Babywoods' first Easter!
Babywoods’ first Easter!

March–oh month of fickle springtime–saw us tackle an ever-increasing pile of home improvement projects and repairs. In what can only be described as a comedy of errors, our home trials and travails continued with our oven, refrigerator, closet doors, plumbing, and now toilet too. But alas, all seems well (for the moment… ) and we shall savor our newly honed DIY skills.

We celebrated Babywoods’ first Easter–not that she had any idea–but we enjoyed ourselves all the same. I mean, any excuse to put a baby in a bonnet, right?! We started off the day at church and ended with a hike–perfection!

My birthday falls in March and we marked the occasion in true parent style–with take-out! