April Showers Brought May Visitors
May brought us a visit from the lovely Cait of Blonde On A Budget and Sarah of Unsettle. They were rolling through Boston on their East Coast jaunt and we had them over for dinner, which was just delightful.
This was yet another time where we welcomed friends we knew through the internet only into our home and yet again, we had a fantastic time. Frugal Hound also adored meeting the ladies and was happy to pose for a few photos.
We chatted for hours and could’ve talked all night if I hadn’t started yawning (I blame the pregnancy). I am so thankful for the friends we’ve made through Frugalwoods and I wish we all lived in the same town and could get together for potlucks every week! Anyone want to move to the woods of Vermont :)?
The May Homestead Hunt
We also went homestead hunting Memorial Day weekend and were fortunate enough to look at four different properties, which is quite a lot given how slowly the market moves for the rural plots we’re interested in. Two of the four were immediate “no’s,” which we were able to ascertain thanks largely to Mr. Frugalwoods’ extensive homestead research (which you can read about in the Frugal Homestead Series).
Readers of this series will understand why we turned down one property that was positioned right next to the confluence of two streams. Beautiful, but can you say flood risk?!
The other two were serious contenders as they ticked many of our boxes. But, neither were quite “the one,” so we won’t be making an offer just yet. We’ll watch them on the market though and if their prices were to drop, we’d seriously consider either of them.
…And The Rest Of May
Other May activities included our saga with Stormzilla, finally announcing our pregnancy to the world (yay!), the realization that we’ve been living the uber frugal life for over a year, a visit to the dentist and clean bill of tooth health for Mr. FW, an appearance by me on the Martinis and Your Money podcast as I do every month (we discussed relationships and money this time!), a cook-out at our house with friends, and a weekend visit from another very good friend from college. I really love hosting people at our home!
Our commitment to staying heat and A/C free in May was tested by a few stellar 80+ degree days, but we held strong and are looking forward to the low bills to prove it. I love these months where we can get by without the use of climate control–good for the budget, good for the soul to get some fresh air.
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 analysis for you fine people.
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 $2.13 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, and see how we did one year later in How A Year Of Extreme Frugality Changed Us. 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 May:
|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||$408.70||Makes up for the fact that we only spent $239.04 on groceries last month. I’m definitely eating more now that Babywoods is on board and so this amount is a reflection of my increased intake and my indulgence in cravings for: tomato sauce (which Mr. FW makes from scratch), chicken (I didn’t even like chicken before pregnancy!), and fruit (can’t eat enough fruit!!!). I swear I would eat tomato sauce for every meal if I could…|
|Home Improvement supplies||$406.75||This accounts for the purchase of Stormzilla along with sundry other home improvement tools and materials. Far cheaper than paying someone else to work on our house for us!|
|Utilities: Electric||$86.36||It’s electric! Boogie woogie woogie. You’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head :).|
|Houshold goods from Costco||$78.68||Household supplies (including dog food). This total does not include any human food.|
|Utilities: Gas||$74.85||This represents our bill from a month ago when we still had the heat on. Next month’s bill (which will reflect May’s usage) will be far lower.|
|Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile||$58.76||Two tanks of gas for the ol’ minivan. We typically use only one tank per month, but needed two thanks to our roadtrip up to Vermont to homestead hunt.|
|Internet||$51.29||Savvy readers will note that this is lower than normal. That’s because Mr. FW finally prevailed in his attempts to get the company to lower our bill. Hooray!|
|Beer||$16.74||Founder’s All Day IPA 15-pack purchased from Costco.|
|Baby bouncer (from garage sale)||$10.00||Found a fabulous baby bouncer for Babywoods at a garage sale. These things retail for about $60, so I’m quite pleased with this price.|
|Baby clothes (from garage sale)||$10.00||This garage sale was having a “bag deal” whereby you could stuff baby clothes into a trash bag and then pay a flat price. They originally wanted $0.50 per item, but I talked them down to $10 for the whole bag, which works out to $0.17 per item…. oh that’s right, we got 53 outfits, 3 hats, and 2 blankets in that bag! I doubt we’ll ever buy any new clothes for Babywoods. Ever.|
|Shorts for Mr. FW (from Goodwill)||$5.00||Mr. FW’s khaki shorts had basically disintegrated and so the man was in desperate need (he’s been wearing gym shorts everywhere). Found these almost brand-new North Face khaki hiking shorts for a whopping $5 at the local Goodwill. Gotta love used clothes!|
|Back-up and CDN for Frugalwoods.com||$4.00||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.|
|Family Dollar||$2.13||Mother’s Day cards from the Dollar Store. We love our moms!|