A Month Of Merrymaking

July was a month of fabulous summer hoopla for the Frugalwoods. We really lived it up and enjoyed the idyllic New England weather. The month kicked off with a breathtaking hike up Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Pierce in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This hike was so fantastic, I just had to write a post about it.

View of Lake Champlain during our trip to Burlington, VT
View of Lake Champlain during our trip to Burlington, VT

Then, we had the pleasure of hosting Jeff from Sustainable Life Blog along with his lovely wife and adorable daughter for the July 4th weekend. Opening our home to friends who are passing through town is one of our favorite things to do. Jeff and his family are the third “internet blog friends” we’ve welcomed into our abode. Meeting fellow frugal folks online and then translating those friendships into face-to-face relationships is such a fulfilling aspect of writing Frugalwoods :).

The next weekend found us jetting over to Salem, MA for our very frugal day trip, replete with a visit to a boat, a tour of a Custom House, and a stroll through the Peabody Essex Museum. Later in the month, we hiked Mt. Liberty in the White Mountains–our third 4,000 foot summit for the month. We capped off July with an all expenses paid weekend jaunt to Burlington, VT (thanks to Mr. FW attending a conference there for work and me tagging along).

The Best Part

On the summit of Mt. Pierce this month
On the summit of Mt. Pierce this month

But the very best part about our fun-filled month is that it barely even touched our spending. The primary impact to our budget was in the line item of gasoline–our multiple roadtrips (twice to the mountains, once to Salem, and once to Burlington) did pad our gasoline bill quite a bit. But despite this additional expense, we still clocked in under $1,000 in non-mortgage expenses, which is our ideal monthly spend amount.

Adhering to our $0 frugal weirdo entertainment budget is easy since we’re willing and eager to seek out free and frugal forms of amusement. There’s just no reason to pay for typical summer diversions like movie theaters, concerts, restaurants, and the like when we can frugal it up and still have a blast.

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 this month). I do this because it’s the most transparent 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).

Happy July from Frugal Hound!
Happy July from Frugal Hound!

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).

Want to know how we manage the rest of our monies? Look no further than How We Manage Our Household Finances. 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.

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 July:

Item/Vendor Amount Frugalwoods Musings
Mortgage & Escrow for Taxes & Insurance $2,407.80 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. 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.
Groceries $373.44 Slightly higher than our usual $300-$350/month for the two of us. We’ll blame it on the pregnancy ;).
Utilities: Water $135.28 Standard amount for our water bill, which covers three months of use.
Household goods from Costco $105.18 Household supplies (including such things as dog food, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, vitamins, and more). This total does not include any human food.
Utilities: Electric $78.42 It’s electric! Boogie woogie woogie.
Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile $73.85 One of our most expensive gasoline months on record. This is attributable to our two hikes in the White Mountains, our day trip to Salem, MA, and our roadtrip to Burlington, VT. All worthy outings to be sure.
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!
Doctor visit co-pays $32.00 Co-payments for several doctor’s appointments.
Utilities: Gas $21.23 This reflects our gas bill for June–you can definitely tell we’ve had the heat off!
Beer $16.74 An important part of the frugal weirdo budget ;). Since we never eat out, it’s nice for Mr. FW to have some choice beers to enjoy at home. This is the cost of 15 cans of Founder’s IPA, purchased from Costco’s liquor store.
Laundromat $13.00 I conducted my annual laundromat visit to wash our master bed comforter and our big down coats in their giant front-loading washers. Kind of ironic how expensive it was given the fact that our comforter (hand-me-down) and one of the coats (great trash find) were free to begin with. But hey, cleanliness is a good thing!
Tolls (via our MA E-ZPass) $11.00 Tolls (via our MA E-ZPass) for our drives out to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to hike.
Back-up and CDN for Frugalwoods.com $10.21 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.
Motor oil for car $5.30 Frugalwoods-mobile needed a top-up of oil. I’d like to find a cheaper option for this–I’m wondering if maybe Costco sells it… we’ll have to check next time we’re there.
Angie’s List annual membership $4.79 We decided to purchase an annual membership to Angie’s List, a decision I’ll explain further in a future post on home improvements. This was the discounted annual rate I secured by finding several online coupons and paying through PayPal, which saved an additional 20%. It’s always wise to search for coupons!
Park entrance free for hiking $3.00 The cost of the park entrance fee for our hike up Mt. Pierce and Mt. Eisenhower.
Brownie while hiking $2.00 The notorious brownie we bought at the Mizpah Springs hut while hiking Mt. Pierce and Mt. Eisenhower. Sooooo delicious.
TOTAL SPENT: $3,350.19  

