A Classically Frugal Month

January was a superbly cheap month for us, which is what we anticipated given our weeklong trip out to California to visit my family. Any month with non-mortgage spending below $1,000 ($989.05 this month), is ideal for us. It balances out slightly pricier months (ahem, looking at you, December 2014). We’ve found that just under $1,000/month is pretty consistently the lowest spend we’re able to comfortably achieve.

Frugal Hound looking epic in the snow. Our friend took this photo at her house.
Frugal Hound looking epic in the snow. Our friend took this photo of Frugal Hound playing in her backyard.

It’s All About The Goals

Our desire to spend meagre amounts of money every month stems from a three-fold goal:

  1. We want to continue saving 71%+ of our incomes every month from now until we retire early to our future homestead (slated to occur circa fall 2017).
  2. By lowering our expenses, we’ve created a lifestyle of ingrained, second-nature frugality whereby we’re completely content, fulfilled, and happy with our level of spending.
  3. Living on frugal autopilot will serve us well once we’re on the homestead. By permanently reducing how much money we require, we won’t need a lot of money to enjoy life post-traditional employment.

Everything We Buy Enables Greater Frugality

A prevailing trend you’ll notice in our expense reports is that just about everything we buy will enable greater frugality. In January, for example, we bought:

Mr. FW sewed a hole in his pants with my mom's sewing machine. Another example of insourcing everything.
Mr. FW sewed a hole in his pants with my mom’s sewing machine. Another example of insourcing everything.
  • A Dremel to use in filing Frugal Hound’s claws. This saves us a great deal of money over the cost of taking her to the doggie groomers. Our frugal philosophy involves insourcing everything we possibly can and hound care is one of those things that most people outsource, to great detriment to their bank account. If you can do it yourself, why waste money paying someone else? We’ve realized we do a better job anyway and, in the case of hound care, it’s far less traumatic for Frugal Hound than going to a stranger.
  • A 20lb C02 canister for our hacked Sodastream (if you want to hack your own, see Mr. FW’s how-to post). As outlined in that initial post, our hacked system saves us upwards of $450/year over the cost of standard C02 canisters. Yes, of course it would be cheaper to just drink tap water, but seltzer is one of our luxuries. We don’t drink soda or juice and we never eat out, so seltzer is a must.
  • We spent $380 repairing our 19-year-old Honda Odyssey (Frugalwoods-mobile for those of you who are new readers). Why would we do such a thing? Well, it’s a good car that’s still in fine condition. We believe firmly in the ethos of repairing and reusing things until they’re absolutely worn out. Whether it’s our hand towel (which is currently sporting several large holes) or our car, we won’t replace it until absolutely necessary. There’s just no reason to.

What We Didn’t Spend Money On

  •  A haircut for me. Mr. Frugalwoods expertly cut my hair himself on Saturday and it looks great. How-to post forthcoming!
  • Entertainment. Per usual, we maintained our $0 entertainment budget.
  • Restaurants, bars, coffee shops, take-out. There’s one exception this month as I took my sister and two nieces out for coffee (for the adults) and pastries (for the girls) while we were out in California. I’m all for spending on meaningful experiences and this was a perfect example. We played the Princess Matching Game (I lost; my 6-year-old niece beat us all) and had a great time.
  • Snow removal service. Mr. FW is the sole manager, operator, and employee of the Frugalwoods snow and ice removal team for our house. Many folks in the Northeast pay handsomely for someone else to manage their snow.

Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expenses

We use Personal Capital to aggregate and consolidate our transactions from across all of our accounts. We then drop them into a spreadsheet to provide our below blog-ready analysis.

A view from a hike we took in SoCal
A view from a hike we took in SoCal

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. Always good to have everything in the same place!

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

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.

How To Read A Frugalwoods Expense Report

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 $0.40). I do this because it’s the most honest articulation of how we allocate our resources and managed to save 71% of our take-home pay in 2014 (after maxing out our 401Ks).

View from my sister and brother-in-law's house in CA
View from my sister and brother-in-law’s house in CA

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 2014 Expense report has the answers (or feel free to ask in the comments below).

We don’t budget and instead live on frugal autopilot. This technique saves us the time and hassle of building a budget (we’re lazy frugal weirdos). The caveat here is that many people find budgeting incredibly helpful and I in no way malign the budgeting process. If you operate more successfully with a budget, then budget away my friends.

