate sous chef
Frugal Hound is the ultimate sous chef

I underscore that point this month because I FINALLY separated our Costco groceries from our Costco household expenses by combing through the receipt item by item… (next month I’m going to be a smart girl and do two different transactions at Costco–one for food and one for household goods).

We spent $330.15 on groceries in December, which covers every meal we ate. This works out to $1.77 per person per meal (assuming three meals a day). Since this also includes our ahem coffee bean habit, I’m rather satisfied with this figure. It’s not a perfect calculation since there’s wide diversity in our per meal costs (our breakfasts, after all, are only $0.10 per person), plus we haven’t eaten every drop of food we bought in December (some is in the freezer and some are bulk ingredients like rice, beans, spices and olive oil), and the total includes snacks such as bananas, apples, and popcorn. Regardless, our aim every month is to skate in under $335 for groceries, so we’re happy campers.

Not A Cent Spent on Entertainment

Our free trip to the Harvard Art Museum
Us at the FREE Harvard Art Museum

Additionally, we stuck to our traditional $0 entertainment budget for the month. Wondering what we did for fun on zero bucks?

You’re in luck, I’ll just tell you: we hosted three dinner parties at our house (makes our grocery expenses look even better!), we visited the brand new Harvard University Art Museum (which is free to all Cambridge residents), we read library books, we went hiking, I went over to my friend’s house for a girls night, I took free yoga classes, Mr. Frugalwoods continued his extreme wintertime biking, we went to a few holiday parties, we took lots of walks with Frugal Hound, we baked, we cooked, we discussed the homestead properties we saw with our realtor last month, and we just generally enjoyed life. Why spend money on entertainment when there are so many awesome free things to do? Seriously, folks, that’s not a rhertorioal question.

Coming Your Way In January

I’m going to blow your minds right now and let slip that I’m planning to finally publish Mr. FW’s epically inexpensive and healthy rice-n-beans recipe this month. I’ve received so many emails and comments asking for our thrifty recipes that I’m shamed into posting them. Thank you for your persistence readers, I eventually get the clue ;)!

I did use my mom's recipe for these shortbread cookies
I did use a recipe (my mom’s)  for these shortbread cookies

As I shared with reader Shannon, our main delay is that Mr. FW doesn’t cook from recipes… he just sort of tinkers around in the kitchen and out pops a meal. In order to translate his anarchist cooking style into words on a page, we’ve started a technique whereby he calls out his ingredients and measurements while he’s cooking and I write them down. However, it’s still a work in progress because he keeps saying things like “a dollop” or “a few drops” or “you know, enough” instead of actual measurements. Rest assured, I think we accurately captured the rice-n-beans process.

You can sign-up for our email list (below in the Frugal Hound box) to ensure you don’t miss it! Since my mom successfully signed up for the list, you’ll probably be able to figure it out too :).

How To Read A Frugalwoods Expense Report

Our recent library book haul. I'm sure you're shocked that it's all personal finance & homesteading
Our recent library book haul. I’m sure you’re shocked that it’s all personal finance & homestead-related.

From top to bottom. I jest, you could read it bottom to top if you so desire, I’m not going to stop you. As regular readers know, we itemize every single dollar we spend (which is why there’s a line item for $0.92). I do this because it’s the most honest articulation of how we allocate our resources and manage to save 65%-85% of our take-home pay (that’s after maxing out our 401Ks).

Interested in learning how we keep costs so low? Check out How We Save 65% Annually and, if you’re up for some hardcore frugal adventuring, take my Uber Frugal Month Challenge. If you’re curious about some of the common expenses that are missing from the below, our August Expense report has the answers (or feel free to ask in the comments below).

New to Frugalwoods: Personal Capital

Mr. Frugalwoods and I have started testing out Personal Capital to track and organize our expenses. December was our first month using the software (which is free, by the way) and we’re liking it thus far. We’ll write up a formal review once we have a bit more experience with its functionality. But, I think it’s going to be 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. Always good to have everything in the same place!

personal-capital-sceenshotTracking 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.