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

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  1. July was our first month reflecting our new lower internet bill, $34.95, which I didn’t even ask for. Time Warner lowered it voluntarily after I complained in person about how difficult it was to cancel our cable. A rare win for Time Warner- And here’s the kicker I just figured out yesterday: We still have basic cable! They never disconnected us, so shhhhhh.

    Other than that, we closed on a house, so I saw A LOT more cash than I am comfortable with go out the door. Well, at least it should be for a good cause.

    1. Well done on the cheap internet and sneak cable! And, congrats on closing on a house! Is that a new residence for you and Marge or a rental?

  2. You did terrific. We retired early 14 years ago and the key is watch all of your small expenses as well as the large ones. You are Masters of that. It is so nice to see young people “get it”! Congratulations on a great month.

    We live in New York and have E Z Pass. We get discounted tolls because we have it. Are you able to get that in Massachusetts?

    1. Congrats to you on retiring early! That’s a wonderful thing :). And many thanks for your kind words. We do in fact have an EZ Pass and you reminded me to update that above in the post–I’d forgotten to add that in. Thanks for keeping me on my toes :)!

  3. Good tip about Angie’s List and coupons! Angie’s List is something we’ve considered, but for the few projects we’ve had, we’ve been lucky to have had friends, family and neighbors make recommendations for contractors–so far, no complaints!

    1. Yeah, we’ll have to see if the Angie’s List thing pans out for us or not. We’ve never hired anyone to help us with anything on our house before, so if we do, we want to be sure and get someone good! We shall see…

  4. Your expenses look good to me! Glad you had some beer and a brownie in there =) Do you know what you will be responsible for ($-wise) when you have your baby yet? For me, that was the most expensive part of becoming a parent!

    1. Great question! All of my prenatal care is covered in full by our insurance, so I haven’t had any co-pays for doctor visits, tests, ultrasounds, etc. And then the birth is a $500 co-pay. Our insurance also covers the cost of a childbirth prep class and a breast pump. What I need to suss out with them is whether or not that $500 birth co-pay covers everything or if there are any incidentals we’ll be responsible for at the hospital. I feel really fortunate that our insurance has covered everything so far–its been great!

      1. If your company’s benefits include something like a “Health Advocate” service (ours does), you should enlist their services if your bills start to look out-of-whack. A Health Advocate service can intervene with the insurance company for you to sort out weird billing problems, and they’ve got experience at handling appeal procedures.

        A couple of years ago, I had to have quasi-emergency surgery (and it was the “quasi” part that created some of the billing problems). Afterward, I started getting notices from the insurer that parts of my claims for coverage were being denied (e.g., the overnight stay wasn’t medically necessary, because the surgery was usually a day surgery, but mine didn’t take place until 6 pm because I was an urgent case fitted in at the last minute). I was facing over $30,000 in “denied” claims. I shovelled the whole pile of bills to my company’s health advocate service, and they took care of all of it – saving me time and $.

        1. Sounds like a great service–I’ll have to check into it. Glad to hear they were able to take care of that bill for you!

      2. You’re probably already aware of this, but the baby’s hospital bill is completely separate from yours. At least that’s how it works in our neck of the woods. So you’ll probably be paying a $500 co-pay for her as well. Which won’t seem too bad when you see what they charge you for an infant’s stay!

