I’ve dubbed August “Babywoods Preparedness Month” since much of the month was devoted to readying our abode for the newest, tiniest Frugalwoods member. Though she’s not due until late November, I’m what you might call a planner (to put it mildly… ) and for me, seeing our physical space transformed into a baby-welcoming zone helps me process and internalize the imminent fact of her arrival. Plus, washing and folding her itty-bitty clothing is adorable!!!!
The one thing we aren’t doing to prepare for our daughter? Spending money. Nope, it’s totally unnecessary. We’re still rocking our $20 grand total for Babywoods and intend to keep it that way.
We also celebrated Mr. Frugalwoods’ 32nd birthday this month with his meal of choice: BBQ take-out from Blue Ribbon BBQ. They make a mean vinegar-based sauce to accompany their pulled pork and it’s downright delicious. I’m always quite delighted when he chooses this as his annual celebratory meal. Bonus: their serving sizes are so generous that we stretched it into a full three meals for the two of us. Yum.
This brings our total meals out (that we’ve paid for) in 2015 up to 1.5 (we covered part of our anniversary dinner with a gift card). Rarely eating out is one of those key elements in how we spend so little, but we’re happy to dine out for the occasional special occasion–like a birthday!
August turned out to be another notoriously low-spend month, as you’ll see below with our $843.42 in non-mortgage spending. We’re some happy frugal weirdos anytime our spending is below $1,000!
Stuff We Don’t Buy (Or Not Monthly Anyway):
I’ve received a slew of questions from readers lately on common expenses not found in our monthly expense reports, so I’ve assembled the below list of items that either don’t appear monthly, or don’t appear at all:
- Health insurance: we are extraordinarily fortunate that Mr. FW’s generous and progressive company pays not only for his healthcare but for mine too! Babywoods will be covered in full as well. Can’t tell you how grateful we are for this!
- Mobile phones: another area where we’re just plain lucky dogs. Both of our employers pay our cell phone bills every month.
- Trash/recycling: Cambridge doesn’t charge us for either of these.
Entertainment: when you can scope great trash finds, hike, and finagle free yoga, who needs an entertainment budget? We hang with our friends at each other’s houses and enjoy hosting (and attending) backyard BBQs, dinner parties, and at-home coffee dates. Just this past weekend alone, we had a friend over for dinner on Friday night and then attended a BBQ at another friend’s home on Sunday. Gotta love our frugal friends!
- Dining out: we don’t do this except for special circumstances (like Mr. FW’s bday!).
- Car insurance: we pay this once every six months (and August just so happens to be one of those months), so it doesn’t show up as a monthly expense.
- Water bill: the city charges us once every three months, so this expense doesn’t appear monthly.
- Cable: we’re not cord cutters–we’ve never even had it!
- Clothes: my clothes buying ban is still going strong, even at 7 months pregnant! And Mr. FW is sort of on a lifelong clothes buying ban due to his hatred of clothes shopping.
- Student loans/unsecured debt: we don’t have any and, in fact, never have.
- Charitable giving: we do all of our charitable giving in one fell swoop, so it’ll all show up in the same month.
Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expen$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. If you’re not tracking your expenses in an organized fashion, give Personal Capital a try. 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 $4.23 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).
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.
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.
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 during the month of August:
|Mortgage & Escrow for Taxes & Insurance
|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.
|A particularly cheap grocery month for us, thanks in large part to the fact that we didn’t go to Costco. Since we aim for $300-$350/month in this category, it’ll even out with more expensive months over the course of the year.
|6 Months of Car Insurance for Frugalwoods-mobile
|This represents 6 months worth of car insurance for our beloved 1996 Honda Odyssey. This ridiculous thrifty insurance (circa $404/year) is one of the many reasons why we love our old beast of a vehicle.
|One Chest Freezer
|A chest freezer. Are you intrigued? I know I am. Stay tuned for a forthcoming post on both this chest freezer and the free mini-fridge I found by the side of the road…
|Ahhh the electric bills of summer… we used our AC more in July than any other month. But we do turn it off and open up the windows whenever possible.
|Quite a necessary part of life for us. Too bad there’s only one internet provider in all of Cambridge. Oh well, it’s at least a tad lower thanks to Mr. FW calling the company and negotiating a lower rate (which he did by threatening to cancel it altogether–amazingly, that worked!).
|One C02 tank refill for our epically hacked Sodastream. Read all about it here.
|Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile
|One tank of gas for the ol’ Frugalwoods-mobile. A fabulous benefit of living in the city is how little we drive.
|A restaurant meal–gasp!
|Mr. FW’s celebratory birthday take-out dinner!
|A fine and dandy gas bill.
|Dollar Store miscellany
|Pretty sure this was several $1 birthday cards, two sticks of deoderant, and a few other miscellaneous household goods.
|20-pack of hangers
|I was in dire need of more hangers for my hand-me-down maternity clothes, which have almost entirely supplanted my regular wardrobe in our closet.