October was definitely our pre-baby travel and spending blow-out month. We lived it up! Not that we won’t travel after Babywoods is born, but we’re in baby blackout travel mode for the immediate future.
In October, we went to New York City to speak at New York University about the benefits of frugality and the awesomeness of being frugal weirdos, then we jetted off to Rockford, IL for my cousin’s beautiful wedding, and the following weekend found us driving around Vermont for one final pre-baby homestead hunt.
Who says the third trimester is for slowing down? Heck no! I was out and about–after all, why not! My doctor was fine with me traveling and I feel great, so no reason to impose unnecessary limitations on my pregnant self.
As I shared on Facebook, this was also the month in which we dressed Frugal Hound up as a mummy. You’re welcome for bringing these photos into your life. As you might’ve guessed, this was a very frugal Halloween costume indeed, being as it was, comprised entirely of Costco toilet paper. Contrary to popular belief, we did not reuse this toilet paper. Folks, even we have limits. There is such a thing as “frugal too far.”
We also fortified our pantry and stocked up on all sorts of foodstuffs for Mr. FW to employ in his freezer meals extravaganza project. Thus far, we have a bunch-o-servings loaded into our chesty freezer, ready to feast upon during our sleep-deprived first few weeks of parenting. Since we’ve heard from many a new parent that they succumbed to take-out more times than they care to remember, we’re hoping to stave off that expense by cooking a ton of meals in advance. A huge thanks to everyone who provided us with your favorite freezer food recipes!!
As we round the corner on 37 weeks of pregnancy (and hence, according to math, a mere three weeks to Babywoods’ due date!), we’re quite pleased with the amount of travel and preparation we conducted this past month. I’m totally OK with our higher spending this month because: 1) it facilitated valuable travel opportunities–visiting family and perusing potential homesteads, and 2) it reflects work towards our post-birth plans in the arena of food–something near and dear to my heart and which I always want to prepare for.
The Best $450 We’ll Spend All Year
Our favorite expense by far this month was our $450 pre-payment for the co-pay on Babywoods’ birth. I had no idea you could pre-pay a co-pay, but, I learned this is an option our hospital offers AND they gave us $50 off for paying in full in advance! Our co-pay at the time of birth would’ve been $500, so we’re thrilled to save 50 bucks.
We are extremely fortunate that this $450 is all-inclusive for her birth, the hospital stay for all three of us (partners are encouraged to stay and sleep in the room with mom and baby), all in-hospital supplies/services (including diapers, meals, lactation consultants, breastfeeding class, etc), and covers whatever type of birth we end up having–natural, with an epidural, c-section, etc.
It’s nice to know we’ve already paid for Babywoods’ entry into the world and it’ll make checking into the hospital just that much smoother. I also think it’s kind of hilarious that we pre-paid for her birth–it seems like a very frugal weirdo thing to do. But hey, as I learned with paying in full for my LASIK surgery, there’s often a discount for paying in advance!
Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expen$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. No excuses.
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
The below is an itemization of every single dollar we spent over the course of the 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.
But Mrs. Frugalwoods, Don’t You Pay For X, Y, Or Even Z????
Wondering about common expenses that you don’t see listed below? Our August 2015 expense report has the answers you seek!
Alright you frugal money voyeurs, feast your eyes on every dollar we spent during the month of October:
|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.|
|Co-pay pre-payment for Babywoods’ birth||$450.00||The best $450 we’ll spend all year. I was delighted to save $50 off of our co-pay for her birth by paying in full in advance. ALWAYS ask if there’s a frugal weirdo (aka the pay-in-full-in-advance) discount!).|
|Groceries||$402.92||Higher than our usual $300-$350 due to purchasing items for our Babywoods freezer meals extravaganza prep.|
|Hotel in Rockford, IL (4 nights)||$341.96||A rare hotel expense for us. We usually use our Starwood Preferred Guest points to stay free at Starwood properties, but we wanted to stay at the same hotel as my parents and there wasn’t a Starwood nearby.|
|AirBnB in Bethel, VT (2 nights)||$202.00||A worthy Vermont AirBnB expense for our homestead hunting trip last weekend. Always happy to pay for a value-added place to lodge.|
|Household goods from Costco||$184.16||Household supplies (including such things as dog food, toothpaste, toilet paper, vitamins, and more). This total does not include any human food.|
|Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile||$77.15||Much higher than normal due to our drive up to Vermont to homestead hunt (of course, getting lost in the wilderness didn’t help either… ).|
|Utilities: Electric||$76.14||Seeing a downward trend in this bill now that our chest freezer has supplanted monster fridge.|
|Uber and taxi to and from airport||$52.67||Our flight to Chicago was too early in the AM for us to use the subway (it wasn’t running yet) and our return flight was so late in the evening that we elected to splurge and taxi it home as well.|
|Oil change for Frugalwoods-mobile||$30.00||If we had a garage or driveway, we could perform this routine maintenance ourselves, but in the absence of that, parking on a city street just doesn’t allow for it.|
|Mr. FW eye doctor co-pay||$20.00||Mr. FW had his eyes examined because there’s nothing cheaper than preventative healthcare.|
|Beer||$16.74||A 15-pack of Founder’s All Day IPA from Costco–cheap and yummy. Life is too short to drink bad beer.|
|Home improvement supplies||$9.34||Tools and materials for various home improvement projects around the ol’ abode.|