Me at 19 weeks holding the pregnancy mug that's been passed around to every pregnant woman in Mr. FW's family for decades
Me at 19 weeks holding the pregnancy mug that’s been passed around to every pregnant woman in Mr. FW’s family for decades

Oh what a glorious month is June! Ours brimmed with celebrations: my sister-in-law’s high school graduation, our 7th wedding anniversary, Frugal Hound’s 6th birthday, and at 19 weeks pregnant today, we’re almost halfway to Babywoods’ arrival!

Naturally, we celebrated each event with our customary frugal aplomb. For the graduation, we found super cheap airfare, took our own food on the plane, didn’t check any bags, and used credit card rewards points to buy a graduation gift free of charge to us.

Frugal Hound received a $2 pterodactyl to mark her advancing age and we took some photos of the Babywoods bump (I’ve learned that it’s a thing to hire a photographer to document your bump, which, uh, needless to say we won’t be doing… ).

We Ate At A Restaurant!

We toasted our anniversary by using a gift card to a local restaurant–you’ll see the cost below of what we paid beyond the gift card amount and for tip. Even when using a gift card, we think it’s important to tip the server on the full value of the meal. Anything less would just be rude.

Our delicious anniversary meal--Cuban Rueben and Blackened Catfish sandwiches. Since we eat so healthfully at home, we're fans of pigging out on our rare outings. Definitely got fries over salads.
Our delicious meal–Cuban Rueben & Blackened Catfish sandwiches. Since we eat so healthfully at home, we’re fans of pigging out on our rare outings. FRIES!

This is actually the first time we’ve eaten out since Mr. Frugalwoods’ 31st birthday last August. It’s astounding how much money we save by not eating out, and it’s also rather astounding how much we don’t miss it. Cutting out restaurant meals was an easy way for us to ramp up our savings–eating at home is always a better deal (unless you go wild at the grocery store, which we don’t recommend).

We’re so content with our routine of eating all meals at home that it’s not a hardship for us at all. Plus, when we do go out, it’s a huge treat! I love the immense pleasure we get from our rare outings–makes it feel like a truly special occasion and not just another Saturday night.

Since we don’t give gifts or cards for our anniversary (for reasons enumerated here), enjoying a meal out is a delightful way to celebrate. We’d much rather have an experience together than buy some trinkets we don’t need and that would only serve to clutter up our abode.

A Note On Our Spending

Despite our luxuries of travel and dining out this month, our spending in June was extraordinarily low–we clocked in at $793.90 in non-mortgage expenses, which is awesome in our frugal book. We aim for circa $1,000 in expenses each month, and thus, being on the low side this month will help even out pricier months. We’ve found that over the course of a year, as long as we hew to our frugal regime, our spending tends to balance itself out.

You’ll also note that we buy household goods at three different locales: Amazon, Costco, and The Dollar Store. This is due to our price comparison research (which entails me writing down prices/keeping receipts). It pays to know where you’ll actually get the best deal on, say, deodorant.

A/C Check

The air conditioning remained off for the entirety of June (can I get a woot!!!!) which gave us yet another blissful month without the expense of climate control. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with some open windows, a screened Stormzilla, and a tolerance for varying temperatures.

What Do You Do About Mega Expenses?

I’ve received a number of questions lately on how we handle substantial, one-time expenses and the answer is that we simply pay them in full on the month that they hit. We don’t smooth or spread out payments and we carry absolutely no debt over than our mortgage*. Our frugality enables us to do this–we have enough saved up that we can pay cash for any major expense that comes our way.

This is a liberating, and privileged, aspect of the freedom that comes from living a life of extreme frugality. Since we live way below our means and only spend on what we need, and truly want, we have plenty leftover for emergencies, surprises, and planned large purchases.

Me being a tourist photographing the restaurant we ate at
Me being a tourist photographing the restaurant we ate at

For example, we know that one day, our car (the venerable 19-year-old Frugalwoods-mobile) will inevitably bite the dust. And so, you’ll see an expense for the entire cost of a used car that month–we’ll just write a check and pay in full for our “new to us” car.

I realize that the standard American way is to assume debt for hefty, new purchases and take out leases on everything from cars to furniture to television sets, but that’s not how we roll. And while we could afford to pay cash for a brand new car, we don’t consider that a wise allocation of our resources. Even in a purchase that significant, we’ll buy below our means and reap the savings that the used market proffers.

*we’re not accelerating paying down our mortgage because we have a super low interest rate (3.8%) and we’re confident our money will yield a greater return through our investments.

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 $4.40 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 (not counting maxing out our 401Ks).

Grilling steaks at my in-laws' house. Yum... a rare meat treat for us!
Grilling steaks at my in-laws’ house. Yum… a rare meat treat for us!