I’ve included a nifty graph* from Personal Capital above and I look forward to exploring their tools and letting you know what I think. If you’re interested in also making a nifty graph with your finances, you can sign up for Personal Capital for free here. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how I use Personal Capital for my expense tracking.

*Our expenses this month don’t align because the graph includes business expenses that we were reimbursed for by our employers, and which we deleted from the below.

Where’s Your Money?

One of the easiest ways to optimize your money is to use a high-interest savings account. A high-interest savings account gives you money for nothing. With these accounts, interest works in YOUR favor (as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you). Having money in a no (or low) interest savings account is a waste of resources–your money is just sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:

Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.

Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 1.70% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,085.67. That means you earned $85.67 just by having your money in a high-interest account.

And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low (or no) interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person. Be the person who earns money while you sleep. Rack up the interest and prosper. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, is here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.

And so, with the new year full of promise, joy, and hopefully cookies upon us, I present to you the Frugalwoods expense report for December 2014:

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 homestead in the woods.
Flights to CA for Mr. & Mrs. FW $432.40 Thrilled with this price. Thrilled I tell you. This = $216.20/person round-trip from Boston to San Diego. January truly is the most wonderful time of year… to travel.
Charitable Giving $367.00 We made several donations to charity this month.
Groceries $330.15 Since we don’t eat any meals out, this total = $1.77 per person per meal (assuming 3 meals per person/day). It’s uncanny how consistent with are in our grocery expenses. Even with a few decadent Christmas treat purchases (chicken and tidbits of cheeses), we still hit our sub-$335 target.
Household Goods Costco $102.77 Household supplies including: toilet paper, dog food, laundry detergent, vitamins, shampoo, etc. This total does not include any food.
Utilities: Gas $75.78 You can tell we turned our heat on in November! This is why we’re so committed to keeping our thermostat set at 58 at night and 62 during the day. Even at those low temps, we still pay through the nose. Merely a fact of life in this frigid New England clime.
Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile $69.11 A tad higher than normal.
Utilities: Electric $68.19 Our standard electricity bill amount.
Internet $66.95 I shake my fist at this every month since there’s nothing we can do to lower it. There’s only 1 internet provider in Cambridge and we’ve unsuccesfully tried to negotiate a lower cost. Since we don’t have cable or a landline, unsurprisingly the company is totally uninterested in cutting us a deal.
Postage stamps $43.80 The postcard stamps for our Christmas cards, plus a book of regular stamps.
Christmas Postcards $28.17 Our Christmas postcards! Love how cheap it was for 100 full-color photo postcards (plus shipping!). I’m definitely doing postcards every year from here on out.
Public Transportation (subway pass) $20.00 Mr. FW added $20 to his subway (T) pass, which will probably last him 4-6 months. We rarely take the subway since we prefer to walk or bike most places in the city.
Beer and wine $16.74 We hosted three dinner parties at our house this month, so we procured a bit of joy juice to serve.
Prescription Medication $15.00 One prescription medication.
Shower Cap $3.18 One shower cap for me. Yes, I wear a shower cap because I don’t wash my hair everyday. It uses less water (water costs money), takes less time, and is better for my hair not to wash it daily. My old shower cap was abysmal–the elastic was worn out and it had a spot of mold. Sometimes you just need to upgrade.
Blog back-up $0.92 Gotta keep the ol’ Frugalwoods.com backed up! We’re lucky that Mr. FW is a software engineer and can manage our website himself, which keeps our blog-related expenses extremely low.
TOTAL SPENT: $4,381.17
LESS MORTGAGE: $1,640.16

What do you think of our expenses? How was your December? Have you ever used Personal Capital before?

