Babywoods napping in my arms
Babywoods napping in my arms

November 2015 will forever be enshrined in our memories as the month that Babywoods made her appearance! Its been an incredible adventure thus far and I can say that becoming a parent is absolutely life changing and pretty awesome. Also, it’s exhausting and bizarre–after all, suddenly there’s a tiny human in our home who simply didn’t exist before. It’s quite a miraculous thing.

We didn’t do much this month other than nest, clean the house, decorate for Christmas (there’s nothing better than coming home from the hospital to a Christmas tree), and oh, you know, birth a baby.

Hence, this was a particularly inexpensive month for us, which provides the perfect counter-balance to our pricier months earlier this fall during which we traveled extensively. Mr. Frugalwoods and I are now delighted to be hunkered down at home with Babywoods (and Frugal Hound!) as we navigate this fascinating journey of parenthood.

My thanks to you all for your heartfelt congratulations on Babywoods–we deeply appreciate all of your good wishes. It was such a joy to read all of your sweet messages while recovering in the hospital. I plan to devote plenty of writing space to discussing our frugal parenting in the coming months, but for today, I’m just popping my head up from parental leave to bring you our November expenses.

Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expen$e$

Me at 40 weeks pregnant
Me at 40 weeks pregnant

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

Babywoods enjoying her garage sale swing 'neath the tree
Babywoods enjoying her garage sale swing ‘neath the tree

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 and Why We Don’t Micromanage Our Money. 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 November:

Item/Vendor Amount Frugalwoods Musings
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.
Groceries $316.31 We nailed it this month with groceries, due in part to our huge pre-Babywoods stock-up in October. I was delighted to see how little we spent this month!
Utilities: Water bill (3 months of usage) $148.26 Covers three months worth of water usage.
Household goods from Costco $126.60 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.
Utilities: Electric bill $56.59 Seeing a downward trend in this cost now that our chest freezer has supplanted monster fridge.
Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile $45.56 Two fill-ups for the ol’ 1996 Honda Odyssey (which recently rolled over 207,000 miles!).
2016 street parking permit for Cambridge, MA $25.00 Since we don’t have a driveway or garage, street parking is where it’s at for us. $25 for the entire year is a pretty good deal!
Utilities: Gas bill $23.18 Gas-tacular!
Beer $16.74 A 15-pack of Founder’s All Day IPA from Costco–cheap and yummy. Life is too short to drink subpar beer.
TOTAL SPENT: $3,053.69  

How was your November?

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  1. Love getting your posts, glad to see the new addition to the family is doing well. I’m excited to see your spending for December; it always seems to be the hardest month of the year for me to save.

  2. Nice work! It’s great how your expenses are mostly on autopilot. And when a major life event happens, it doesn’t throw you off. I love that you’ve taken a few days off from writing to spend some more time with Babywoods! I hope you’re getting some sleep ????

  3. My sweet baby is napping in my arms as I read this. Can’t wait to hear how you save money on baby woods. We have to use disposable diapers due to daycare but we have found that a good generic works great. Also we are about to try generic formula. Hoping to start seeing some cost savings there too. So happy to see you on the Today show recently. You have a beautiful family!

    1. Just a thought, if you’re interested – most daycares will use pre-stuffed pocket (cloth) diapers or all-in-one cloth if you provide a full days’ worth with a wet bag and take the used ones home at night. There are no state regulations in any state that ban cloth for daycares, so if they say that they “can’t”, they just haven’t thought about it before and probably think cloth = pins and soaking buckets. Just an idea, should that be something you’d like to try! 🙂

  4. With the arrival of Babywoods are you going to up the temp a couple degrees this winter or have you come up with other ways to keep her warm?

    1. Good question! We currently have the thermostat set at 63 for both day and night, which seems to be working well for everyone. Babywoods is snug in her warm swaddle and seems content with the temp. In the past, we had it at 62 during the day and 58 at night, so this is just a tad higher.

  5. Congratulations on your beautiful daughter! Out of curiosity, how did you spend so little on gas – natural gas – for heating and cooking? November was unseasonably warm, but not that warm!

      1. Congrats on the baby! We ended up having our boy on 10/28. I know this is a frugal site, and I know every $ counts, but I’ve never understood keeping the temperature down so low. I get that you might acclimate, but to me, it’s never been worth the savings. I like my house to be toasty and comfortable. To each their own I guess right?

    1. I’m curious about this too! Milwaukee was only slightly colder than Cambridge last month and – from what I can see online – your natural gas costs seem similar to ours. We kept the thermostat at 65F around the clock and we even have a 95% efficient furnace. Our gas bill was still $93!

      Although, our house is a 2500+ square foot Victorian from 1902; not really the most air-tight / energy efficient benchmark.