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. 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 June:

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.
Groceries $336.59 Well within our normal range of $300-$350/month for the two of us.
Household goods from Costco $77.39 Household supplies (including such thrilling things as dog food, toothpaste, toilet paper, vitamins, and more). This total does not include any human food.
Electric $75.88 It’s electric! Boogie woogie woogie. You’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head :).
Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile $66.17 Two tanks of gas for the ol’ minivan.
Internet $56.95 Savvy readers will note that this is lower than in prior months. That’s because Mr. FW finally prevailed in his attempts to get the company to lower our bill. Hooray!
Cabs $50.36 A luxury to be sure–we took an Uber (using a few credits we had) to, and a cab from, the airport for our visit to Mr. FW’s family. Far cheaper than parking our car at the airport, but more expensive and much more convenient than taking the bus (which we’ve done many times). It’s a 15 minute cab ride and a 1.5 hour bus/subway/walking sojourn to the airport, so we decided to pay for our time in this instance.
Gas Bill $26.74 You can tell we turned the heat off in late April. This reflects our gas bill for May–a whopping $48.11 less than the prior month!
One restaurant meal for our anniversary $22.94 This is the remainder we paid beyond our gift card for our 7th anniversary dinner out. Not too shabby!
Household goods from Amazon $22.66 All the items that are cheaper from Amazon than Costco: electric toothbrush head replacements, flea/tick preventative medicine for Frugal Hound, and my fancy face sunscreen.
Household goods from The Dollar Store $13.92 All the items that are cheaper from the Dollar Store than from Amazon or Costco: 8 greeting cards, deodorant, and face wash.
Home Depot $11.63 A few home improvement supplies
Renewal of domain name $10.87 The cost of renewing one of our domain names.
Postage stamps $9.80 One book of forever stamps. Despite the expense, I love mailing cards and letters to friends and family :).
Back-up and CDN for $7.60 Gotta keep the ol’ 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.
CVS Pharmacy $4.40 Some sort of pharmacy-related expense I imagine.
TOTAL SPENT: $3,534.91  

What do you think of our expenses? How was your June?

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  1. Sounds like June was a wonderful month for you! Almost halfway to the arrival of Miss Babywoods – wow! That’s a fun milestone to reach 🙂

    I never paid for a photographer to document my bump when I was pregnant either, it’s crazy how expensive that can be. Even now, I can’t bring myself to spend $500 on a photography session for my Little Miss.

    I took my own photos of her first her 1st birthday that was on 6/23 and they honestly turned out super cute considering my photography skills are less than excellent hah. It’s fun to learn a new hobby and skill doing it myself too! I’m sure I’ll get better as the years go on.

    1. Happy first birthday to your little girl! I’m with you on having photography as a hobby–Mr. FW and I both enjoy taking photos and while we’re not great at it, sure beats paying someone else to do it. We have a few tripods (one from the side of the road and one that was a Christmas gift), which really helped us up our game.

      That’s awesome that your photos turned out well! yay!

      1. Start reading now on how to get good newborn pics. Doable but challenging (and I used to be a newspaper photographer, so I think that’s saying something). We did pay for newborn pics because I wanted family pictures too. But I’ve done all the rest of my kid’s pics just fine. The newborn was hard because I was exhausted, and it takes a long time and tons of patience to set everything up.

  2. An amazing month. We spent almost as much on food for our family of 5, than you did the entire month. 🙂 I’m not sure my 16 year old son understands the concept of frugal eating. He keeps telling me he’s a growing boy. We had a cash positive month even while I’m in job search mode so that’s a good thing.

    1. I can totally understand how you’d spend that much on food! I remember when my brother was a teenager, it was like having a human vacuum cleaner. I’m pretty sure he’d eat about a box of cereal per day. That’s great you had a positive month while job searching–awesome!

  3. Amazing month when it comes to expenditures but you guys have always been pretty impressive when it comes to expenses. That baby bump is showing up nicely. Can’t wait to see more pictures.

    1. Many thanks :)! The bump is indeed growing along–can’t wait until she starts kicking in earnest!

  4. Nice progress! I just left my DC area job so my wife (34) and I (36) and our two children could semi-retire on our Lake Superior homestead in Michigan. We sold our DC house and moved in with family while we build our new home.

    I’ll share what most would probably consider an unconventional strategy, but one that deserves mention for financing a home without a mortgage. To start, we paid off the land with a small cottage (about $98K originally) because it was originally classified as a second home and had a 5.75% interest rate….this was done in the year leading up to our semi-retirement (we’re FI, but both still do some PT work) and we finished the balance of the mortgage with a 12 month 0% CC convenience check which we then promptly paid off over the next 4-5 months. This ended the mortgage payment and allowed us to drop the mandatory insurance policy and stop escrowing insurance and taxes .

    Since we’re building the home ourselves and demolished the little cottage that was on the land, we couldn’t secure a HELOC or construction loan (not that we wanted one anyway) so I set up about 4-5 lines of credit with 0% introductory rates of 12-21 months ensuring we have enough cash/credit on hand to cover the construction materials and limited labor we need to sub-contract. Cash reserves are put in a high interest savings account/CDs, credit is only used at the exact point it is needed and only at 0% interest (always paid in full before the end of the promotional rate), there are no mandatory insurance requirements, appraisals, closing fees, closing papers or other overhead costs associated with mortgage. When we’re far enough along with the construction and I do decide to insure it, I can choose the deductible that makes the most sense to us. Also, my property is exempt from taxes, but if it did have taxes, I wouldn’t ever have to escrow them. I saw your note on the 3.8% mortgage and just wanted to offer a counter viewpoint for some of the merits beyond the normal psychological reasons of not having a a mortgage especially as you consider moving to a homestead. I will say that I generally agree that over time investments will yield more than the 3.8%, but I view the house (and lack of mortgage interest payments + other associated mortgage costs) as filling the role of bonds in what is otherwise a 100% equity portfolio.