        1. Yes, I was going to say that! I carefully saved up and even ASKED our health insurance rep, and there was no mention. I was careful to let our HR lady know. While we were okay, we’ve got a $6k deductible, so we were on the hook for the baby’s entire bill and mine. Thankfully, both together added up to about $6k, which is what I had specifically saved.

          Also, go through your bill with a fine-tooth comb (I know you know, but still). We were charged $1k for a service that wasn’t provided, and we had to do a lot of legwork to get that changed. Even worse is that the billing lady accused me of not understanding what was going on. It was a thing that needed informed consent, and I told her I had not consented. She said I probably didn’t remember because I was so tired from labor. Well, if I was too exhausted/drugged to remember, then that’s not informed consent, is it?

          Oh, and be sure to ask in your pre-birth class (if at the hospital) or from someone how meals work. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that we ordered meals from a menu. My meals were covered, and my husband’s meals were only $5 for a spread of food that I don’t think I could have made for $5 (entree, two sides, drink, and dessert). Plus, they made a gratis steak or shrimp dinner for us on our last night before sending us home. Score! I will definitely know more for next time.

  5. It’s amazing to me how low your “pricey” gas expense is! We spent $383.21 on gas in July, which isn’t that crazy for us. Granted, about 2/3 is for my husband’s commute and work travel, some of which is reimbursed (travel, not commute). Also we don’t live in a city, so we have to drive everywhere.

    You must have fantastic insurance of $32 is multiple copays!

      1. Thanks! We’re pretty lucky that we don’t need to drive much and, our health insurance is pretty awesome. We’re very thankful on both fronts!

  6. Reading your blog inspired me to take our average spending and figure out what % each item is. I was totally surprised at how much and how little some categories were. I would like to cut some of them but hubby isn’t ready.
    July was expensive due to trips etc but I think August will be better!

    1. Congrats, Kristen! That’s a great exercise to do! It’s always eye-opening for me when I look at our expenses line by line. It’s amazing what can creep in there :). I wrote a post awhile back on how Mr. FW and I go on “finance dates” to talk about our hot button money issues, in case it might be helpful to you and your hubby, it’s here: Go On A Finance Date: It’s Sexier Than It Sounds.

      Good luck to you for a very frugal August :)!

  7. We’re becoming more on frugal autopilot each month and really does make life easier. We’ve decided not to pay off our mortgage either and put any extra money into the stock market. We’re young so with the power of compound interest (which I think Mr. Frugalwoods calls a magical unicorn) it just doesn’t make sense to us to do it any other way.

    1. Way to go on the frugal autopilot lifestyle! And, yes, compound interest truly is a magical unicorn ;). It really does make mathematical sense not to pay it off at this point.

  8. Way to go! Your 8 cheapest line items under $20 total $66.04. Is it weird that I added that up? 🙂 I just went to look at my budget and under $20 I’ve got Netflix, a carwash, and library fines! Um, yeah I know on the library fines but the carwash was to sell the vehicle!

    1. Haha, I like that you added it up :). And hey, I bet you spent far less in library fines than you would’ve on buying books, so I’d say it’s still a win!

  9. Oh my gosh you were in my hood and I didn’t even know or offer to meet up with you! This is what I get for falling off the blogging bandwagon! I’m sorry! Hit me up next time you guys come to Northern VT.

  10. Your monthly expense recap seems like a good opportunity to ask you if you might consider writing a post sometime about frugal wills and related planning. I figured that since the Frugal Baby is on the way, you either would be updating your existing wills (or getting wills if you don’t already have them) and reviewing things like life insurance. There are so many expensive ways to spend your money on this kind of thing, plus some cheap ones, and I’d be interested to hear what the Frugalwoods approach is. Of course, no one would expect you to share the details (or provide financial advice), but if, for example, you checked out a few of the semi-DIY will software and books (e.g., Legal Zoom), it would be interesting to hear what your conclusions are.