And now, for your money voyeur delight, here’s every single dollar we spent in January 2015:

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.
Car repair $380.00 Poor old Frugalwoods-mobile required a a brand new exhaust system from the catalytic converter back (muffler, flex pipe, mounting brackets–the works). Even though she’s a 19-year-old Honda Odyssey, it was worth it.
Groceries $135.86 Super low this month thanks to our trip out to California. Since we were there for a full week, we bought fewer groceries here on the home front. We also skipped Costco this month.
Gas Bill $116.70 You can tell we have our heat on! This is why we’re so committed to keeping our heat 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.
Electric Bill $85.51 It’s electric!
Seltzer canister (home improvement) $69.06 We needed a new 20lb C02 canister for our hacked Sodastream system. We’re pleased to see that the canister lasted 6 months, which is right on track with our initial estimates.
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 unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a lower bill. Since we don’t have cable or a landline, unsurprisingly the company is totally uninterested in cutting us a deal.
Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile $52.15 Standard gasoline costs.
Dremel (pet grooming) $25.49 We bought an electric Dremel (a high-speed rotary tool) for filing Frugal Hound’s claws. Our previous Dremel was battery-operated and it ceased to hold a charge. So far, so good and we’re reaping vast savings over the cost of taking her to a groomer.
Annual Parking Pass $25.00 Our annual City of Cambridge resident parking pass. Since we don’t have a garage or driveway, this is a necessary expense.
Prescription Medication $15.00 One prescription medication.
Coffee Shop! $11.00 I took my sister and nieces out for coffee and pastries while we were in CA. A rare expense for us, but I’m fine with spending on family time.
Wetsuit $5.00 Mr. FW bought a wetsuit at a thrift store in CA, which he plans to make into bar mitts for his bike handlebar. Helpful commenters on his Ultimate Winter Bike Commuter’s Guide suggested he do this to keep his hands warm. Thank you, Frugalwoods readers!
Blog back-up $0.93 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.
Corelle Plates $0.40 4 Corelle plates from a thrift store in CA. Seeing as these retail for $5 each new, this was an awesome used find!
TOTAL SPENT: $3,730.06  

How was your January? Are you a fan of budgeting or the frugal autopilot method?

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  1. Impressive! It discourages me, since we have a bunch of kid/work related costs, and we splurge for some things that we won’t need when we are FI (like maids every few weeks – I know, but with the job and long commutes it makes life so much easier… but I am ashamed of it) Anyways, so I added my non-kid, non-mortgage costs, non-“make working life easier” costs, and we were at about $1500, which isn’t so bad! So, I feel a little bit better about myself 🙂

    1. Don’t be discouraged! It’s all a process and the very fact that you’re tracking so closely means you’re way ahead of the game. Plus, you’re in a totally different situation with the kid-costs factored in :).

  2. I love your blog! Your writing is fun and your attitude is great. (Challenging, but not snobby or mean.) I am curious how your family has responded to your frugality – are they similar to you? Also, did you consider renting out your home on AirBnB while you were away? Is that something you guys are exploring at all?

    1. Thank you so much! My family is actually quite frugal as well, so they’re not too surprised by the path we’re taking. Mr. FW and I have both always been frugal, so not a shock to anyone IRL :).

      The AirBnB question is a great one and it’s something we discuss periodically. We’re just not keen on renting out our primary residence while we’re here or away–it sort of stresses us both out. We’re very tidy people (we don’t even wear shoes indoors) and the thought of people stomping around in dirty shoes is enough to make me swear it off ;). We might do it someday, but, not worth the couple hundred bucks to us at this point.

  3. Very impressive! We spent $700 less in January than we did in November and December. I started tracking our spending in August, and my, oh my, what an eye-opening experience has it been!

    1. Wow–$700 less is awesome! That’s a serious frugalization :). Tracking spending is THE most eye-opening experience, I agree! Congrats!

  4. Oh man, I’d love it if we could hit that savings rate! We hit 50+% because of the three paychecks in January, but wont’ be able to sustain that for long.

    The biggest non-mortgage expense we have is daycare. It just doesn’t make sense financially for us to not have it. I make too much money, and my wife is finishing her PhD internship. We’ll have to re-evaluate if we have more kids though.

    1. They were pretty cheap plates! It’s a thrift store that operates on donations of free items, so at least they got to keep the whole $0.40 from us. But still, they probably could’ve charged more :).

  5. As Borat would say, “veeerrry niiiice”. You guys did a great job in January, in spite of a car repair bill consuming a huge portion of your spending.

