Our first month of parenthood–aka the last month of 2015–turned out to be abnormally, nay astonishingly, inexpensive. In fact, it was our cheapest month on record by far. But fear not we haven’t unlocked a new frugality potion, rather, this was due to several extenuating circumstances that all converged in December.
How We Only Spent $453.70 In December
That’s right, I said $453.70. Firstly, we did a fair amount of stocking up in the food and household goods departments in October and November in preparation for Babywoods’ arrival. We’ve been enjoying the fruits of Mr. Frugalwoods’ past cooking labors as we dine on the meals he prepared and froze for us in advance. Hence, we didn’t make our traditional monthly sojourn to Costco. We also pre-paid the co-payment on Babywoods’ birth in October (which yielded a discount on the total cost).
Secondly, we spent the first week of December in the hospital following Babywoods‘ birth, which meant we dined on free hospital food for that week (pretty sure we were the most excited people on the maternity ward about the free food… ).
Thirdly, both Mr. FW’s parents and my parents came to visit and, as a baby gift, purchased groceries for us all to eat while they were here. This was an absolutely fantastic gift and we’re deeply grateful to them. Several friends also brought us meals, which was simply wonderful. If anyone is ever wondering what to get new parents, the answer is always–and I mean always–FOOD. Thank you friends, parents, and parents-in-law!
And finally, we didn’t take advantage of our otherwise lowered expenses to buy unnecessary stuff. To the contrary, we view extra thrifty months as opportunities to off-set costlier months. By racking up the savings in the months where we can, we’re able to realize a super high savings rate overall each year.
Wondering how we handle Christmas gifts? Check out my Holiday Gifts For Frugal Weirdos To Give And Receive!
$30 Of Which Was A Parking Ticket…
We didn’t drive much this month due to our hibernating new parent status–we primarily hung out at home, tried to sleep (mostly failed), and took walks with Babywoods and Frugal Hound in tow. But then the one time we did drive… we managed to get ourselves a parking ticket. We took Babywoods to Mr. FW’s office to meet his colleagues and forgot to run out and add more money to the parking meter, which netted us a $30 fine. Epic frugal (and life) fail!
The Hound And The Baby (who are both vastly more interesting/popular than me)
Frugal Hound and Babywoods both had a frugal month as well–neither of them requires much in the way of expensive stuff. Babywoods just wants to breastfeed (which I feel like I do almost all day long… in fact, she’s eating as I type this… very meta). And Frugal Hound is content to play with her toys and ignore Babywoods, which seems to be her modus operandi for all things baby.
Never has a dog been so ambivalent about the presence of a wee one in the home. I’m pretty sure she thinks Babywoods is merely a little extension of me and not actually a distinct person. It’s pretty hilarious how uninterested she is in the baby and all things baby-related. Due to this, Frugal Hound continues in her vein of being the dumbest/sweetest/easiest dog in the entire world. I mean seriously.
Thanks, You Guys!
I also want to take a moment here to thank you all for your good wishes and encouraging notes, emails, and messages this past month as Mr. FW and I took parental leave. Furthermore, thank you for your thoughtful responses to all of our wonderful guest posts. I’m deeply grateful to this wonderful frugal community and I’m delighted to be almost back full-time to writing and sharing frugal thoughts with you all. I really felt the love this month and it means a lot to me that you folks are an immensely kind and caring bunch. Awwww!
Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expen$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 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 December:
|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.|
|Utilities: Gas bill||$59.67||It’s getting colder and so the heat is on (but don’t worry, it’s not turned up very high). Read about how we keep our heating bill low here.|
|Internet||$56.95||A most necessary expense for us.|
|Prescription medications and co-pay||$54.24||A medley of prescription medications for Mommywoods following Babywoods’ birth along with one doctor’s visit co-pay.|
|Household goods||$49.39||Random assortment of household ephemera.|
|Utilities: Electric bill||$46.07||A standard electric bill.|
|Groceries||$45.73||Abnormally low due to the aforementioned extenuating circumstances of December.|
|Stamps||$33.25||100 postcard stamps for our Christmas card/birth announcement.|
|Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile||$30.93||Didn’t drive much this month due to, you know, having a baby.|
|Parking Ticket||$30.00||But the one time we did drive… managed to get ourselves a parking ticket when we took Babywoods over to Mr. FW’s office to meet his colleagues. Totally our fault for not remembering to dash out and add more money to the meter.|
|Christmas cards||$29.47||100 copies of our Christmas card/birth announcement from VistaPrint.|
|EZ Pass toll tag||$11.00||An addition of funds to our EZ Pass (toll tag for the interstate).|
|Hospital parking||$7.00||The cost of parking in the hospital parking garage for Babywoods’ birth.|