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  1. I’m like Mr. FW when I cook… it’s extremely frustrating for D. I can make a lovely meal (humble brag) by throwing things we have on hand together, and then when D wants to reproduce it, he can’t. Since I’m just naturally inclined to cook that way, it makes so that there are recipes that never turn out the same, and that only I can cook. Sometimes I think he intentionally says he doesn’t know what I did just to get out of cooking duty… hmm, that’s not very nice, now is it 🙂

    I have a slight variation on my “rice and beans” lunch. I slow cook a can of diced tomatoes, a cup of corn, a can of your favourite beans, add some chicken thighs, and Southwest-type spices. Shred the chicken when it’s cooked and mix with some rice. Voila – that’s my cheap lunches for about $1/serving… and it satisfies the caveman in our house (we both eat meat, but he’s a whole other level of carnivore than me… :P)

    1. I just don’t even attempt to cook, which works out great for me :). Your luncheon sounds delicious! Yum. Every time you talk about food you’ve made, it always sounds sooooooooo good. I think Frugal Hound wishes we ate meat on a regular basis–she absolutely adored that tidbit of chicken we gave her on Christmas!

  2. I only made it to 9:45 on New Years Eve… something about know that my kids will make up at 5am no matter what, kind of takes the fun out of staying up late.

    Doing all of your cooking at home is great. We rarely go out for any meal anymore, maybe just an occasional lunch with co-workers. There next few months we are trying something new – which may save us more money… but I am not a huge fan of dinner, and Mr. SSC is… so I typically end up eating a large meal out of habit, not hunger, when really all I want is a bowl of cereal. So this month, I told Mr SSC that I’m going to have small dinners and he can have whatever… which means we will either save money, or Mr SSC will decide he gets to eat steak for dinner every night.

    1. Oooo, that sounds like an interesting experiment–I’ll be curious to hear how it goes! Mr. FW and I are happy with super simple dinners sometimes too. We definitely don’t make huge meals most of the time. One of our favorite easy dinners is homemade hummus with raw vegetables and popcorn. Nontraditional but darn cheap and tasty!

  3. Great month! Not sure how you guys do it and not spend a single $1 on entertainment each month!

    I’m in Miami right now and and can definitely appreciate spending the holidays someplace warm. Hope you had a wonderful time in San Diego!

    Al the best in 2015!

    1. Thanks! There’s just so much great free stuff here in Cambridge, and we’re pretty easy to please, so our $0 entertainment budget is sort of second nature for us. Enjoy your time in Miami! We are absolutely looking forward to San Diego 🙂

  4. Nice looking library haul! Have you started yet on Happy Money? We read that when it came out (a year? a year and a half ? ago) and found it interesting, but definitely disagreed with some parts of it as buying too much into the consumerist “spending brings pleasure” mindset. We actually wrote a whole series on it – this is the last post in it (the rest are all linked) http://www.plantingourpennies.com/happy-money-invest-in-others/ I’m curious if you get some of the same takeaways we did from it.

    1. I actually just finished Happy Money–I’ll have to check out your series on it! I enjoyed the book on the whole, but I also disagreed with the spending that they seem to encourage. I did appreciate the academic treatment of the subject and I thought the authors did a good job of incorporating interesting research. The “pay now, consume later” concept seemed especially bizarre to me as a frugal person–something isn’t free just because you paid for it in advance!

      I’m enjoying my little foray through personal finance books (I’m finally reading Your Money Or Your Life right now…). Do you have others you’d recommend?

      1. Ooh, YMOYL is good, but try and get the reprint from the 2000’s. The version that was printed in the 80s ends up reading as dated and less applicable (10% bonds, sure I’d love some where do I get them?).

        Other good ones? Some recent ones that I’ve read (or listened to) and will probably repeat….
        I consider Millionaire Next Door a classic. I liked John Bogle’s Enough quite a bit. Richistan and Nickel and Dimed are both good in their own ways for perspective on lives very different from our own. The Richest Man In Babylon reads like a parable, but has some good nuggets. Walden is kindof arrogant, but I feel like I should get through it at least twice. And then there’s just about any book by Dan Ariely – I love his take on behavioral economics. Mr PoP also lives for Warren Buffet’s annual shareholder letters and has read more than 50 years worth (they are ~30ish pages each, so it’s a tome.)

        1. I most definitely have the YMOYL from the 80s, which I’m loving for its kitsch references. Not so helpful with investing advice, but you know…

          Millionaire Next Door is already checked out from the library and on deck :). Will definitely investigate the others next. I’ve been meaning to read more Ariely, so I’ll add that to my list too. Mr FW also reads Buffet’s annual shareholder letter every year, which I’ve also been meaning to do. Clearly I have a lot of reading ahead of me ;). Thank you for the recommendations!