  6. I’m curious… I know you drive a 96 van, and really appreciate that frugality, but what are your intentions when fixing the vehicle outweighs the cost of a purchase? How do you plan that purchase? Would it be new or used? Cash, or credit? I love reading all of your blogs, and in the past few months, since beginning to read these, I have streamlined my spending, stopped my frivolous shopping habits (I was a little addicted), am sticking to a budget, and am planning to pay my first 3 year loan off in six months. I am using a snowball technique. Anyways. Thanks for being you, Congratulations on babywoods, and can’t wait to hear your response (hopefully in a blog post- since its such a big question). Happy holidays!

    1. I’ve had the same question about when to replace the van. For me, my 2005 Scion xA with 135,000 miles should have been good to go for another 10 years. And yet I bought a new-to-me car last winter. Why? Because it was in the shop, or I had to call AAA, about once/month. All weird things, like the floor rusted through in the back, or the 9 month old battery was dead when we got back from vacation, or the exhaust system was leaking/needed a repair for the second time in 3 years. I had “I should get a newer car” in the back of my mind for 9 months before I did it. The car caused too much “what will happen next?” stress, and I don’t have a public transit alternative when my car is in the shop, so my car went to a more appropriate home way before I wished she did. I still miss her. That was a long winded way of saying that everyone has their own tipping point where fixing the vehicle outweighs the cost of a purchase. It did not make financial sense to get a new car, but I bought peace of mind.

      I wanted an electric car. I am in a 2 car household, my husband has an SUV for hauling things and longer trips so it was a reasonable second car. I went certified pre-owned, and got an off-lease 3 year old car. I was going to pay cash but DCU (a credit union primarily in Massachusetts) has a great rate on fuel efficient cars so I took a loan at 1.25% and left my money in the stock market. Is that the right choice for everyone? No. Some people get more peace of mind paying cash so they don’t have to deal with a payment. A private sale is usually cheaper (though I couldn’t find any cheaper at the time, my CPO had been on the lot 3 months and was marked down to move). Most people want to be able to go on a road trip, or hiking in the woods, and a 70 mile range just isn’t going to cut it. I’ve wanted an electric car for 20 years, and like I said we have another car for the occasional long trip, so the purchase made me very happy. I’ve had it 10 months so far and no maintenance other than switching to winter tires. The “right” choice is different for everyone.

      Hopefully the Frugalwoods will chime in, though I could see waiting ’til they actually decide to buy a new car. I bet, like the dorm fridge, they’ll have a novel perspective I’d never considered.

      1. Good questions about the ol’ Frugalwoods-mobile! Thus far, we haven’t had to spend much to keep the van running (knock on wood!), which is why we have kept it for so long. There will certainly be a tipping point where a repair will cost more than the van is worth and we’ll throw in the towel. But, until that day comes, we’ll keep trucking along. For our next car, we will buy another used (but much newer) vehicle and will pay all cash. I have a few posts about our car plans if you’re interested in further reading: Help Us Choose The Next Frugalwoods-mobile! and Ode To An Old Car: Our Money-Saving Machine. I hope this helps :)!

  7. Well of course congrats once again on frugal baby! Luckily “Nick” has awhile before he has to learn to cut baby hair. 🙂 I’m jealous of your gas prices on the east coat, and I love how there is a category for beer. Will there be some wiggle room for boxed wine now that BW is here?

    1. Give the man a break, lol. His daughter is less than a month old and you are worried about him trimming his daughter’s hair? It’s a girl! He needs bonding time with Daddy’s little girl. Daddy’s do thing for their little girls that you would not think they would. My guy and his daughter are tight. He would take her grocery shopping, taught her to cook, braided her hair, taught her to drive, change a tire and shoot a rifle and pistol. He even shopped with her for clothes because she always fought with her mother. Everyone thinks that a guy has to have a son, my guy has one too, an awesome young man, but daughters melt your heart. Frankly I think my guy is a better man for having a daughter. I had boys, wanted a daughter and miss having a girl fix because his daughter is in her twenties and 2000 miles away. But I get a guy who is not shy to do things with a lady. He is my best friend. We cook together, he changes my oil, I bake for him (except pizza, he is an awesome pizza chef, my boys like to make pizza with the chef). He takes me fishing, kayaking, hiking, taught me to shoot and takes me hunting as well. He sorts the clothes, sheets, towels and makes me breakfast on weekends. He takes me to church on Sundays and Bible study midweek. He is a very strong man but kind and gentle. A retired military man that knows how to bark, but does so sparingly, he knows that part of him scares me. He trims my hair, braids it for me and gives a great back and foot massage. Let Nick be a Dad and a good husband. Strong men are secure enough to be nurturing parents.

  8. Congratulations on parenthood! That is one beautiful baby! What are your thoughts on doing EC? AKA going with a diaper-free baby? We’re preparing to have children and I’ve been reading this book by Christine Gross-Loh: The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative. I’m not done reading and finalizing my research so I can’t give an informed opinion on the subject yet. November was a superb month for us. Our total spending for the month was $2,050.36. We don’t do monthly expense reports on our site but will have our annual 2015 spending report in January.

