While April didn’t bring us warm weather, it did at least melt our Snountain and yield a month of extremely low spending. Our most significant purchases were two round-trip flights to North Carolina to visit Mr. Frugalwoods’ family in June to celebrate his youngest sibling’s high school graduation. This is a perfect example of spending on our values.
We’re happy to buy those tickets since it’s an opportunity to spend quality time with family during a celebratory event. Although we do travel hack to some extent, and we have plenty of miles to burn, we learned from Brad at Richmond Savers that when we’re able to find flights that cheap ($179/person), it’s a better value to spend the money than redeem the points. So, we’ll save our points for a longer, more expensive trip. No sense in redeeming points for a poor redemption rate. Sidenote: if you even think you want to get into travel hacking, check out Richmond Savers–the dude knows more about the topic than anyone I’ve ever met (and he’s a super nice guy to boot!).
A few happenings around the Frugalwoods home in April:
I accidentally broke a Corelle bowl by dropping it on our quartz countertop. I had no idea those things shattered! Let me tell you, there were shards of bowl everywhere. EVERYWHERE. My enthusiasm for Corelle’s cheap, classic, easily cleaned, and nearly indestructible flatware isn’t diminished, but wow do I hope we don’t break another one anytime soon. Props to Mr. FW for swooping in with dustpan and broom.
- Frugal Hound was the recipient of her twice-annual bath, about which she was not even remotely amused. In case you’re hoping to replicate this experience with your own hound in your own home, this is the doggie shampoo we use. We like this shampoo because it’s extra-gentle on her sensitive (and sometimes dandruff-y) greyhound skin.
- We were interviewed for this article on Vox.com about early retirement along with our compatriots Root Of Good, Go Curry Cracker, Mr. Money Mustache, and Wheeling It. We had a great time talking about our plans for financial independence–the bonus is that they included a classic frugal weirdo photo of Mr. FW peering into a dumpster.
Mr. Frugalwoods, in his bid for best frugal husband of the year award (awarded by me to him every year for the past 7 years), baked me a brownie in a mug! I had no idea this was even a thing. But lo and behold, one Saturday afternoon I commented that I would love a sweet treat and 20 minutes later, he made me this delectable concoction. Will the wonders of the internet ever cease? Methinks not.
- We found lovely Mother’s Day cards for our mommies at the Dollar Store for, you guessed it, $1! For comparison, I priced out similar-looking cards at CVS and they rang up at a whopping $5.99. Now we love our moms, but $6 for a folded piece of cardboard is absurd.
Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expen$e$
Mr. Frugalwoods and I 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 $4.71 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).
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.
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent in the month of April:
|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.|
|Airfare||$359.40||Two round-trip flights to North Carolina for us to celebrate Mr. FW’s youngest sibling’s high school graduation in June. Congrats to the youngest Frugalwoods sibling!!|
|Groceries||$239.04||Ahhh, let me just bask in how low this is… it’s so low because we didn’t go to Costco in April. So, I’m sure we’ll make up for it in May ;).|
|Utilities: Gas||$140.27||Still riding out the long, cold winter as this was the gas we used in March. But warmer days are ahead!|
|Utilities: Water (3 months worth)||$128.76||Standard amount for our water bill, which covers three months of use.|
|MA State Income Tax||$110.00||Income tax we owed to the state of Massachusetts.|
|Utilities: Electric||$87.28||It’s electric! Boogie woogie woogie.|
|Internet||$66.95||Pretty darn necessary.|
|Medication (for hounds)||$41.97||Got to keep Frugal Hound healthy! We’re happy to spend on preventative medications for her. This is a 6-month supply of heartworm prevention medication.|
|Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile||$29.89||One tank of gas for our 1996 Honda Odyssey.|
|Medication (for humans)||$19.63||Vitamins and other over-the-counter medications for humans.|
|Beer||$13.00||Bought a case of beer to take over to a friends’ house for dinner.|
|Brakelight bulb for Frugalwoods-mobile||$7.96||Mr. FW replaced a burned out brakelight on the car. Vastly cheaper than paying a mechanic to do it!|
|Back-up and CDN for Frugalwoods.com||$4.71||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.|