          1. I loved Millionaire Next Door! I’ve always been fairly good with money, but after I read it, everything seemed to ‘click’ – I used to feel that not buying stuff was kind of a hardship (albeit I was quite good at it), but now I feel richer when I don’t spend money. I do like cars, but now when I see nice cars drive past I think the driver is more than likely paying off a giant car loan whereas I’m increasing my savings/investments each month with that money – I even feel a little sorry for the drivers with their priorities screwed up!
            I hope you enjoy it too, although it might be a little *obvious* to people further down the path to FI than me!

          2. I tend to think the same think about luxury cars ;). Glad to hear another vote in favor of Millionaire Next Door–there’s always more for me to learn and so I’m really enjoying (finally) reading these classics!

    1. So true! We love our library and they actually have free passes to Boston area museums that you can check out too. It’s a wonderful resource to be sure!

    1. Same with Mr. FW’s cooking–the same dish can vary widely in taste. Always good, just usually different :). We’re really liking Personal Capital!

      1. I did! It is the cutest thing ever. I found some cute retro looking ones on etsy but at 18 bucks, that wasn’t happening. So I sewed one for myself and one for my sister for a total of about ten bucks and these things are adorable and made to last.

  5. I checked out several frugal books from the library and am gleaning them for ideas to cut our expenses. One suggests using an old calendar to track expenses, which may work best for us. (use columns for each type of expense) It is reassuring that there are many things we are already doing. It has been extremely hard not to go out to eat while not working over the holiday break, but glad to have that money to replace the emergencies we had over the last couple of months ($13k). One step at a time…your blog helps me to stay on track knowing there are so many others working in the same direction.

    1. Congrats to you for furthering your frugal journey– that’s wonderful! I’m so glad that I can help you stay on track. You’re not alone :)!

  6. Sounds like you had a super fun month! Cooking meals at home from scratch is definitely the way to go and I saved a lot of money on groceries this year by doing so. It’s way cheaper and healthier too. I’m really impressed at how you were able to spend $0 for entertainment. That’s awesome! I loveeee free community events and activities and I try to take advantage of those online event websites to find fun things to do for free in the area.

    1. We did have a fun month :)! I feel like we’ve had a $0 entertainment budget for so long now that it just seems normal to us frugal weirdos. You’re right about checking online for free activities–there are usually so many things going on that we don’t even know about!

  7. Yay!! Can’t wait to get the recipes!! I understand the difficulty, though, because FB Hubby doesn’t cook from recipes either. A few years ago, though, we decided to make a cookbook for our families for Christmas. It took FB Hubby SO long to try to cook and measure and he didn’t always give exact measurements for some things. Now that I am writing this, though, I think that you and Mr. Frugalwoods should work on the Frugalwoods Cookbook – How to Live Frugally on the Homestead

    1. Haha! So glad to hear we’re not the only ones who are recipe challenged ;). We got through one recipe–I’m not sure we could do a whole cookbook! Maybe a very short one…. Or it could be a ten year project for us 😉

  8. LOVE your site. !!!!!!

    Just found it. What is the ultimate goal of all the savings ?

    Paying for house ?
    Buying castle ?

    reaching million mark ?

    what will you do when you retire ?

    thanks !!!!!!!!!

    1. Thank you so much for reading! I’m so glad you found us :)! The goal of our savings is that we plan to retire early in about 3 years (when Mr. Frugalwoods and I will both be 33) and move to a homestead in the woods of southern Vermont.

      If you’re interested in reading more about our story, our About Us page has our background info and my post The Frugal Homestead Series Part 1: Why The Woods? has more on why we plan to homestead. Thanks again for saying hi!

  9. Our husband’s have the same cooking habits in common! I’m looking forward to your rice and beans recipe.
    We were actually all awake at midnight! Ahem … perhaps not before midnight;0) the recliner is just so comfy!
    Great job on keeping December frugal! Our December was not so frugal but we are moving forward! The kids had an awesome Christmas and the hubby had LASIK!