  9. Whoa! And if there were ever an “excuse” to let loose on the frugality and spend some money to “feather the nest”, it would seem that having a baby would be it. But not for you guys! =)

  10. We kicked butt in November and almost spent as much as you all did (though we don’t have a mortgage!). Most of that was the cruise we booked for January. Caribbean time!

    It’ll be interesting to watch your expenses fluctuate with the new kid. We found kids to save us money in many ways since we were dead tired most of the time and just didn’t go out much or go on vacations (I probably mentioned that in my guest post coming out next week).

  11. Congrats on a great month and a beautiful baby. I know nesting can drive up expenses right before delivery. Sounds like you did a great job resisting that urge. It’s nice to stock up on a few things including freezer meals, but it’s not like you’ll never go shopping again once you have a baby.

  12. My November was cash-bleeding. Absolutely gruesome. We hemorrhaged money and came out nearly $1300 in the red. We do not have large incomes, so a month with a $400 tree removal and $700 for snow tires and spare rims, plus other unusual expenses AND a delayed FSA reimbursement, was bound to not be our best one.

    Well, that’s why we have a cash cushion. Covered it out of savings and live to fight another day. I’m looking forward a seriously in-the-black December even though we are buying some Christmas presents thanks to cash gifts from family, a $240 “wellness bonus: I earned, and an extremely well-timed three-paycheck month for me.

    And I’m looking forward to a 2016 in which our savings have snowballed to the extent that I don’t notice three-paycheck months!

    1. Oh ouch–bummer on those expenses! But, that’s great you were able to cover everything out of savings–a great benefit of frugality. And congrats on the bonus 🙂

  13. Love your blog – just curious, where do you factor in car insurance? So great that you don’t have a cable bill — that’s next on my list to cut (as well as trying to lower our rates for insurance)

  14. Congrats on Babywoods! Love this blog.
    Question about the finance app PERSONAL CAPITAL that you use…
    My hubby and I still have separate bank accounts, can we sync/consolidate all of ours together here to view into one user?

    Thank you 🙂

    1. My fiance and I use Personal Capital too and we consolidate both our bank accounts (we maintain them separately) into one user.
      Makes it easier to do the budget

        1. No worries – we budget around an hour or so each a month to look at our spending/budget and determine if there’s wiggle room for more travel 🙂

          Then we also look at the investment options and how we can afford them.

  15. So great to hear from you on your family’s current state with Babywoods! Thanks for sharing such precious photos of this little bundle of joy. How’s Frugal Hound adapting to this new tiny human at home?

    1. Yes, I’m very curious about how Frugalhound (Gracie) is adapting. I’m sure there is some degree of jealousy, since she was your ”baby” before Estelle came along. When introducing new pets one trick is to rub the new pet and then rub its smell to the older pet and make it “their” scent. Or give one of Estelle’s blankets to Gracie to lay on. This should allay some of Frugalhound’s stress. Now you have TWO beautiful children! lol

      1. Frugal Hound has fortunately been very laid back about the introduction of Babywoods and actually barely even notices her! She’s a very simple dog and seems content to just go about her regular routine. Makes it pretty easy on us! And, we try and give her extra special scratches too 🙂

  16. I don’t budget in the strict sense of the word. BUT, I estimate in December what my big expenses will be for the next year, such as house and car insurance, house tax, health insurance premiums, Christmas gifts, HOA fees, etc, total them up and then divide by 12. That amount will be added to my special use savings account monthly so that I don’t have to scamper to find the money for them since they get paid once a year or quarterly. The rest of my income goes into my checking to pay for groceries and credit card bills (I pay the balance in full each month) and other stuff. Whatever is leftover goes to savings. Since I’m retired now and my income is small and fixed there’s very little leftover for savings. Since I’m past 70 I am required to take the Required Minimum Distribution from my IRA at Vanguard and that goes to a separate checking account to pay for utilities and trash disposal. I was never a big spender but wish I had known when your age how to do the above and about how to invest in stocks, I would be in a much better situation now. However, I still manage to live within my means, so I am at peace with myself.

    1. Sounds like you have a good system worked out! And, I like how you said you’re at peace with your finances–I think that’s such an important and liberating thing.

  17. Aw! Beautiful Baby woods Estelle! Love the pic of her under the tree!

    Mr Wannabe and I, who are near 50 and 60 both commented that”ugh! If only we had known each other and lived in such a way at your ages!”

    People give me “that weird look” for retiring at 46.

    When you get “that look” tell them (in the wise words of Chris Hogan) “retirement is a number, not an age.”
    Way to go you two!