    1. I second the request! We just moved to a new state so our previous wills are no longer valid. I was checking on DIY wills last night but would love to read your thoughts. I love your website!

      1. You guys read my mind! We are indeed planning to write about this very topic at some point in the near future. Stand by :). And, thank you both for the request–it’s always helpful for me to know what folks are interested in reading about.

  11. Sounds like you had a wonderful July! My July was pretty good too, except on 4th of July when our neighbor accidentally shot fireworks through our family room window lol. Super thankful he was willing to pay for it so we didn’t have to get insurance involved, and even more thankful we weren’t home at the time. I’m officially over fireworks now hah! Cheers to a great August 🙂 You’re another month closer to meeting your sweet little girl!!

    1. Oh my goodness–through your family room window?! Not cool! Glad to hear they’re willing to pay for it though! I kind of can’t believe I’m already 24 weeks along! Time is certainly ticking away! I’m glad we get 9 months to prepare :).

  12. Ha! I love that you had line items for beer and a brownie in your expenditure report! I wish that I listed my expenses that granularly! We actually had a great July because we mostly hung out around the home at our pool and grilled a bunch which we can always do cheaply.

    1. Haha, gotta account for the beer and brownie :)! Pool and grilling sound divine–the perfect way to spend the summer.

  13. I’m loving the $74 on gas for all those vacations/excursions. 🙂 Highly efficient spending there.

    As for the cheaper oil for your car, Walmart (and presumably Supertarget) has it for under $3/qt for the generic (“Hitech” IIRC) if there are any in your area. It’s shelf stable so you can get a couple and let them sit for a while if your Honda eats oil like my Honda (a quart every 3-6 months).

    1. $3/qt would be great! Unfortunately we don’t have a Walmart, but I will scope out Target, Costco, etc. Somewhere’s gotta be cheaper than the gas station. Poor old Frugalwoods-mobile does indeed eat oil every few months–but, it’s luxury we’re willing to give her, she is 19 after all ;).

      1. Yeah, and $3 every few months is way cheaper than actually trying to tear the engine apart and fix the leaking seals and gaskets (so my independent mechanic tells me!). Just the small cost of avoiding a $300-400 car payment.

      2. Even an auto-parts store in bulk packs might be cheaper than the gas station. Worth checking out an auto-parts store or two just to see.

  14. Impressive numbers as always. I wish Personal Capital would work for us Canadians here up north. I guess that’s what you get for living in igloos and have polar bears as neighbors. 😉 :p

  15. I love taking a peek at your expenses. I would love to hear more about how you were able to finally lower the internet bill-would love to do that myself! 🙂

    1. Thanks! Regarding the internet bill reduction, Mr. FW called the company and said he was planning to cancel the service unless they were able to offer us a better deal. Lo and behold, they did!

      1. We’ve tried this so many times, to no avail. There really is a monopoly in our city so they just don’t care. Do you guys have more than one internet option?

        1. NEvermind, saw your reply below. If you got Comcast to lower your bill, its worth it for us to keep trying. In fact, they INCREASED our bill last month, and we talked them back to the lower (still way more than you’re paying) rate.

  16. Your monthly expenses under $1000 (excluding mortgage) is so inspiring, especially for a couple with a baby on the way. I’m single and come in pretty close to your number for July (excluding the mortgage too). August will be higher with car insurance and annual dog vaccinations coming up. Thank you for sharing – I’m now inspired to try to lower my internet bill too. Well done Frugalwoods family!

    1. Thank you so much! It’s definitely possible to keep costs low when you’re a frugal weirdo :). Congrats to you for spending so little as well!

    1. Many thanks! Fortunately, so far pregnancy hasn’t really cost us much at all, which we’re really thankful for.

  17. Your electric bill seems really high to me? How many KWh do you use?
    I looked at your January expenses and they were about the same, so it doesn’t seem like high A/C use either?