    1. Good job on waking up at midnight! I completely slept through the whole thing :). That’s fabulous that your husband got LASIK! I got LASIK about 2 years ago and I LOVE it. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I hope he enjoys it!

  10. FWs,

    Great job once again. I continue to be impressed by your lack of eating out. That’s one expense that I know I could do away with, but it’s tough. I enjoy getting takeout here and there, as well as the occasional meal out. It’s a total splurge, but we’re nonetheless on track for our goals. Super impressive that you guys avoid that expense, because it’s quite frivolous.

    Nice score on the tickets. I just booked two round-trip direct flights to Omaha for the Berkshire annual meeting in May. We spent about $450 total for the two tickets, which is similar to what you guys spent. Awesome that there are still cheap flights out there. We’re flying with Allgeiant, which flies to underserved secondary airports, generally direct.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best regards.

    1. Thank you! I hear ya on the eating out–it’s something that we used to enjoy a lot as well, but, since we’ve shifted into our extreme frugality ramp up to FI, we miss it less and less. It was hardest the first month, got easier as time went on. Also, I fully admit that I’m the lucky one here–Mr. FW is the one who has to cook all of these meals. I just eat them :). Fortunately, cooking is a hobby for him, so he enjoys the process. Your flight prices sound great too–nicely done!

  11. It warms my “cockles” to see you donated so much to charity. I consider it a moral necessity for people who are able to save this much to give to those who can’t and help make the world a better place. I increase the charitable donation from my paycheck every year along with my retirement contributions.

    And thanks for breaking out your Costco groceries. That was bugging me!

    PS. I backup my blog myself. I found a WordPress plug-in which creates a ZIP file of my site which I plan on downloading bi-weekly to my hard drive, which I also backup bi-weekly. I’m not exactly sure what’s in the ZIP file, but hopefully it works!

  12. I love your list of free entertainment the most. And I’m looking forward to the rice and beans recipe! I’m a big fan of batch-cooking lunch on the weekends. (Also breakfast; in the winter I generally make a pot of steel-cut oats on Sunday evening and then microwave a serving every morning.)

    1. Thanks! We’re pretty big fans of our free entertainment and our rice-n-beans ;). We eat oats every morning too, although we cook them each morning using our hot water kettle. Kind of a weird process, but it totally works!

  13. Very impressive! We love making food from scratch as well, we think it just taste better and it’s much healthier as we know what we put in. December turns out to be an expensive month for us as well, considering we hosted a few dinners for family and friends. Here’s to an excellent 2015!

    1. Agreed on knowing what’s in your food; that’s one of the things we really love about cooking it ourselves. Time with family and friends is always time well spent–sounds like you had a fun month! Cheers to 2015!

  14. Great job on expenses during the holidays! Mr. Bug and I have plans to get back in the habit of batch cooking to save money, so definitely looking forward to your rice and beans recipe.

    1. Thank you! We’re big fans of batch cooking–Mr. FW is able to create plenty of meals that end up being less than $0.50 per serving, which is ideal in our book. I hope the rice and beans recipe will be good :)!

  15. Great month for you guys, number-wise! And I’m with you: I hate the cost of internet. We have two providers here, but they both charge the same amounts. I did end up switching, because the first provider I used had painfully slow service. So, it’ll only cost me $35 or so/month for the next 5 months, but then it’ll go right back up to $65-70. Joy.

    Also, the number of books on your library shelf is something I’ll aspire to. I have 3 books out right now, with a goal to read 5 in January. We’ll see how that goes!

    1. Many thanks! Grrrr internet providers. That’s nice that you’ll have a brief reprieve though.

      Don’t be too impressed with our quantity of books–those are divided between the two of us :). We’ll see how many I’m able to get through… I’ve read two thus far and just started my third, but most of that is thanks to a few days off around Christmas. We’ll see how it goes once I’m back into the swing of things at work :).

  16. Oooh, thanks for the report! Also, your post hits on something I have been wondering–do you find it useful to pay for a Costco membership for just a 2-person household? The Husb and I have not been able to nail down whether or not to jump in.