    1. Hey Dave!

      Sounds like you have an exciting project going on! We’ve thought a lot about building… but we’ve never been able to make the numbers work. At least in our market, existing homes are sooo much cheaper than building new. Part of it is infrastructure (driveway, well, septic, electricity, etc.) but a large part of the discrepancy is that in rural vermont the population is slowly decreasing, which means the supply is larger than the demand. This results in houses selling for well below their replacement cost.

      That a seriously interesting view of a paid off mortgage — being like bonds in your portfolio. The one part of the strategy that I’d question is how you could “re-balance” your portfolio. We hold about 10% in bonds / cash, and rebalance yearly. From what I understand, the rebalancing action is really a key portfolio booster over the long term by forcing you to sell assets when they are high and buy them when they are low. I could also see an argument against the need for this while in your accumulation phase, since you’d be constantly adding to the portfolio in your prescribed asset allocation. Have you thought about this?

  5. Admirable….truly! I’m glad you noted about not accelerated mortgage payments. I wondered about that. We do, and quite heavily, not quite doubling the payment, but almost. And that’s only because we are older and we shouldn’t have a mortgage by this age at all, but we do. Also have a great rate. We also full contribute to SEP, we’re self-employed, plus 25% in after-tax savings, and no personal debt. Took a long time, but we’re finally putting it into the right buckets! No good stories from Vermont right now…been raining the whole month of June almost!

    1. Sounds like you have a great strategy going with paying down your mortgage early and contributing to your SEP and saving a healthy percentage! I think it’s all about finding the balance that makes the most sense for each individual situation. Alright, I’ll hold out ’til next time for more Vermont stories 🙂

  6. Nice work! And you’re totally right about restaurants. The few times I’ve limited dining out made me really appreciate those special occasions. My food budget is always my biggest challenge every month, and eating at home is critical. Plus, I’ve got weekly CSA veggies and those greens aren’t going to eat themselves 🙂

    1. So true about veggies! We look in the fridge and think–we gotta eat those things ASAP! That could be our new frugal idea–“Buy veggies; they’ll force you to eat at home ;).” I definitely like saving restaurant trips for special occasions, makes it all the more enjoyable in my opinion.

  7. can I ask what deodorant you buy from the dollar store? I recently found my deodorant on amazon (lady speed stick) for way cheaper than I’ve ever found in the store and I was ecstatic to say the least, lol.

    1. I bought the Suave brand in the “almond verbena” scent. It was $1.85 for a 2.6 oz. stick. How much was yours, out of curiosity? I’m all about getting ecstatic over low prices ;)!

      1. lady speed stick in wild freesia has been my preferred deodorant over the years and it was so hard to find that I would stock up on it if I saw it! Then it just occurred to me to check amazon and there is was, a 6 pack for $11.03 which is about $1.83 each for 2.3 oz. Almond verbena sounds nice! I may have to check it out =)

  8. our June was fairly normal in expenses. I tracked all expenditures for the first time in ages and found areas we can do better! We’ve declared July to be a no buying month.

    1. That’s awesome! I love tracking expenses–it helps me figure out where to prioritize and where to cut back. Best of luck to you with the no-buying-month–I’m a huge fan of those :)!

  9. Great month especially considering all the special occasions! I like that you listed the “best price” household items from Amazon and Dollar Store, two of my favorite retailers. It’s good to know where other frugals are finding the deals. Price comparison can be a bit time-consuming at first, but once you set it on frugal auto-pilot and just check that the price remains the same, it saves money every month. Definitely worth it. (BTW, on the deodorant, we mostly use apple cider vinegar in a small spray bottle. I make an exception when it’s really hot out, but it works well and is super cheap and natural.)

    1. You’re spot on about price comparisons–once you know the price, it’s easy and, saves so much money! Thanks for the deodorant tip–I’ve been wondering about switching from sticks to something more natural. We used Tom’s Of Maine for awhile but, uh, it doesn’t hold up for either of us what with our biking and walking and yoga everyday (or maybe we just sweat a lot ;)?). Do you dilute the vinegar or just use it straight?

      1. We don’t dilute it. I don’t recommend applying it right after shaving but otherwise it’s fine. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth a try!

      2. You could also try a DIY coconut oil deodorant similar to:

        I usually make it in small batches using 1 tbsp of coconut oil, 1 to 2 tsp of baking soda depending on the season (use a higher grade brand like Bob’s Red Mill), 1 tsp arrowroot powder, and a few drops essential oil like citrus, clary sage, tea tree, lavender, etc. Fairly customization depending on your skin sensitives (tip: avoid razor burn).

        Have been using this recipe for well over a year and probably won’t go back to store-bough. I still sweat, but rarely smell at the end of the day – though synthetic fibers are less likely to stay fresh, which I have mostly cycled out of my wardrobe since they don’t breath as well. This also does not stain my shirts in the way that regular deodorant can. Overall, love it.