    We have discovered the magic $1000 spending threshold as well. We have a few months around $1,000 in any given year, but it’s hard to dip below that with the core essentials like utilities and groceries (for a family of 5).

    1. “That is myyy wiiiiiiife!!!”

      But really, the $1000 barrier was somewhat mythical a couple of years back when we were less serious. Now it just takes a non-travel expenses month plus a bit of luck. I can only imagine it would be quite a bit tougher with a family of 5!

  6. That’s really awesome. I think we are frugal for our age. This month our spend was suppose to normalize but we got hit by a car repair bill of $600. On the bright side, we finally found a really good mechanic.

    1. Well, finding a good mechanic can be a frugal win all on its own. Hope your car is in ship shape now!

  7. Great month, guys! And your #s made me realize that my monthly expenses (minus rent) are also around $1,000 (sometimes $1,100). That might be high for one person, but I blame some of it on the cost of living in Vancouver (crazy high car insurance rates). And I guess all my insurance policies (life + critical) are in there too! So, not bad. Yay us!

    Also love the pic of Mr. FW working away on your sewing machine. My grandma read my post last week and said she’d lend me hers, so I can learn/practice this year… I’m so excited! I’ll pick it up the next time I go home to Victoria (probably end of February). 🙂

    1. Yay frugal spenders :)! That’s very exciting you’re getting a sewing machine hand-me-down. Mr. FW was using my mom’s in that photo–we actually don’t own one. We’re hoping to find a used one either on Craigslist or at a garage sale at some point. Then I’ll just need to learn how to sew (beyond just doing repairs)… 🙂

  8. Why a dremel over nail clippers? We just use basic nail clippers to keep Kitty PoP’s nails nice and short. They get clipped once a week, something I can’t fathom spending $10 on every time as many people do!

    1. We use a Dremel because her claws are really thick and we like the ability to round them over and soften out the edges (the Dremel kind of works like a giant file). That’s great that you do Kitty PoP’s nails yourselves–$10 each time would be nuts!

      1. I prefer using a dremel because my lab’s quick is pretty long, and when we used clippers it was really hard to trim her nails without clipping at least one. Her nails got a bit long at one point and our vet recommended the dremel over the clippers because you can get a lot closer to the quick than you can with clippers, which allows it to shrink back into the nail. Just another benefit!

  9. Great picture of Frugal Hound! She always looks wonderful, but the look on her face in the snow is awesome! And speaking of awesome, your expenses are too. From a savings perspective, we rocked it in January. As Chris pointed out though, getting three paychecks for the month certainly helps. But that’s one of our favorite savings techniques… we do a great job of living on two paychecks for ten months of the year, so why would we blow the third one during the other two months of the year? That third paycheck goes straight to savings!!

    1. I love that photo of Frugal Hound too–my friend has a nice camera and is a far better photographer than me, so I was thankful she captured that shot!

      Way to go on saving the third paycheck! Woohoo!

  10. Per usual Frugalwoods low costs/spending, I wouldn’t expect anything else. Side note, can I suggest Mr. FW wears the wet suit to work just one time riding on the bike, pictures or video would be appreciated.

    1. Oh I sincerely wish we could capture that for you (and all of the internet). Sadly, we bought a child-sized wetsuit and Mr. FW is decidedly man-sized at 6’2″.

  11. I admit I’ve never thought greyhounds were “pretty” but frugahound looks pretty darn regal in that picture! Way to go on those awesome thrifted finds!

    1. Why thank you! I didn’t realize how lovely greyhounds were until we looked into adopting one and I saw all of their cute houndy snouts :).

  12. I wouldn’t consider myself an overly frugal person so I do rely on my budget to keep me on track. Due to the time of year my income is down significantly as there hasn’t been many hours available at my second job so it has been even more important to stick to my budget. The money from the second job generally goes to my saving goals so I’ve been feeling a little down over my progress this month. But I know things will get better. I have more hours this week alone at the store than I had in all of January. 🙂

    1. Ahh, bummer. I can see how retail would slow down in January after the Christmas rush–makes sense. But glad to hear that things are picking back up again. And, way to go for sticking to a budget! I kinda think I’m too lazy to actually follow one…

  13. I just finished your uber challenge. My sister asked me to do it with her. I am a changed person! Now, I think before I spend, my frugal autopilot is on.