    1. Great question! We do indeed find the Costco membership to be very useful. We buy all of our household goods there and the prices are the cheapest in our region. Plus, the savings on dog food alone actually makes up the cost of our membership every year. If we had a Wal-Mart, we might not need Costco, but since there aren’t any in our area, Costco is the absolute best. I think they’ll let you shop once on a trial period, so maybe you could try that out. Good luck!

    1. Thank you! Since we were able to get all of our family’s gifts for free using our Amazon cash back rewards points, it really made the rest of our expenses quite low. Mr. FW is a wizard at whipping up delicious meals on the cheap for our dinner parties, though I did think our groceries would be higher. There must be something we didn’t buy, but I’m not sure what it was… 🙂

  17. I would love a post about the social challenges of being frugal. For example, I try not to eat out often, but that means turning down invitations from friends and coworkers. I feel lonely eating at my desk while my coworkers bond over a fun lunch break at a restaurant. How have you dealt with this type of challenge? Do you tell people about your frugal goals so they know you aren’t just being antisocial?

    1. That’s a great question. For socializing, we invite friends over to our house for dinner or coffee quite frequently. It’s our go to for getting together with folks. And our friends often return the invitation and have us over to their homes. Since we don’t eat out anymore, if folks invite us to a restaurant for dinner, we just offer that we’ll be happy to cook dinner at our place. Some of our friends do know of our frugal tendencies (and about the blog), which certainly helps make things easier.

      In terms of at work, I have friends who I sometimes eat lunch with, but I always bring my lunch. I think I’m lucky in this regard because we have a large cafeteria in my office building where my colleagues buy their lunch, but since it’s the cafeteria for the office, it’s fine to bring one’s own lunch. So, I just grab a table while they go through the line. No one ever really asks why I don’t buy my lunch, but again, I think I’m just fortunate that we’re cafeteria-based.

      If people do ask, and I don’t feel like divulging my frugal nature, I just say that I bring my lunch for health reasons (which is fair since I always bring a healthy meal). In your case, I wonder if you might consider joining your colleagues for lunch sometimes and perhaps just make a plan to order something very inexpensive?

  18. Cooking from scratch is the absolute best in my opinion. Whether it comes from my kitchen or from a restaurant, fresh ingredients and good food is where it’s at. Fortunately both I and my SO love to cook and are always expanding our rotating recipes.

    As for your expenses, I think they’re in line and on track. Internet monopolies suck, so I make up for being trapped, by being invested in the corporation who provides my service. So sure I’m going to pay them money, but they’re going to pay me too, every quarter, so HA!

    For personal finance software, I currently use Mint and it’s eh. I mean, it helps divvy out all the spending, but it could be better.

    Well, keep on saving and thanks for your most entertaining posts. Take care.

    – HMB

    1. That’s wonderful that you both love cooking–it’s a great hobby to have! I’m so thankful that Mr. FW enjoys it since I’m actually a rather terrible cook. We’re also not huge fans of Mint, which is why we’re trying out Personal Capital. Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Way to go on finding those amazing round trip airline tickets! I fly a couple times a year, so that is a heck of a score especially since you probably couldn’t find a longer distance flight in the lower 48. Good $/mile right there. Trying to scope out my next flight to the fam as we speak.

    Your monthly expenditures are always so impressively low, even in the “pricier” month! I am feeling the extra motivation to look at our spending lately, so posts like this are wonderful to read and a great inspiration. I swear I feel like I’m always in the kitchen cooking from scratch but my grocery bill doesn’t really look like it.

    Did you find a solution for your cracked fingers? Too soon to tell?

    1. Why hello reader Shannon :)! Agreed on our flight distance–my family and I joke that we could not live farther away from each other, but, we still manage to get together with some regularity. I’m trying to convince them all to move up to New England (I don’t think it’s going to happen though).

      Good luck on your expenses! The fact that you’re reviewing your spending means you’re already ahead of the game! Groceries are honestly tough. It took us awhile to get our bill down to where it is. Lots of trial and error and figuring out what we could do without or substitute for cheaper (for example, we don’t use tahini in our homemade hummus because it’s expensive and, turns out, we don’t miss the flavor). We’ve also–finally–gotten to a place where we don’t waste any food. That was another long process in figuring out how to buy exactly what we need, but, saves us a ton every month.