  10. I agree with keeping the savings built-up to cover those one-time expenses. We had built-up a heft reserve (at least for us) when last November we were hit with $11k in emergency bills. My husband was diagnosed with A-flutter and had to be in the hospital overnight ($4k). Then our greyhound, Purdy, had neurological symptoms that could not be diagnosed other than with an MRI. She had major blood clots in her brain and kidneys so we ended up putting her down after the procedure. ($2k) Then our furnace went out and that was another $5k. Even with being frugal over the holidays, that cut into the savings a bit more. We are still trying to get the savings replenished because we keep being hit with various expenses. (dryer finally bit the dust after 21 years, etc) Just saying that some expenses bite you a bit more than others and it can take a while to recover.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your husband and greyhound :(. I hope your husband is feeling better and I’m sure Purdy is happily frolicking around the rainbow bridge, chasing bunnies (at least that’s how I imagine all the greyhounds hanging out together up there). I’m very sorry for your loss.

      That really is a whopping string of expenses with the furnace and dryer too. Wishing you a time of relative calm that’s expense-free.

  11. My June was ok. I was in the process of moving for most of the month, so my kitchen was basically unavailable. Hence the $500 in food 🙁 However, I did get reimbursed for most of my moving expenses, so I recovered $645 of the roughly $1500 I spent. Other little do-dads added up like my mysteriously vanished plunger and some dishware I had to replace. I also got my kitten so that’ll be a worthwhile expense going forward. Glad to hear your month was so good!

    1. Oh dreaded moving–always rife with extra expenses! Glad to hear you made it through OK! And, getting reimbursed for so much is awesome. Plus, hooray for a kitten!! You know I love pets, so I definitely think that’s a worthy expense :).

  12. Thanks for the heads-up about buying replacement toothbrush heads on Amazon. I just went to the Amazon website and ordered some — was amazed at the price! Of course, I used the $ that I had in my Amazon account, from doing surveys, etc.

    1. Woohoo! Glad I could help! What we discovered is that the patent has run out on the name-brand Sonicare heads, so we were able to get those generic ones for much less. Way cheaper than Costco, which only carries the name-brand.

      1. Big thanks for the toothbrush head info and insight- I had been getting them at Target in a generic 3 pack (starting back just for Christmas) and it was way cheaper than getting the multipack at Sam’s club …. but the Amazon price is better & saves me the time & risk (I tend find things we ‘need’) of Target.

  13. How about a service like Uber or Lyft for your airport run? Or even Super Shuttle? Also, what do you think of financing interest free for 6 months and splitting the purchase price into 6 payments? I do that with my major home appliances, etc. I am only opposed to paying interest.

    1. Great questions! We actually did use Uber for our trip to the airport (and were able to use some credits that Mr. FW had racked up through business expenses), so I amended that line item for clarity. Our airport has an agreement with cab companies that Uber can’t do pick-ups from the airport, so we did have to take a cab home, but, it was worth the expense to us :). And, unfortunately, there’s no Super Shuttle service for our area–the cheaper option is to take the bus and the subway, but, we decided to pay for the luxury of a 15 minute ride to the airport this time around.

      I’m with you on opposing interest payments! We buy so much of our stuff used that payment plans aren’t usually an option for us. When we do buy new, we tend to pay in full because it’s easier for us to just knock out the expense all in one. If we had to buy something really expensive new and it did offer a 0% interest plan, we might consider it (in order to keep that extra cash invested), but in general, we’re happy to just pay in full upfront. We’ve also found that we’re sometimes able to get discounts by paying in full upfront–for example with my LASIK eye surgery, they gave us a great discount for paying in full as opposed to going with the payment plan. But, you make a great point that 0% interest can be a good way to swing it!

    1. Those steaks were delicious :). Very grateful to my in-laws for making those for us. Work travel is an awesome way to reduce food expenses–nice!

  14. I have to giggle because your family of 2(+0.5?) eats in a month what our grocery bill would cost for about 10 days. Your mortgage is way higher, but groceries where we live are through the roof expensive! Plus, I once looked at the sales tax on my Target receipt and nearly fainted when I saw 10%. I don’t look anymore… I have to pay the tax, so it’s no use panicking over!

    1. Yeah, it seems like it’s either groceries or housing for most people :). But hey, we’ve all gotta eat and live somewhere! Agreed on the tax–better to avert your eyes ;).

    2. Re: the tax, I just remind myself that taxes pay for so many things indirectly — roads, parks, libraries, etc — that I enjoy. And I’d rather just enjoy them than be nickle and dimed everywhere. I lived on the east coast briefly, and it was such a pain to have to feed the tolls every single time I drove anywhere of distance.

  15. You guys have made frugality an art form! 🙂

    My wife and I have been working very hard to cut our expenses and have made visible strides, thanks in great part to Mr. Money Moustache and your blog. Our new-found approach has liberated quite a bit of cash that we’re throwing to the already large school loan payment. We hope to be done by December and then we can focus on having all those little green puppies working for us. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Many thanks! And, huge congrats to you and your wife for cutting your expenses and paying down your loan–that’s awesome. December is pretty soon too–that’s really exciting you’re so close to being able to save all that money for yourself. I wish you all the very best and, frugal on!

  16. I was living on Madison when Highland Kitchen opened (one street down the hill from Highland Ave – our triple-decker is right behind the Y building across the street there), I loved that place. What a small world!