  18. Your entire spending for November is the same about as only my mortgage payment… too funny!
    Our November wasn’t too bad spending wise, but our December is already way more expensive.
    Congratulations on a beautiful baby girl!

  19. Estelle is a beautiful baby. So happy for both of you. And you may find that you’re spending even less than usual now because, although I know you don’t go out much, you’ll be spending more time at home with Babywoods. Congrats again!

  20. I went MIA for a while, and didn’t ever get to say congratulations. So happy for you guys.

    Always happy to see another PF nerd having kids: it makes me optimistic for the future financial literacy of our nation.

    1. It was my pleasure–it was so fun to talk to other adults! I hope her little noises don’t mess up the recording too much. She’s kind of a loud baby… wonder where she gets that from 😉

  21. Again, congrats on Estelle! She is absolutely beautiful. As for our spending, 🙁 (the sad face says it all). We are going on a spending freeze next month. It’s been absolutely terrible!

    1. Thank you for the congrats! And, I think that recognizing you need a spending freeze is more than half the battle–kudos to you for being on top of it. I wish you all the best and I’m sure you’ll rock it.

  22. Congratulations on Estelle, she is adorable. Estelle was a very popular name in Quebec in the 1920’s and 30’s and very uncommon here at this time. Great job on your November spending. We recently moved and our expenses are through the roof. My husband does the all the renovations himself, but my, are they ever expensive – always much more than expected.

    1. We loved Estelle in part for that reason–it’s pretty uncommon here too, but was popular circa the 20s/30s. I love the names of that era. Moving is always so expensive! Even when you do it frugally, it always adds up. But, that’s awesome your husband is doing the renovations himself–you must be saving a ton by doing that!

  23. You are one adorable family! So great to see all of all of you. (= I have 3 grown kids and with the birth each one I felt what you said.. total amazement that this whole person wasn’t here and now they were and Wow!, what they brought to our lives each time. Quite a miraculous thing! Blessings, love and laughter to you all.

  24. Congrats on Babywoods! She’s beautiful!

    Every grandparent, sibling, co-worker, or friend will try to offer you advice if they’ve had a child before. Everyone seems to think they know the best way to parent your child…even when it doesn’t fit with your values.

    I’m here to encourage you to stay strong and do things your own way.

    I look forward to your frugal parenting tricks. Good luck on those sleepless nights!

  25. So happy to meet all three of you face to face! I read you first thing every morning. Archives, guests and new wisdom.Just want to thank you for some practical , substantive meat that has changed my journey to my own homestead drastically!

  26. Your daughter is beautiful! Congratulations to the family – this is an awesome time that flies by quickly. . Can’t wait to see the fun you’ll have with your daughter!

  27. Babywoods is adorable! Aw.. So sweet. Glad to hear she, and you are back home. Great low spending month also. We did… Ok haha. We had a trip down to scout for new areas to relocate to. First time moving and its 17 hours away! Still have to sell our house but have been searching for the right new spot. We did the trip fairly inexpensive though. Otherwise, our spending was well under $1000 for the month! Woohoo! Congrats again on the new bundle of joy!

  28. Congratulations on your new little bundle! My maternity leave with my first was one of my most treasured times, hands down. I hope you enjoy it, and that if you’re having a hard time, you reach out for help. I know your posts are always positive, so I’d imagine that if you were struggling with any postpartum issues that it could be difficult to identify it. (I’m a social worker and have been to hell and back with a best friend after the birth of her first, so I always add that clause when congratulating a new mama. Lots of pressure, but there’s lots of support, too! Just throwing that out there.) I want to add a comment for your (and your guests’) consideration when talking about how kids are not expensive. It’s not always possible to have a parent stay home or to have friends/relatives in the area that can provide childcare. We have barely purchased anything for our children (ages 2 & 4), since we are also very thrifty with gift cards and returning unnecessary gifts for store credit and buying essentials only when we need them. I participate in a chain of hand-me-downs, used cloth diapers for both kids, breastfed, etc. But with grad school, cross-state moves, periods of un(and under-)employment, distance from family and inflexible work schedules, we’ve had to rely on professional childcare services that typically cost about half a salary (we both have masters degrees in low-paying fields). This is is tremendously sensitive issue, and I just want to bring to the surface that even though you can get around all the baby gear and extra purchases for kiddos, you either forfeit income from salary (and in our case, solid health insurance while my husband finished grad school) to stay home, or you pay for childcare until your kids are in school. It’s hard for me to read posts about how frugal you can be with kids and how much they don’t cost, without addressing this as well. It’s a huge impact, and it affects everyone differently depending on the route they are able to take, but it does affect everyone. I’m interested to learn about the arrangement you’ve worked out for Babywoods until your move.

    I love reading your posts and look forward to it first thing every M, W, F. I have fun following your journey and pick up tips along the way. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Keep up the great work and have a wonderful new year!

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