    Do you use gas for cooking? What about for hot water?
    I’m contemplating just cutting off gas to my new apartment because I’m paying about $25/month just for the privilege of getting gas, while my gas use charges were only 44 cents. My hot water comes heated from the complex (it’s weird), so my only gas use is heating and cooking. I’d get a counter top electric stove, a toaster oven, and a space heater. Though I want to go through my first winter before making such a leap.

    1. I’m not sure of our KWh usage off the top of my head, but I remember looking into it a while back and coming to the conclusion that it was a relatively reasonable amount based upon our habits and usage. We do use some A/C, but in the winter the boiler water is circulated by electric pumps… so some of it evens out.

      I don’t know where you live, but if you have real winters then gas heating is almost always going to be the most cost effective method. But if your place is small enough, and you keep it chilly enough… it might make sense. I’d probably go through a winter and see how much (gas) energy it takes to heat your home and then run the conversion with your electrical rates and see what it would have cost you.

      But I do know that in New England at least, folks without access to natural gas end up spending a lot more to heat their homes with oil or propane. And that’s still considered cheaper than heating with electricity.

      1. Ah makes sense about the electric pumps.

        I live in Atlanta.
        I think you’re partly missing my point though. It’s not exactly about my apartment being small and chilly enough. It is certainly true that the marginal cost of gas vs the marginal cost of electricity is much lower. But I’m talking about fixed costs. For me, the cost of getting gas service is $300/year, while my cost of gas is so cheap that in the summer months it’s just a rounding error. If I cut off my gas service, I could save that $300 but obviously increase my electricity usage. For $300, I can buy 2967 kWh of electricity. As long as my cost to cook and heat uses less than 2967 kWh of electricity over the course of the year, I’m golden.

        I do have to go through one winter anyway because I locked in my gas rates for one year, so I’ll be making this decision next July.

        1. My apartment is a basement unit, so I get some pretty good natural insulation. Even in weeks where we’ve had highs of 90s, I haven’t felt any need to turn on the A/C (though I do run my dehumidifier).

  18. Great work! I second the request for details on how you were able to lower your internet bill — I’m moving to the area and will need to sign up with the dreaded Comcast soon, would love to get that cost down.

    1. Thanks! Regarding the internet bill reduction, Mr. FW called Comcast and said he was planning to cancel the service unless they were able to offer us a better deal. Lo and behold, they did! Sadly, if you move to Cambridge, Comcast is the only internet service provider. But if you’re in Somerville or elsewhere, there are a few other cheaper options. Good luck to you on your move!

  19. I’m amazed your gas budget was so low considering where you drove. Maybe it’s cheaper out there? Luckily I don’t have a lot of driving to do out here other than local, but mine was higher than that. Having good beer on hand is always nice! 🙂

    1. I think gas is cheaper out here. My parents were lamenting that their gas in So Cal is over $4/gallon (good thing they drive a Prius!) and ours is hovering around $2.70. So, that’s a huge difference right there!

  20. Isn’t it great when the heat is off and the gas bill is low! Of course our electric bill has compensated since we’ve been running the AC.

    I would love to hear more about your experience with Angie’s list. I’ve never paid to join so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about if the yearly fee is worth it.

    1. Yeah, we’ll have to see if the Angie’s List thing pans out for us or not. We’ve never hired anyone to help us with anything on our house before, so if we do, we want to be sure and get someone good! We shall see… I’ll write a post about it at some point I’m sure :).

  21. Great job with expenses as usual! July was a little bit pricey for me since I was in Israel for over half the month but I actually stayed under budget so no complaints here!

