September was markedly more expensive than the past several months due to a panoply of miscellaneous occurrences. Most notably, we booked flights to Chicago for my cousin’s wedding, which takes place in a few short weeks. Time with family is something we value tremendously and so spending money on these plane tickets was an easy decision to make.
It’s also the beauty of living the uber frugal life–when we want to travel, we just do because we can easily afford it. We probably could’ve gotten a better deal if we’d booked farther in advance, however… due to the fact that I’ll be 34 weeks pregnant when we travel, we wanted to wait until the last possible minute to solidify our plans.
Fortunately, I’m feeling fantastic and my doctor said I’m fit and fine to fly. I am so incredibly thankful that I’m having such an easy pregnancy! I continue to practice yoga, eat well, and just generally feel great. I’ve been very mindful of my diet and exercise regime throughout pregnancy, which I think contributes to how stellar I’m feeling.
Also in September… our epic 901-mile, one-day road trip from Charlotte, NC to Cambridge, MA, Frugal Hound’s annual vet exam, and a ‘prepared childbirth’ class at the hospital where Babywoods’ll be born. We’re feeling prepared for birth! Well, as prepared as one can be for this sort of thing…
Classic frugal weirdo moments of attending this class: we were the only people who packed our lunch vs. bought it in the cafeteria; I was the only person who asked questions related to expenses surrounding baby’s birth; we were certainly the most excited class participants to learn about the free, fully-stocked pantry of snacks, sodas, and coffee on the maternity floor. You should’ve seen the look of sheer joy we exchanged when they casually mentioned all the free food we could consume before, during, and after her birth. Score!
Although this month saw us spend a whopping $1,645.99 in non-mortgage expenses, we’re not concerned because all of our purchases were in line with our overarching goals. Since we don’t budget or check-in on our expenses during the month, it’s key for us to always operate from a place of values-based spending.
When you know you’re only forking over cash for stuff you actually care about, the total dollar amount is almost immaterial. Plus, we’ve learned that pricey months like this one balance out with super thrifty months like June’s $793.90 and August’s $843.42. Thanks to this, we find that we spend an average of $1,000 per month.
Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expen$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
Any way you want! 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).
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.
Wondering about some common expenses that you don’t see listed below? Our August 2015 expense report has the answers you seek!
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 September:
|Mortgage & Escrow for Taxes & Insurance||$2,238.50||Yep, it’s high. But, we live in a very high COL city (Cambridge, MA) and this house will be our cash-flowin’ rental after we decamp to our rural homestead.|
|Airfare (two round-trip tickets to Chicago)||$392.40||One of my cousins is getting married this month and we’re excited to head out to the midwest to celebrate with my family! This is the type of money we don’t hesitate to spend.|
|Groceries||$356.34||A tad high this month, which balances out last month’s dirt cheap $200.33 grocery bill.|
|Rental car||$153.39||Our one-way rental car, which we drove from North Carolina to Boston in one day. Find out why!|
|Frugal Hound’s vet exam and vaccinations||$116.00||Frugal Hound’s annual vet exam and vaccinations. Read all about how we frugally hack doggie care.|
|Home improvement supplies||$113.97||Tools and materials for various home improvement projects around the ol’ abode.|
|Gasoline for rental car||$71.94||The gas we purchased for our rental car.|
|Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile||$35.67||The gas we purchased for our own car.|
|Utilities: Electric (covers August)||$104.83||August was likely our highest air-conditioning usage month, plus, it was before we pulled the plug on monster fridge. Looking forward to lower bills in the future!|
|Household goods from Costco||$65.30||Household supplies (including such things as dog food, toothpaste, toilet paper, vitamins, and more). This total does not include any human food.|
|Internet||$56.95||A very necessary expense around here.|
|Costco membership||$55.00||Our annual Costco membership, which is worth it to us for the savings we reap on dog food alone!|
|Heartworm medication for Frugal Hound||$41.97||Six-month supply of heartworm prevention meds for Frugal Hound.|
|Co-pay for annual eye doctor exam||$35.00||I had my annual eye exam this past month and was cleared with perfect vision (thanks to my LASIK surgery a few years ago, which by the way, is some of the best money I’ve ever spent.)|
|Utilities: Gas||$20.23||I can’t think of anything witty or clever to say about our gas bill. It’s gas, we pay it, the end.|
|Public transportation||$20.00||Mr. FW added money to his subway pass. This’ll last him quite awhile since we usually walk or bike in lieu of taking the train.|
|Prenatal vitamins||$5.00||Gotta keep Babywoods healthy!|
|Parking meter||$2.00||Had to pay for a parking meter in the city of Boston. Boo.|