    1. That’s awesome, Pat! Congratulations to you and your sister! I’m thrilled to hear that your ‘frugal autopilot is on’. Woohoo! Frugal on and thank you for sharing 🙂

  14. Hi!! Another great post!! I wondered though about your water bill. I haven’t seen one in your monthly reports. I have an outrageously high water bill!! I pay$69.79 EVERY month!! And that’s the MINIMUM!!! I’m single and do laundry every 2-3 weeks and hardly have any dishes and conserve all I can but I still HAVE to pay the minimum!! I’m enraged every month I write that check!!! But I really am lucky; there’s people in my small town with families that pay almost $300+ a month!!!

    1. Hi Lindy–thanks! We pay our water bill every three months (that’s just the way our city bills it). Our last bill was $128.76 (so $42.92/month). And we’re certainly not as frugal with our water as you–I do laundry every week. That’s really too bad you have to pay that minimum no matter what–bummer!

  15. You are totally my inspiration! I just started really tracking my spending and paying close attention to it. I hope to make more frugal choices and really get better about what I’m spending on and how I choose to use my money. I use Personal Capital too and I love it! It’s such great software to be free. 🙂

    1. Why thank you! Way to go on tracking your spending so closely. I think that’s the best thing to do! And, glad to hear you enjoy Personal Capital too!

  16. We just started using a Dremel on our hound’s claws too! My husband was getting so fed up with the nail clippers he said “I’m just going to take her to Pet smart; it’s only like $8 there.” Eight dollars?! Every time! I about freaked out so we started looking at alternatives. We already had a Dremel, and though it took our girl some getting used to, by the second time we used it she was fine. Hooray for no pet grooming expenses, and I hope Frugal Hound enjoys her luxurious at-home manicures!

    1. I would’ve felt the same way about $8 every time :)! The Dremel really does seem to be the best route for their thick hound claws. I wouldn’t say Frugal Hound enjoys it ;), but she tolerates it…

  17. Where I live, Richmond VA, the city bundles water and gas. This summer gas prices got jacked up (taxes) and thanks to cruddy pipe insulation when it gets cold we have to keep a faucet dripping so the pipes don’t freeze. The bill is NEVER under $150 a month. And to make it worse? We’re on the BUDGET PLAN. So depressing.

  18. For your internet, have you looked at any non contract mobile broadband companies as an alternative? I canceled my Comcast broadband last Sept ($67/month) and switched to FreedomPop’s 10GB home wireless service ($22/month). For my purposes, it’s perfect for working from home a few days a month, update the TiVo guide, and surf to my heart’s content – I haven’t passed 8GB yet. I dropped Netflix and Hulu at the same time as Comcast, since 10GB isn’t enough to stream much over the course of a month. I also looked at NetZero as a viable alternative to Comcast but FreedomPop offered more GB for less money. Definitely worth looking into these to see if they offer coverage where you live.

    1. Thanks Katherine! We use a bit more bandwidth than the mobile companies around here offer, so we’re pretty stuck with comcast. It’s annoying, but at the same time I would be a complete moron without the internet to turn to as a how-to helper… so I think I get my money’s worth in the end 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! I can’t say that SHE really enjoys them, but they are pretty necessary in this frigid cold. Plus, she looks so cute 🙂

  19. No time to total up January spending yet, sigh. Grocery spending FELT low :-).

    Mr. FP gets really disturbed any time I spent money keeping up our old Honda Accord (which has not cost more than $500 in any year, excluding tires). I think intellectually he knows it makes sense to keep it running, but… he HATES that car! It was my car back when we had two. So I think he feels an extra pinch every time we spend money to keep driving the car he hates.

    I might have to consider a Sodastream. My seltzer consumption has snuck up to three or four cans a week, which I’ve heard is above the cutoff where it might be worthwhile. I drink lots of water but I’m with you: coffee, seltzer (with a little juice) and boxed wine are part of a civilized life!

    1. Yes to coffee, seltzer, and boxed wine :)! At a certain point of consumption, a Sodastream definitely makes sense. And then at a higher (slightly ridiculous, perhaps) level of consumption, a hacked Sodastream with a 20lb C02 canister makes sense ;).

      Hondas are great cars! Yours might run for a long time… 😉

  20. I’m looking forward to your haircut post. Margie has been cutting my hair for going on ten years now, so I get the whole Wahl system thing. But DIY haircuts for ladies? I don’t know if I’d trust myself. I have to see this to believe it. She was working on sewing a hole in a fitted sheet today. I don’t know if it’s going to work though, because it’s getting kind of threadbare.

    That is one handsome picture of Frugalhound! I was just Dremel-ing Maeby’s nails yesterday, which consists mostly of her lazily pulling her paws away over and over and over again, and less actual Dremel-ing.

    1. I was suspicious of home haircuts for ladies too, but, my desire for frugality/adventure? prevailed and it really did turn out well :). You’ll have to see what you and Marge think.

      Oh the Dremeling. Frugal Hound isn’t a huge fan either and we’ve found it works best if I hold her paw up while Mr. FW operates the Dremel. Gives her less of an opportunity to squirm away and Mr. FW can be more precise.

  21. The dremel idea entices and scares me at the same time! Teddi’s nails are done when he gets his haircuts. I’m thinking if you had a hair dog you might just do your own hair cuts?!
    January was an expensive month for us as my computer hard disk failed. Ugh! Bought a new computer, got it set up, and decided to try the old one, one more time. Guess what?! It started right up. I’m afraid to turn it off now though.

    1. The Dremel works out pretty well for her nails–it took us some practice to get used to it, but worth it for the savings. We would definitely cut a dog’s hair too if we had one with any hair to cut! Suffice it to say, Frugal Hound is not very hairy :). So, we’ll stick with just cutting each other’s hair.

      Good luck with your computer woes!

  22. You guys rock at saving, hopefully we will get to your level one day! I also love how you are now on frugal auto-pilot. I think budgets are great (and are helping us a lot right now), but that the true frugal weirdos are the ones who have a sixth sense (cents?) regarding how much money they’ve spent each month, how to save money on every day expenses, and also keep everything automated. Great work!

  23. I really enjoy your blog, and admire your spending habits. Question: what about buying food in CA? Do you ever feel bad about not being able to take your family out to dinner for hosting you all week? What about a hostess gift? These are just things I thought of when you said you were visiting family. And then I didn’t see any expenditures for things like that.

    1. Good question! My family is actually very frugal as well, so we mostly ate meals at home and Mr. FW cooked some of the meals for us. We did go out to eat a few times and my parents are extremely generous and insisted on paying. My sister and I tried to take my mom out to lunch, but she wouldn’t let us to pay. So, we’re very lucky as far as families are concerned :).

      I did take my sister and nieces out to coffee one day, but for the most part, we just hung out at home and played cards, took walks, played with the kids, etc. We’re a pretty low-key, frugal bunch on the whole :).

  24. Once again, you guys rocked it! I always learn something new here..will check into a dremel when we get our dog this year. Do you make Frugal Hounds sweaters too? Love them!
    My sister and I did the Uber Month Challenge in January. We both are changed people and lots of fun to do the challenge together. I’m so proud of her and all the changes that she has made.
    Thanks for all the fancy frugal tips!

    1. Thank you so much! I don’t make Frugal Hound’s sweaters–I’m not that talented of a seamstress. That is so fantastic that you and your sister did the Uber Frugal Month challenge together! I’m so happy to hear that it was fun and that you’ve upped your frugal ante! Congrats :)! Thanks for sharing :)!

  25. Another great month guys!! I can’t wait to read the hair cut post that’s upcoming! I love FB Hubby like crazy, but I’m not sure I would trust him to cut my hair. My hair is actually the last frugal venture I need to make. I have started with spacing out my coloring and only getting cuts every other time, I just don’t know if I could trust someone in our home to do the cut.

    1. Thanks, Shannon! That’s funny–my hair was one of our final frugal frontiers as well! I actually hadn’t gotten it cut in over a year because I was hemming and hawing over what to do (fork over the dough for a salon; find a beauty school; or cut it at home). In the end, my desire for frugality/adventure? won out. I’m glad we did it–it really did turn out well. I mean, it’s not as perfect as a salon cut, but it’s totally fine.

    1. She totally looks like a deer! We joke that she’s more deer than dog ;). Way to go on being under-budget!

  26. A very snappy coat on Frugal Hound! Definitely a keeper. January was an utter mess, increase in property taxes :-(, increase in car and home insurance (changed companies and managed a measly $56 saving under what we would have paid and tah dah, a new battery for the SUV. Ugh. Over $629 left our fingers in one month! aaack.

    1. Frugal Hound appreciates your comments on her coat ;). Ugh–sorry to hear about your January expenses! Bummer.

  27. January was crazy. Moving and re-buying things has been quite an expense. Rentals are high down here and there are deposits on everything. Electricity, water, a bunch of other things I’m too tired to remember right now … There has to be a way to live cheaply!

    1. Moving is always such an expensive endeavor! Hopefully things’ll settle down for you soon. Good luck getting yourself all settled down there in the sun 🙂

  28. You two continue to amaze! Nice job as always!

    I know Mr. Frugalwoods is a craft beer guy. Does he ever splurge on a fancy 6-pack of some local craft brew or is that a rare treat? If so, is it included in the grocery line or a separate item?

    I got together with a couple of buds last night for the Super Bowl and since we usually all just bring meals/dishes to pass, we never really order out expensive pizza or carryout so the area we all agree to splurge on is craft beer. We kind of make a ‘beer club’ out of it and trade and sample the beers we all brought. We do this ever two/three months around a major sports event.. Kind of a ‘cheap’ guys night type of thing instead of going out to expensive and crowded sports bars or paying for expensive game tickets.

    And aren’t Correlle dinner plates the best? I currently use a 20 year-old set that I received from my parents a few years ago and between them and me, we haven’t lost one yet! Indestructible!

    1. Hi ThriftyD! Good to hear from you! You’re very right that Mr. FW enjoys craft beer :). We actually don’t drink all that much (usually 1 or 2 beers/week), which helps keep our costs low. We’ll trek out to a craft beer store once every few months to stock up, and then that’ll last us for awhile. And I periodically buy a bottle or box of wine, but I only have a glass or two each week. When we do buy alcohol, I list it as its own line item on the expense report.

      Sounds like you’ve got a great system with your beer club–so much cheaper than going out :)! And, Corelle is simply the best. Thanks for stopping by!

  29. FWs,

    Great job, as always. That mortgage is a bummer, but I guess that’s just how it works up there in the NE. I purposely moved to FL a few years ago because the COL was so much lower here. And the income potential was similar in my line of work. The good news is that you’ll be able to (hopefully) cash flow that sucker out when you decamp.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best regards.

  30. Wow, you two are doing great! I’ve just posted our very first monthly statement (something I never really worried about before) and expenses in January were close to $3,700. Our mortgage is much lower than yours, at $600/month. So I was a little bit shocked by how much we spent, especially since we don’t go out often. I will keep track every month from now on, I’m very curious how it will all look long term. I think it’s great to monitor your income and expenses , how else would you know how to achieve financial independance ?

    1. Congrats on tracking your expenses so closely! It was definitely eye-opening for us when we first started. I agree with you–absolutely vital if you hope to reach financial independence.

    1. Thanks! What–you don’t think Greg would do a good job ;)? I had my doubts too, but it honestly turned out great.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, frugal autopilot is essentially a full-time spending freeze, but with allowances for buying things we truly need (like medication), want (like coffee beans), or value (like plane tickets to visit family). Frugal Hound says thanks ;)!

  31. I’m curious where you buy dog food and how often? We’ve found the easiest and seemingly cheapest way is through Amazon, but I’m always looking for better options without having to buy Ole’ Roy. (The animal shelter will not even take Ole’ Roy as a donation. Says it causes upset tummies!)

    1. Great question! We get her food from Costco–it’s a grain-free, generic knock-off of the Taste Of The Wild brand. It has the same ingredients and indeed seems to just be a repackaging of the more expensive brand name stuff.

      She likes it just fine and hasn’t had any tummy troubles. A reader actually clued us into it, which we’re vey grateful for, as it’s $20 cheaper than the Taste Of The Wild we were ordering from Amazon. The Costco brand is called “Nature’s Domain Salmon and Sweet Potato.”

  32. Nice work as usual! That’s awesome you allow Mr. FW to cut your hair, as you know I’m all about saving money on that as well. Although, I need to have you chat with Mrs. Frugal Rules about letting me cut her hair….but, I can’t complain at the price she’s paying for it now and God only knows what she’d look like after I would cut it. 😉

    1. Many thanks! This was our first adventure in having Mr. FW cut my hair and it turned out remarkably well. Maybe you’ll be able to convince Mrs. Frugal Rules 🙂

  33. Awesome post! I’m a relatively new reader and have been loving your blog! I recently had some success with my local internet provider in lowering my rate. I only get internet from them (not cable or phone). I called once and asked if there was any way that I could lower my month cost, such as signing up for a longer contract, etc. They firmly said no, that unless I bought more services from them, my rate was not changing. So, I called again a few days later and said I would like to cancel my internet service. I think this must send the service rep down different path on their flow chart of questions or offers for customers because when I told them that I wanted to cancel because my cost was too high, they immediately offered me a discount for 12 months, saving me about $10 per month. I know all companies probably work differently, but it’s worth a try!

    1. Thanks Kristen! We’ve tried that tactic with our provider too, but to no avail. However, you’ve got me thinking I should try it again sometime… you just never know. Way to go on getting your bill lowered–that’s awesome!

  34. Hey, we have the same plates! White Corelle plates for the win 🙂 Except mine were 50% off, not Thrift store finds like yours.

    PS, the Hound looks mighty regal in that top picture 🙂 Maybe it’s because she looks like a deer and it made me think of Bambi, or something 🙂

    1. Gotta love the Corelle! So versatile and indestructible (and perfect for setting freshly baked cookies on… 😉 ). 50% sounds like a good deal too!

      The Hound says thank you. She definitely has the look of a deer! More deer than dog I sometimes think.

  35. Pogies for handlebars are badass. I bought a pair of moose mitts which have some thinsulate in there as well. But it is so nice having a liner glove and having your hands so toasty! Even sub 0 […]

    1. I’m excited to give it a try! My gloves work OK, but below 10 degrees my fingers get a bit tingly. Hopefully the bar mitts / pogies will help. I figure for $5 and some time messing around with needle and thread… it’s worth a try!

  36. Wow you guys are truly amazing! I don’t know if I would go as hard-core as you two but your blog will help us live a more frugal lifestyle for sure. I was reading around your blog and I read the Eat everything post and your frugal breakfast post and I loved them! I eat oatmeal most mornings, I buy my oats from Bulk Barn, I live in Canada so I’m not sure if there is one in the US, but the steel cut/rolled oats are so cheap! I’ve started to use those vs. the instant ones as I make overnight oats (basically 1/2c oats, 1/2c milk, dollop of yogurt & cinnamon) they keep me very full. My Fiance’s parents have chicken so we are very lucky as we get about a dozen fresh eggs every week! I’ve started to try the Eat everything Challenge, I haven’t actually told my finance yet but I am planning on consuing all the meat/frozen made meals in our freezer and clean out the pantry as well. Keep up the posts!

    1. Hi, L! Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so glad you found us and that you’re enjoying reading :). I’m excited you’re doing the Eat Everything challenge–we found it to be such a great way to both use up surplus food and better plan our grocery shopping. Good luck and thanks for sharing!

  37. I’m not a HUGE fan of the expense reports, but I do like seeing HOW you save money and whatnot. A sewing machine is definitely something we would like to invest in. Definitely would be +EV investment over time!

    1. Thank you! I agree on the sewing machine–we’d really like to get one too. We’re keeping our eyes out on Craigslist in the hopes one will pop up.

  38. Hey Guys! I just ran across your blog today and really like it! My wife and I (along with our 4 yr old Aussie) are trying to live a more frugal life as well (although it seems more normal than frugal?) . As for our January expenses…$996! WOOTWOOT! We are super pumped about this! I can’t wait to look through some more of your posts and learn from the experts 🙂 Thanks for the post!

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Greg! And, way to go on $996 for January–that’s absolutely awesome! Definitely woot-worthy 🙂

  39. As much as the internet expenses suck, I think your rate isn’t too bad compared to what we pay for Time Warner.

    Sounds like you guys made some good thrift store finds. I have had some Corelle plates for 10 years and they look good as new. Major score at that price too, so congrats!

    1. Corelle for the win! Such great, long-lasting stuff. It’s got me thinking we need to check out thrift stores just to see if they have any Corelle…

    1. Good catch! I need to clarify that in the post :). We swapped it out for a refill, so much less expensive than when we bought it initially to set up the sodastream hack.

      1. No worries. I just hacked our soda stream after seeing your original post. Our total cost is broken out below. It’s too bad you guys have to pay the higher refill price being in a huge city area – hopefully the frugal homestead will lower that cost indefinitely.

        Our cost were:
        Soda stream – $38
        Canister – $139.94
        Nosel / Hose – $127.79
        Equip Tot – $305.73
        Refill is $38.87 which I figured to do 1,324 liters so 3 cents a liter of seltzer = bubbly deliciousness.

        1. That’s awesome you did the hack–glad to hear it worked out for you! And, I’m super jealous of your tank refill price. I’m with you, hopefully it’ll be cheaper when we’re in a rural area. Thanks for sharing!

  40. I absolutely love this post. The reality is that everyone wants to live a financially stable lifestyle. However, by changing spending habits, few actually make it possible. Congratulations and keep up the good work!

  41. Bike handlebar mitts… are these like pogies for white water kayaking?
    Another smashing month! You two blow me to pieces. I’m not going to lie, I wouldn’t settle for a hole-filled hand towel. Here’s hoping one finds its way to you soon. I got a new one for Christmas 🙂

    1. Yep, same idea. Just material that covers the bar, brake levers, and shifters. They are supposed to be the end all, be all of hand warmth while winter cycling. We’ll see…!

  42. As for the battery operated Dremel dying, it might be worth taking it apart to see if it uses standard AA sized batteries, since they can be easily replaced with Sanyo Eneloop batteries that hold their charge really well and last forever. I did that to my hair clipper and it will hold a charge for *months*!

    I love this blog; keep it up! It inspires me and my wife so much 🙂

    1. Hey, good idea! I haven’t tossed it yet, so I might as well open it up and see. We use eneloop batteries around the house already… they are awesome!


  43. Great job you guys! I’ve noticed very few things “crap out” on you and need replacement (thus far in the journey – knock on wood!). Well the Dremel. I feel like I’m replacing or mending everything these days.

    We’re at $3449 of non-mortgage spending (I kept in the taxes and insurance since we’d still pay that in retirement). A couple of bigger items bumped it up: hubby’s $718 dental work (more to come too), $100 ultra marathon fee for hubby’s race in July; an annual fundraiser for one of our fave nonprofits where we won some very practical auction items (like good coffee and a a GC to our mechanic!); and my $103 biannual cut an highlight to cover those greys (not quite ready for an at home haircut, but glad it worked for you!). I have offered to cut his and mentioned the total savings. He said he’ll think about it. So those were out of the ordinary for January. We did manage to cut our eat out expenses in half for January (compared to historical average), so that was a woot!

    So many uses for that wetsuit! You could also get an old pair of bike tires, put some short offset screws through them to make “spiked” snow tires, line the inside of the tire with strips of wetsuit to buffer the tube. I’ve biked on snowy mountain trails this way. Now “fat bikes” are all the rage here (with the big fat snow tires).

    1. Nicely done on cutting your eating out costs in half–that’s fabulous! And, dental work is a pretty necessary expense.

      You should totally cut his hair! It’s really not too difficult and the savings are awesome. Plus, it’s one of those things that once you start, you probably won’t go back. So, it’s a lifetime of savings!

  44. Great job keeping the monthly expenses minus your mortgage under $1000. That is my ultimate goal since I’d like to increase my savings rate this year. I had some pricey car repairs as well and the worst part is that I’m still paying my car off. I can’t wait to be done with the car loan and my plan is to just run my car ragged for the next few years and buy the next one in cash.

    1. Thanks! Sounds like a good plan for your car–we’ve found it to be pretty inexpensive to keep an older car running for years (rather than buying something new).

  45. Awesome job this month! I like how you guys don’t budget and rely on in built frugality. It must take an amazing mind to always think 2-3 steps ahead about what you want to purchase, and how it will further save you money. Often times when we talk finance, we go over compounding returns. To some degree this is similar to your spending, as you spend to save money, at some point you’ll hit a 0 or get very close to 0. Amazing!


    1. Thanks so much! We definitely like our system of frugal autopilot. It’s basically the lazy way to budget, but it works for us :). Thanks for reading!

  46. I came for the frugal posts but I stayed for the Frugal Hound. I could be biased as we have an Italian Greyhound as well as our little old man, a chihuahua. For someone who hates math, and is actually pretty bad at it, I can spend hours reading finance blogs as long as they are interesting, funny, by real people, and not buried beneath half a page of ads. Frugal Hound is just an added bonus! Definitely adding yours to my blog list.

    1. Thank you so much for reading, CG! I’m so glad you found us :). Always good to have a fellow dog-lover here! Greyhounds–Italian and otherwise–really are the best. Funny enough, I actually hate math too yet am obsessed with personal finance. It’s interesting how that works out…

  47. Oh my goodness. What an inspiration! We started tracking our expenses in January; what a wake up call! I find your posts and entire blog so refreshing and also entertaining! Going to share with Mrs. Corn Fed to see how we can improve our situation and pay down our debt quicker! You inspired me to do our own January 2015 Expenditures!

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