  22. Besides food I have three bills, storage unit 90.00 and phone card 45.00 and car ins 119.00. I live in a two very small room cabin in northern NH. I can see Mt Washington from where I park my car ( saved and paid cash for ) I have no utilities. We have an out house, a stream in front of cabin. We bring in water and filter it through a Berkey. We use natures best to bathe in. And oil lamps for lights. We did make a purchase of solar panels. Getting ready to be able to power up our laptop which we use to watch DVD’s on occasion. This is a great life. We hike in on snow shoes in the winter. 51 no problem 🙂

    1. Sounds like a wonderful life to me :). Congrats to you on carving out your own piece of perfection!

  23. Costco does indeed sell motor oil. A few years back I had an old Saturn beater commuter car that got 35 mpg, but all of a sudden, decided to start eating oil to the tune of 1 qt per gas fill-up. Everyone told me to get rid of it because the engine was obviously on its last legs, but I decided to see how long it would limp along. I kept a box of Costco oil in the trunk and would just add a quart every time I filled up. The car lasted (for me) 40k more miles before I sold it to someone else.

    1. Good to know! And I just realized we were at Costco on Friday for our monthly stock-up and totally forgot to check–doh! Next month. Nicely done on keeping your car for so long!

  24. Looks like you guys had a solid month! Glad to see that we didnt impact your finances too much! Just kidding. Thanks again for having us – we had a great time.

    As for the oil – that does seem a bit high – are you buying in quart or gallon sizes? I used to change the oil in our cars (I no longer do because it cost me $25 for supplies, and I can find coupons for 19.99). Check amazon and a few other of the low cost mega retailers. Also it was my experience that the oils are not much different – the brand names dont perform better (I also noticed that most of the oil could actually got 5-7k miles, instead of the 3k suggested.


    1. Hahah, so glad you guys stayed with us :)! Yeah, we definitely need to find a cheaper source for oil. I’m 100% fine with a non-name brand.

  25. Thank you for sharing your daily lives and your family’s frugal strategy and execution. You are an excellent writer and following your quest to early retirement to the woods has been very enlightening.

    I have been reading your blog for a few months and have never seen a “Charitable Giving” line item in your month budget report.

    I have no doubt that charitable giving is important to you. How do you determine the percentage of your income that you give to charity and where do you account for this expense?

    Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Nancy! Great question on charitable giving. We give all in one month each year, so that “expense” will show up all in the same month. We give to charities that we care about and that we feel do good work–typically, we give to smaller organizations where our donation will have a greater impact.

  26. Thanks for your inspiring frugality! My husband and I are definitely inspired to try to get our monthly non-mortgage expenses below a thousand. Right now they are more like $1200, but that also includes monthly savings for quarterly and annual bills (like car insurance, water, etc). We’re working on it though! We also have a little one on the way, so we enjoyed your post on the “baby industrial complex” as well. 🙂

    1. $1200/month is pretty darn awesome, C! Way to go! And, many congrats on expecting a baby :). When are you due? So exciting!!

  27. I’m curious what you do for pre-natal vitamins — I’d be interested in finding a lower cost option for these, and it looks like you may have found one.

    1. I’m not the FrugalWoods, but I scoped out 2-for-1 deals on the regular. Anytime I go to Walgreens or Target, I look at vitamins. Anytime I see the prenatals 2-for-1 or better, I buy several. Store them somewhere cool and dark (NOT in the bathroom) to prolong shelf-life.

      Also, there is some debate as to whether or not vitamins are necessary or if they’re even well absorbed. I have to take iron for borderline anemia (and it does help me), so I do keep buying that. I do pre-natals because I’d rather be safe than sorry. But I don’t do any other vits because of the uncertainty.

      1. Great question, Tricia! And, great tips, Leah! I actually found the cheapest prenatals to be the generic CVS brand (was surprisingly cheaper than Amazon or Costco). I can’t remember what the price per pill was, but it was darn cheap and I used some sort of in-store CVS coupon too.

  28. Oh man…our July expenses were through the roof! We embarked in two home renovations. We decided that it was time to save my knees and bring the laundry room from the basement to the second floor. We budgeted $5K but came under budget by $1K. Now we are half way through the bathroom renovation; not sure if we will be able to come under budget of $7,500. It was a complete gut job. On the bright side these projects were done utilizing cash. I am happy to say that we have been debt-free including the house since April of 2013.

    1. Paying cash for home renovations is fabulous! And, that’s wonderful you came in under budget on the laundry room relocation. Sounds like an exciting time around your (paid off!) house :).

  29. I admire your spirit and focus on what’s important in life . I hope this tip will help u reach your goal; it did for me. Change your motor oil 1x per 15,000 miles for $30. Mobil 1 synthetic “EXTENDED PERFORMANCE ” @ Walmart costs $26 for 5 qts. + $4. oil filter. I started using this in a 95 Cadillac Fleetwood @ 67,000 miles; it now has 234,000. 10 yrs. later. I would estimate it saved us $200/yr. My wife would like a new corvette ; which we could pay cash for right now . Maybe for her b’day in Nov. I’ll let her know she can afford to retire …like right now.

    1. Yes, I’m with you on changing the oil! We’re pretty good about doing that regularly with Frugalwoods-mobile. Definitely worth the expense to keep the car running well :). That’s great your car is still going strong! Ours is at about 206K (it’s a ’96), so we’re hoping to get many more years too :). The corvette sounds fun!

  30. It’s always so impressive how low your expenses are! I think our food bill was above your total for the month…. lol! I think it might be time for an attempt at an Uber Frugal month… August won’t work (wedding) but maybe September will be where we can turn the corner.

    1. Aww, thanks! Food used to be a huge expense for us too. I think it’s one of the toughest line items. But, once we got ours down, it’s like we never looked back. Hooray for the wedding :)!

  31. Hi. We like to hear how other people save money, as we have always had to keep a tight rein on our expenses. I thought it would be interesting to compare our spending in the UK with yours in the US, so converted our July spending to dollars and tried to use the same headings where I could, I came up with this: Utilities, gas & electric (month) $95, house tax, insurance & service charge $334, Union subscriptions $31, water (month) $36, pensions $327, plants for pots $23, internet $8 (this seems to be very expensive in the US), mobile phones $36, TV licence (obligatory to watch any TV in the UK) $19, diesel $124 (for camping trips in our campervan), eating out $337 (a heavy month due to various celebrations, this is usually about half this), camping sites $78, food & household goods $951 (no pets), presents for birthdays $108, total $2507 – which isn’t dissimilar to your monthly spending (without your mortgage), although we have spent a lot more on entertainment. We are old enough to be mortgage free and are working towards retirement at 57 years, which is early these days in the UK. We don’t have your healthcare costs, of course, thanks to our wonderful National Health Service.

    1. Very interesting exercise! Thank you for sharing that! Your internet is so very cheap–I’m jealous. We’re stuck with our high internet bill as there’s only one provider in town. That’s wonderful you’re mortgage-free and many congrats on working towards an early retirement!

  32. Be careful with Angies list. When I signed up with a coupon it setup aurorenew and hit me at full price1 year later. Also be aware that most of their revenue comes from contractor advertisement so they aren’t an independent 3rd party. Many great local businesses didn’t show up bc they’re not in our chapter (didn’t pay).

    Lastly homeadvisor has almost the same list of contractors for free.

  33. A friend posted your recent post for Forbes online which I read and decided to visit your blog. I can’t wait to look around more but we are also a super frugal family and I blog about it 🙂 Currently we are in the process of moving and have fallen off the frugal bandwagon with way too much eating out (cause we didn’t have a kitchen or the time) and we are now trying to get back on. I am looking forward to reading all your tips and trying to get back to our frugal roots.

  34. I live in Boston and shopped for a home in Boston and Cambridge in 2011. The one thing that’s a real mystery to me here is how you bought a 4 bedroom home in Cambridge in 2012 for under $500k. Which “square” of Cambridge is it in? I live in the area and am currently saving the majority of my after-tax income as well, although the strategy has been around income maximization rather than frugality.

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