March was delightfully miscellaneous for Mr. Frugalwoods and me. Traveling to New York to speak with students at NYU about personal finance was a definite highlight. We were deeply honored to be invited to speak and had a wonderful time sharing our passion for none other than… frugality (every young person’s best friend they haven’t met yet)!
A Month Of Friends
It was also a month of friends! We spent time with several old friends while in NYC; made a new friend in Erin from Broke Millennial; hosted Cat from Budget Blonde along with her husband and their one-year-old twins; had another dear friend stay with us for a few days; went to a delicious dinner party; and met a reader at the discount grocery store. All in all a rather social month for us semi-introverted Frugalwoodses. And let’s not forget that this month brought us the one and only Bunny Hound:
And A Month Of Other Random Things!
To round out the month, I turned 31, forget my lunch, Frugalwoods-mobile got a flat, we took many early spring walks around town, checked out tons of tomes from the library, prepared delicious vittles at home, and generally had a lovely frugal month.
I’ll highlight for you that my forgotten lunch replacement cost me $5.46! That’s 14 rice-and-beans lunches. FOURTEEN. Can you imagine? If I bought lunch at my office cafeteria every weekday, that’d be $109.20 per month! Absurd, I tell you. Frugal tip: if you’re not taking your lunch to work every day, make a resolution to start now!
We topped out at $1,090 in non-mortgage spending, which is pretty ideal from our frugal weirdo perspective. Our aim is always to clock in right at–or a tad under–$1,000/month, so March was a winner in that respect.
Groceries were interestingly high this month, to the tune of $100 more than we usually spend. A portion of this is attributable to hosting folks, which makes it a very good expense to have. We love cooking dinner for our friends, so it’s well worth the cost. The rest? Who knows. Apparently we were hungrier this month.
This is one of those instances where I’m thankful we don’t budget and instead live on frugal autopilot. I’m not sure how we spent so much on groceries, but it actually doesn’t matter. We view our expenses on a total amount spent per month basis and, since this month is well within our normal range, I won’t sweat it. As long as we’re not wasting food or eating unhealthy meals, it’s no big deal.
Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expen$e$
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.
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.
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. 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 $4.04 this month). 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).
Why do we save so much and spend so little? It’s all in service of our goal to reach financial independence by age 33 and move to a homestead in the woods.
Interested in 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 the common expenses missing from the below, our August 2014 Expense report has the answers (or feel free to ask in the comments).
As I mentioned, we don’t budget and instead live on frugal autopilot. This technique saves us the time and hassle of building a budget (we’re some 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, I hope you enjoy this romp through every dollar we spent in the month of March:
|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||$404.70||Super high this month ($100 more than we usually spend). I attribute this partially to hosting guests and partially to the category of “who knows.”|
|Utilities: Gas||$234.39||February was extraordinarily cold here in Boston and our gas bill shows it! Hoping to coast into spring soon and reap the benefits of an almost AC-less summer.|
|Household goods from Costco||$103.33||Household supplies including toilet paper, dog food, laundry detergent, vitamins, shampoo, and more. This total does not include any food.|
|Utilities: Electric||$96.59||Yes, we do use electricity.
|Internet||$66.95||Hey, I’m using this RIGHT NOW. Amazing.|
|Tire for Frugalwoods-mobile||$44.63||The cost of a tire and mount from our friendly neighborhood junkyard to replace the flat we incurred. The tire is doing well and we’re happy to pay a fraction of the cost of a new tire. Our mechanic actually recommends junkyard tires, so it’s a win-win.|
|State of MA required car inspection||$35.00||Had to get ol’ Frugalwoods-mobile inspected from hood to boot to keep her legal in the eyes of the law. Of course, it was a good idea since she was 7 months overdue for this…|
|Beer and wine||$33.04||Another product of hanging out with lots of friends this month. A happy expense to be sure!|
|Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile||$28.16||One fill-up for Frugalwoods-mobile|
|Wiper blades||$20.00||Was required to buy new wiper blades in order for Frugalwoods-mobile to pass the state inspection.|
|Dumpling lunch and dinner in NYC||$14.00||This is the ridiculously low cost of both lunch and dinner for the two of us at Vanessa’s Dumpling House while we were in NYC. Delicious and cheap.|
|I forgot my lunch!!!||$5.46||I detailed my shame for you all after this crisis and here’s the monetary damage. Oh woe is me!|
|Blog back-up||$4.04||Gotta keep 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.|