The first month of 2016 was a great little frugal month for us. Our aim is always to spend around $1,000 or less in any given month and so January’s $1,013.32 is right on target. One helpful boon is that its been a particularly mild winter thus far, which keeps our heating bill on the low side.
We got out and about for a few rounds of hiking and snowshoeing this month, which was most delightful. Babywoods, for her part, seems to love snowshoeing as it entails riding in her carrier being lightly bounced–two of her most favorite hobbies. Walking through peaceful, snowy woods is an idyllic way to combat the occasional cabin fever of parenthood (as in, who knows what day it is or the last time we showered… ). I’ve realized I’ve got to get out and about and so does Babywoods!
Update: since a number of folks have asked, Mr. FW and I have these snowshoes from Amazon, which we like a lot. Happy snowshoeing!
In the fall, Mr. FW cooked huge batches of meals to freeze (split pea soup, chili, and chicken tikka masala to name a few) in anticipation of Babywoods’ birth and a need for easily prepared foods. This month, I’m pleased to report that the frozen dinner extravaganza continues to be a resounding success. We’ve greatly enjoyed the ease of pulling these delicious meals out of our chest freezer and haven’t had to resort to take-out one single time.Woohoo! Now that we’re parents, we’re learning anything that saves us time is a worthy endeavor.
In fact, we’ve deemed the frozen dinners such a victory that Mr. FW is going to start batch cooking and freezing meals on a regular basis. This weekend he’s planning to whip up a vat of chili that we’ll be able to portion into 8-10 meals. Yum.
Personal Capital: It’s How We Organize Our Expen$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 (not counting maxing out our 401Ks).
Want to know how we manage the rest of our monies? Look no further thanWhy 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 inaugural month of 2016:
|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||$336.77||Our aim is always to bring groceries in under $350, so this month was a resounding success.|
|Household goods||$333.60||Household supplies (including such things as dog food, toothpaste, toilet paper, vitamins, and more). This total does not include any human food.|
|Utilities: Electric bill||$77.41||Higher than normal, most likely due to having our Christmas lights on in December. Expensive but worth it for the beauty of our tree!|
|Utilities: Gas bill||$72.03||It’s getting colder and so the heat is on (but don’t worry, it’s not turned up very high). See how we keep our heating bill low here.|
|Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile||$61.22||Did a bit more driving this month to enable our hiking/snowshoeing adventures.|
|Internet||$56.45||A very necessary expense around here.|
|Sidewalk salt||$34.65||Pet safe sidewalk salt in preparation for snow.|
|Wine and beer||$25.19||From Costco’s liquor store–very reasonable indeed.|
|Masspike tolls||$10.00||Tolls for our forays to hike.|
|Parking in the city||$6.00||We must’ve parked somewhere in the city this month.|