    Our June started out strong but we always seem to get lazy at the end of the month, particularly with eating out/food stuff. I think I’m going to try to plan meals and shopping lists a bit more rigorously this month. A complicating factor is my mom and stepfather coming out for the last week of July and they’ll want to tourist it up San Diego style.

    I would love to hear more about struggles you had in transitioning to frugal wierdos, maybe topic specific. I feel like we are fine going without many things, love the library, no cable, Republic Wireless, but the food thing especially is a struggle, we just lose the discipline when it comes to this thing. Ugh.

    There are dog pajamas with a greyhound model on ThisiswhyI’ 🙂

    1. Hey, small world! Highland Kitchen is soooo goood. My photo just does not do it justice.

      Great question on the food struggle–I think for us, the main reason we’re able to stay on track and not eat out is that we meal plan and shop ahead of time each week/month. We already know what we’re going to eat for the next, oh, 5 or so days and so we’re already looking forward to those meals and have the ingredients in the fridge. We used to be more lackadaisical about it and so we’d end up getting take-out or something to fill in the gaps. But when we’ve already planned the meal and bought the stuff, we feel like it’s a forgone conclusion. I guess it’s kind of like tricking ourselves in to eating at home, but it works!

      I find that it’s also about building the habit up–what we did is at first force ourselves to go without eating out for a full month (as part of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge). Once we’d done it for a full month, it was pretty easy to just keep on doing it.

      We also keep emergency no-cook meals in the house (Costco brand frozen pizza!), because there are just those days when we are too busy/exhausted to prepare a meal. So, on those days when we get home late, tired, and hungry, we know we can just pop a pizza in the oven. Not healthy and not something we do everyday, but, it’s a great fallback that prevents us from slipping into the takeout routine. I hope this helps–feel free to hit me up with more questions!

      P.S. OMG greyhound pajamas!!!!!

      1. Thanks so much for the advice! I was thinking about doing written meal planning, I’m going to give a shot. 🙂

      2. Yes, the emergency meal is key for us! We have a whiteboard on our fridge where we meal plan weekly, and we include those busy nights, nights out, etc. I’m hoping to expand that soon to writing down what we have in our fridge, as we have more food waste than I’d like. Our weird wrinkle is that we live at a boarding school, so sometimes a meal “out” is just a trip to the dining hall. I like to limit those because, like college, it’s easy to gain the freshman 15 every year. No thanks!

  17. I love the T but seriously sometimes for sanity purposes it is better to take a cab. We always take a cab to the airport when traveling and seem to get nice drivers who get there quickly. I am sure it has been asked before and I must have missed the reply but what about cellular devices? What’s up with that?

    1. Good question on the phones–we don’t have a landline and our employers pay for both of our cell phones. A great perk of the old 9-5 :)!!

  18. Great month, and you look so healthy Mrs. FW!

    Quick question- do your in laws let you help pay for groceries when you visit? My parents and in-laws both actively rebuff attempts for us to pay for anything.

    1. Many thanks! I’m trying to be as healthy as I can be! My parents and in-laws are the same as yours and absolutely will not let us pay for anything when we visit them, which is incredibly kind and generous of them. We really appreciate it!

  19. I’ve saved money on dog flea and tick prevention by buying the biggest size (e.g. for 100 lb dogs) and using a syringe to measure the smaller dose. I got several pediatric size syringes for free just by asking at a Target pharmacy. This way one tube lasts for two or three months (depending on the size of your dog) instead of just a single month dose, halving your flea prevention costs. My mom got this tip from a vet years ago, and the savings really add up!

    1. I just want to say how brilliant that sounds. That’s some next level pet frugality! I never would have thought of it. Too bad it would only really works for smaller dogs. Ours weighs 65 lb, but I’m still going to look into the appropriate amount of milliliters and see if I can work anything out. That tick medication is expensive!

      1. Very interesting indeed, Shanna! Frugal Hound falls under the “big dog” category at 60 lbs, but what a great idea. Norm–would you mind letting me know if you figure out a cheaper option for Maeby? Thanks you guys!!

  20. Wow, that’s a low gas bill! Our latest is for $37, $17 of which is a mandatory charge. Do you have gas heat, hot water and stove?

    I get what you say about getting to the airport. It’s always a hassle. Albany airport charges $5 a day, which is always better than taking one of our overpriced cab companies. Usually, we leave from NYC, which getting to is its own adventure. Don’t even ask how I got to LaGuardia the one time I ever went there, but I think it involved every mode of transportation beside horse-and-buggy.

    1. We do indeed have gas heat, hot water, and stove. It’s so low now because we’re not using the heat and, we don’t use much hot water for our showers (low flow showerhead and all that jazz). Happy to have the respite from the expensive winters!

      Ugh, LaGuardia!! That was a pain even when I lived in NYC!

    1. Thank you, Cat :)! I’m loving being pregnant! I’m in the funny in-between size where regular clothes are tight but maternity clothes are gigantic, so, I’ve found a few dresses that work and I’m wearing those on repeat ;).

  21. Great month!

    I managed to save $2800 this month, but my investments dropped about $2000, so my net worth only increased by $800 (thank you Greece).
    Which is why I focus on my savings rate. June’s savings rate was 72% and YTD is ~50%.

    Sadly I will have to move soon (turns out my roommate is a jerk and doesn’t listen to logic) and that will approximately double my housing costs. *sigh*

    1. That’s a fabulous savings rate, nicely done :). Too bad about the roommate situation–I hope you can find something better!

    1. I get the Family Dollar generic brand of Cetaphil face wash. It has the exact same ingredients but costs just $3.25 for a 16 oz. bottle. Way cheaper than the name brand Cetaphil!

  22. Nicely done on being able to haggle down your internet service costs, haha. I remember commenting on that in the past, as I’ve done so many times – but there’s a point where they just stop wanting to give you a break. 😛 I’m also with you on sending snail mail. I don’t care how much it costs (ok, I care a little), it’s so nice to send more thoughtful notes, cards and little care packages, than simply text or tweet. You actually reminded me that I forgot to share what I was most grateful to spend money on this month and that was $10.64 to mail two books + cards to Sarah and David – books I picked up at the Harvard Book Store, just a few hours before we saw you guys! Funny how that came full circle back to this post. 🙂 Anyway, congrats on another great month, you guys!

    1. So glad you found good books to share with friends! I love Harvard Book Store–such an awesome repository of, well, books! I wish you could come over for dinner every week–once was not enough :)!

  23. Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday and Happy Halfway Mark!! I can’t believe you are halfway to the arrival of Babywoods and you look that amazing!! When I was halfway to Will’s arrival, people thought I was having twins, but it must be because Will craved Taco Bell and Babywoods craves pasta and sauce. 🙂

    1. Hahaha, thank you! Babywoods definitely craves her some sauce! Mr. FW swears she’s going to come out red as a tomato :).

  24. 1. Ever thought of using GNUcash for expense tracking? It can also import CSVs & other files.
    2. Ever thought of taking advantage of various credit card promotions which offer free air miles?

    1. We’ve tried GNUcash before, but found that we prefer Personal Capital and Mint. We do indeed use credit card rewards points for hotels, airfare, and also cash back rewards. Credit card rewards are definitely a great deal!

  25. As a minimalist, there are times when I wonder if I could actually go without any internet access at home. I could write offline, and maybe even with a pen and paper, like the olden days 🙂 There are also plenty of places to log on for free (library) or cheap (the cost of a cup of coffee), but since I don’t have a car (or smart phone), I use google maps constantly to find out how I can walk or take public transportation. So, for now, it is just something I almost consider a modern world ‘need’ and not just a ‘want’.

    1. I’ve had that same thought and come to the same conclusion :). It really is a ‘need’ in our lives at this point. It’s actually one of the requirements we have for our future homestead–must have good internet access! I would just feel so cut off from the world without it. Not to mention lost as heck since I too am a frequent user of maps :).

    2. I went without internet when I lived alone because it forced me to get out. I went to the library then. It was actually a nice thing — really focused my internet use. I would write down stuff I wanted to look up in a notebook and do my surfing quickly 🙂 This gave me lots of time for cooking, taking long walks, and reading books. But it is not for everyone, and I only did that for a limited less than a year.

      1. Wow, good for you, Leah. I agree that it can be a great way to stay focused and more productive on the internet. I should clarify also that minimalism, simple living, frugality, etc… shouldn’t be about deprivation, but rather about focusing on those things that bring tremendous to our lives and letting go of what doesn’t bring much value. For some, that might mean having internet and for others, it might not be.

  26. Wow! That those are some frugal spending habits. Congrats on the anniversary, graduation and frugal hound’s bday. Those are some big events and you all did well managing them. I couldn’t agree with you more about eating out being treat. My wife and I cook in most days during the month and when we do eat out, we actually enjoy it and just don’t go through the motions.

    1. Thank you so much :)! And, I’m with you on eating out–it really is a special occasion when we do so, and I like that approach. Makes it so we truly appreciate it! Like you said–not just going through the motions.

  27. Happy anniversary and halfway mark!

    Don’t even ask about June. We have been hemorrhaging money and we have not yet even paid for the several hundred dollars of repairs my car needs (I still hope to go one-car next year, when both kids will be in full-day preschool, but I chickened out for this year when I still have to move LB around in the ams and take him to daycare on my way to work). On a positive note, the inside of our house is all set up. It is not every month, for instance, that we buy a used piano. We are going on vacation later this month, but many of the big expenses (lodging and airfare–thanks, Mom!) have already been paid for.

    I hope that’s an affiiate link for PC because I kid you not, I sat down at the computer to open an account with them and then I was like, “Hey, I never finished reading FW this morning!”

    1. Congrats on getting the house set-up! That’s a huge milestone! I always feel like a move is finally finished when we have the interior all put together. Ugh cars, why must they break?! And, a used piano sounds like a good expense to me.

      That is indeed an affiliate link, so thank you very much for supporting Frugalwoods :)!

    1. Many thanks! I don’t know if it’s simple or lazy, but it seems to work for us ;).

  28. June was an expensive month here. Property bill tax; unexpected vet bill; and planned vacation (although it came under budget).

    We had some good things happen to:
    Finally received the last tax return.
    My husband happily made his last car payment this month (it had 0% interest but now we don’t have to pay for it) and we hope he will have his car for at least 4 more years.
    Refinanced the mortgage at 2.05%!

    We will see how July goes!

    1. Wow–2.05% is amazing!!! Nicely done! And, that’s great that despite your expenses you came in under budget 🙂

  29. How cute. A Jurassic World themed birthday gift for Frugal Hound 😉

    I struggle with the concept of having the money for “big expenses.” For some reason, my brain connects having the money with not needing to negotiate. I think my reasoning is that if we have the money, it must not be that expenses. I’m new to this. Can you tell? I had a $400 medical recently and I just paid it. I should have asked for a paid in full or cash discount. Something! but I just paid it. It feels great to be able to pay it, but its hard to tighten up and ask when the money is sitting in a bank account. Do you have line for negotiating? Perhaps I should just always ask.

    1. I think you nailed it there at the end–my tip for negotiating is to always just ask. We bargain hard for used stuff and it almost always works. People want to get rid of it and they’re usually OK with taking less than advertised. For new things, we always just ask if there’s a discount for paying in full, etc. That’s how we got our discount on my LASIK eye surgery–it wasn’t advertised, but we asked and they were happy to accommodate us. You’ll get the hang of it, I have no doubt :)!

  30. I have to ask – if your house is such a big expense, but with the promise that it’ll be a cash-flowin’ rental soon, why not rent it out now and live somewhere cheaper?

    1. That’s a great question and one that we’ve explored in depth. Rents are so expensive in our area (Boston/Cambridge) that we actually can’t find a cheaper place to rent. Even tiny 1-bedrooms are either as expensive or even more! It’s kind of a crazy market. Not so good if you need to rent or buy, but definitely great if you’re in the position of being a landlord! We’re really looking forward to the rental prices we’ll be able to command for our house :).

  31. It comes naturally for us to live by the same premise, not budgeting, but making the best financial choice possible given the situation at hand. Although, your comment about not having eaten out since last August is definitely a long time! We enjoy eating at home, and focus on homemade meals, but eating out occasionally (1-2x/month) is part of trying the local culture (Japan) and socializing. Most of our expenditures come from our travels, but we save at least 60% of our income without really thinking about it! It feels good to save!

    1. That’s an awesome savings rate–nicely done :)! And, I think everyone has to find what works best for them in terms of eating out, etc.

      1. Completely agree! I wish we could go that long without eating out, but we’ve been traveling more often and meeting new people (for us, that’s the easiest/least awkward way to socialize with new friends). Thanks for tracking and sharing all of your expenses!

    1. Good question–we don’t have a landline and our employers pay for both of our cell phones. A great perk of the old 9-5 :)!!

  32. I’ve been keeping a very detailed table on my expenditures (at your awesome suggestion), since I’m now a single gal on a fixed income (after my husband of almost 30 years passed away, just over a year ago). I’d made a little error that paid off handsomely once I caught it. I was including my credit card bills in with my “other” bills (electricity, internet, cell phone, mowing service – I have absolutely no equipment as I’m trying to sell and move – and others. So, I quickly deleted those from my “Bills,” column and my June total came out to just a hair over $1300. Not bad. No A/C or heat for me, either. It’s that time of year, you need very little of either. I just adjust the best I can. Occasionally if it gets really stuff at night, I’ll turn on the A/C for a short period of time and then shut it off before I retire. I’m going to try to tighten my belt and make July an even more frugal month! And, there’s an additional day!!!

    1. That’s great! Congrats on getting into the habit of tracking expenses–I find it to be so helpful. Nicely done on avoiding the A/C too! Best of luck to you for a very frugal July 🙂

  33. The family pregnancy mug just kills
    Thanks for mentioning Amazon is the best price for Frobtline;
    I’ll buy from them when we run low!

    1. Haha, the pregnancy mug is pretty hilarious :). And, its been around since my mother-in-law was pregnant with Mr. FW, which is pretty neat! Yeah, Amazon definitely seems to have the lowest price on Frontline. Glad I could help!

  34. Not to focus on just one part of the article but what sunscreen do you use? The link wouldn’t work for me – if it’s amazon, that happens because it tries to take me to the Canadian site instead of American. Thanks!!

    1. It is indeed an Amazon link–too bad it won’t work for you! The sunscreen is called “Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen SPF 45.” I use it on my face and I love it because it’s not heavy or greasy. I don’t wear any make-up, so I like this smooth, non-oily sunscreen.

  35. Whoohee that’s impressive! We spend far more than that. Granted, we have at least $100 in co-pays each month. At least. And prescriptions (two medium-painful at $40 & $50 and one that’s not covered at all and is many hundreds). And a business line for my work is closer to $100 than your $57. But that’s still only part of the issue. The non-medical expenses are mainly because we subsist on convenience/fast food. At least we finally got rid of Vonage, which will save us around $30 a month. (We don’t have cell phones, so a landline is necessary. But Ooma came to the rescue.)

    1. Thanks! That’s great about your phone bill–nicely done! And, I think everyone’s expenses are certainly different based on their individual circumstances. All about finding what works best for each person.

  36. I was completely thrown the first time I read a reminder to tip on the entire bill and not just the leftover portion when using a gift card. Do some people really do differently? Weird!

    We have been eating at home more often since having a kid, since it’s an ordeal to haul her out to a restaurant (not a huge one, but it’s harder than just us). Plus, we want to model healthy eating, and that’s harder at most restaurants. It is so much more luxurious when we do get out! We tend to average going out 2x a month.