      My hands are indeed better, thank you for asking! I’ve tried a few of the suggestions and am trying to figure out which is best.

      Thanks as always for stopping by and happy New Year!

        1. Nope, we just make it without. Still tastes delicious to us. Slightly different flavor, but we don’t miss the tahini anymore :)!

  20. Both of my parents cook like that – they never have exact measurements for spices or anything. Moving out and trying to adapt their recipes was a pain. So much so I actually Skyped my mom and showed her the sauce I was trying to make one day…it comes out differently every time! (Those shortbread cookies look lovely.)

    I never thought to break down grocery spending like that. I thought our budget was creeping up, but I guess when you think about it, ~$2/meal really isn’t bad at all. I’ve been looking at flights going back home and they are definitely super cheap right now! Glad you were able to get such a deal.

    1. Skyping a sauce is a good idea! The family recipes that I use are all for baked goods, which fortunately do have exact measurements :). Oh those shortbread cookies… they are tooo good and I ate way tooo many of them. But, I only make them once a year (good thing too!).

      I’ve never broken down our grocery bill like that before either, but I figured I might as well. It’s an imperfect number since it includes things like a giant bottle of olive oil that’ll last months, but, it’s a rough approximation.

      Hope you can get a cheap flight home too!

  21. Not a single Dollar spent on entertainment, yet you guys did a lot of fun stuff! Impressive!

    Maybe it was a good thing that Frugalhound was out before midnight. I remember our neighbour’s dogs going absolutely crazy when the fireworks started around midnight a couple of years ago.

    Keep it up guys!

    1. Thank you, NMW! We do enjoy scoping out free entertainment :). Frugal Hound is such a lazy dog that she doesn’t even flinch when there’s thunder or fireworks. She basically snoozes through life and we wake her up periodically to take walks :). Hope you’re having a great start to 2015!

  22. You know I am totally up for hearing about rice and beans, or about any homemade food! Don’t let the lack of a strict recipe deter you — I think a lot of good cooks wing it depending on what’s in the house, what’s going to go off soon, spice tolerances, etc. Much thriftier than making extra trips to the store for random ingredients, and tasty besides! (Except for baking and canning, although I don’t think you guys can. Do you?) Also, re: coffee: I made it a category in my expense tracking, and at the end of 2014 I discovered that coffee had surpassed both the alcohol and the clothes category for the year. It was $375, so it could be worse, but still. Priorities! 🙂

    1. Hah–that’s awesome about your coffee total. We definitely spend more on coffee than on clothes and alcohol combined. We never go out for coffee, we just require a lot of in-home coffee creation ;). Priorities indeed!

      1. Oops, forgot to answer your question–we don’t can right now because we sadly have no garden (our house is literally on a concrete block; it’s all very urban 🙂 ). Canning is a skill I’ll need to learn once we’re homesteading though, that’s for sure!

  23. I’m currently reading YMOYL (but the 2008 reprint). I’m finding it quite a bit more useful than I thought I would. I actually really dig the detailed subcategories in tracking every penny. I think my categorization was a bit too nebulous this year and breaking into further detail will help ensure I’ve got spending aligned with values.

    My groceries are broken into fruits, veggies, nuts, baking, fats, dairy, eggs, meat, prepared foods, NA beverages, alcohol, and misc (usually spices and the few household supplies we buy). That’s the most detailed of my subcategories, but all of my spending sections now have a few different subcategories to add further clarity.

    But there’s no one recipe (pun intended) for it 😉

    1. Your grocery spreadsheets are truly a thing of beauty! I had a hard enough time going through the Costco receipt, so I doubt I have the ability to get to that level of detail, but I certainly admire it. I probably should get the new YMOYL, but our library had the old one and I’m kind of loving its retro appeal :).

  24. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Personal Capital. We use Quicken but I think it essentially does the same thing. I don’t know where our finances would be without it. Tracking every expense and for that matter, every dollar, provides us with a lot of clarity on our finances.

    1. We’re really liking Personal Capital so far. I totally agree with you on tracking every dollar–it’s incredibly enlightening. I honestly can’t imagine trying to set goals without the knowledge of how we spend every month.

  25. I look forward to that rice and beans recipe. I’d really love to cut our meat consumption this year at least by half to start with and by 75% by the end of the year. We eat way too much meat and there are just way too many good reasons not to. You guys are inspiring in so many ways, this being just one of them. Thanks! 🙂

    1. Awww, thank you Kay! We’ve found that we really don’t miss meat very much. We still eat it on occasion, but for the day to day, it’s vastly cheaper for us to be meat-free. Good luck to you in reducing your meat intake!

  26. I agree tracking expenses is very important and what eventually helped us to become mortgage and debt free at a young age. We had a quiet Christmas but don’t fret too much about what we spend in December as it’s always a busy month for us. We do budget monthly as a projected expense our Christmas expenses so the money is already saved come December.. easy peasy!! Great job on the blog seems you have an elite following.. well done and I look forward to 2015 with the FW’s!! 🙂 Mr.CBB P.S Food is always good… I share a recipe every Sunday on the blog and it’s been a huge success!! Get Pinning!

    1. Hooray for tracking expenses! Thanks so much for your kind words–we’re really looking forward to another year of blogging as well :). Thanks for the tip on the recipes! Yours always look so incredibly tasty…. Yum.

  27. Congrats especially on respecting the $0 entertainment line during a period when it’s typical for many to spend more on that category! I currently use Mint for tracking our spending (I use Excel to calculate our net worth since we have assets in three currencies) but I’ll be interested to hear your take on Personal Capital.

    1. Thank you! Assets in three currencies sounds complicated, but very fancy :). So far we’re liking Personal Capital a lot!

  28. It amazes me that you don’t go out to eat at all. I’m envious as I feel I could not do it. Maybe need to challenge myself? I need to cook more. You had another awesome month, my friends. Truly inspiring. I just signed up for Mint and have heard good things about Personal Capital. Definitely do a review!

    1. Thank you so much! We used to eat out and, when we made the decision to accelerate to FI, we realized we should just cut it out entirely. It saves us soooooo much money. The first month of not eating out was the hardest, but it honestly gets easier as times goes on. Now, we don’t even think about it because it’s just not an option (except a few times a year for very special occasions: bday, anniversary, etc).

      One thing that has really helped us stick with it are our magic Costco frozen pizzas. We usually just have a pizza on Friday nights, but, we have them in our freezer as our emergency back-up. For the rare night when we just cannot face cooking, we know we can fall back on a pizza. Totally unhealthy and not something we make a habit of, but, it has saved us from getting take-out! I think having some type of frozen back-up is key to remaining committed :). Good luck to you!

  29. The separating Costco costs with 2 transactions is something we figured out in 2014. Definitely a time saver, and I felt way better about our food budget afterward.

    Also, I love Personal Capital for our investments. But I keep our all financial info in Mint.com. I find where Mint is lacking in a solid investments analytical tool, PC makes up for it big time and where PC falls short for me in a comprehensive financial outlook, Mint comes through with flying colors. I can’t remember if you guys use Mint or not. But it’s nice having so many nifty (free) options out there.

    Nice to see you guys chugging along even in the pricier Holiday months. Happy New Year!

    1. Oh man, I can’t believe it has taken me so long to figure out the Costco thing :)! People need to tell me these things–clearly I can’t be trusted. Good to know re. Mint and Personal Capital!

      Happy New Year to you too!

  30. No money spent on entertainment and going out? So little on alcohol…and you had guests? This is amazing. It is making me super jealous. Unfortunately for us, we hosted 3 dinners in December and we blew through our groceries and alcohol budget. Alcohol is expensive in Canada.

    1. Haha, yeah we don’t go out or spend on entertainment. There’s so much great free stuff to do we’ve just been able to eliminate those line items from our budget.

      For the alcohol, I buy either 2 buck Chuck at Trader Joe’s or boxed wine and for beer, we get the super inexpensive but tasty Founder’s All Day IPA. We’re also not very big drinkers, so we usually each just have one drink with dinner. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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