    We actually had some good money chats recently where we talked about priorities for us, and that was one of them. It’s a compromise, as my husband would like to go out more — his family is full of restaurant managers, so he ate out often growing up. We’ve been tracking spending for a year, and it’s been nice to hone in on what we like to do rather than defaulting to what is easy. I can’t believe we used to go out 2-3x a week!

    1. That’s wonderful you two have had good money talks lately! I totally agree with the concept of spending on what you truly want to do/value and not just on what’s easiest. I think that’s the ticket to frugality :)!

  37. Our spending in June seems ridiculous when compared to yours… we are definitely not frugal-weirdos quite yet…

    Congratulations on all the milestones in your household! Very exciting times ahead!

    1. Many thanks! And, I think everyone has to find the level of spending that makes sense for them. It’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach 🙂

  38. BTW, I make my own deodorant from Coconut Oil, Arrowroot Flour and Baking Soda; and sometimes a few drops of essential oil. Been making and using this for probably five years and love it. It’s much safer than most brand-name deodorants – you could actually eat this stuff – and it’s cheap. It’s not an antiperspirant, though, but I prefer this as sweating is healthy. My son (who is seriously into healthy eating and living) first sent me the recipe and I figured if it’s good enough for him – a grown man who works really hard – it should be good enough for me! That’s my story and I’m not changing it!

  39. Have you looked into optimizing your electricity usage? Your electricity seems high at $75–especially without running AC. No judgement, but just noting that our household of 4 spends about $45-50 (at $.11/KwH) and we do run AC (though have a mini-split system which is quite efficient).

    1. Are you saying I’m old, Will ;)? Well, I am older than you… and yes, you can totally live frugally as you age. It honestly just gets easier as time goes on. It’s such an ingrained habit for us at this point, we don’t even have to think about it.

  40. I am continually impressed by your non-mortgage spending, especially in an expensive area. We are still struggling with grocery costs. Trust me, it gets more difficult with kids!

  41. Do you use a separate heart-worm preventative for Frugal Hound, and if so which one?
    I’ve been thinking about this recently, just trying to figure out if we are using the best & most affordable option (it adds up now that we have two dogs). We use Revolution, which is a combined heartworm and flea (but not tick), but it’s prescription only and a bit expensive. Would love to know how others chose their dog preventative health regime.. right now we are just going on very old vet recommendation and inertia.

    1. We do–we use Tri-Heart Plus, which is a chewable heartworm preventative. Frugal Hound gobbles the tablets right up, so its been easy to administer. And then we use the topical Frontline for flea/tick prevention in the warmer months. Our heartworm meds are also prescription-only, but they’re not too terribly expensive. Although combined with the cost of the Frontline (which is not a prescription), it might equal what you’re paying for yours. Good luck in your search! Let me know if you find a cheaper option!

  42. Love the pregnant belly mug!! What a fun tradition.

    We made it through June with the A/C off all but two days, and until yesterday, it didn’t go on in July, either. Cheap heat/a/c months are the best!

    1. Thanks! The mug is pretty hilarious and such a cute tradition :). Congrats on making it through June without A/C!! Gotta love those climate-control free months :)!

  43. I live in your area and my internet bill is $30 per month (well, 29.95) RCN internet only. Cheapo plan which is fast enough for 7 people to share internet

    1. Ahh yes, we so wish we could use RCN! Sadly, it’s not available in Cambridge. We’re stuck with only Comcast in Cambridge, but we are happy that we were able to get them to lower our monthly fee for internet. Still super expensive considering all we use is internet! Oh well, a “necessity” of the modern world ;).

  44. We have made the mental decision (OK, my wife has said she is 100% and I am 96% there) to move into new apartments they are building in our community next year. We will sell our 4 BR house as our kids are out (1 in college still). While the rent seems high, I am calculating the property taxes, higher Insurance, Snowblower expenses, equipment/repairs (house is 10 years old) that will be coming soon and see a real benefit. We are not sure we will stay here for more than 5 more years so getting the burden of selling the house over now seems to make sense. We do plan on taking some of the proceeds and upgrading our two vehicles about 10 years newer, the 80’s and 90’s were good just getting worn a bit. I do like the idea of coming home and jumping into a pool I don’t have to maintain, and an upgrade in finishes (That I was planning on DIY’ing soon). Just tough to think that we would rent again after owning for 25+ years,

    1. Sounds like a good plan! Sometimes renting really does make more sense than owning. Best of luck to you :)!

  45. Just found your blog and love the expense report. Think I’m gonna have to get hubby to do a similar breakdown for us. Also have to say that I love Frugal Hound! We have 2 retired racers ourselves. They are the best aren’t they! 🙂

  46. Hi you guys, love the blog. its exciting to see other couples that continue to live on less then they make without debt. My wife and I are 28 with a beautiful 15 month old daughter. We live in wonderful Portland Oregon. I’m an electrical engineer and love seeing all those around me say, wow I wish I was saving for retirement at such an early age, or, wow you don’t have new cars and you do all your own car/house fixes. 🙂 keep it up, living like no one else so that later you can live like no one else isn’t easy. but its fun. -Brian

  47. New reader here! Do you guys not have cell phones? Is there a post about this I may have missed? Thanks for all the inspiration!

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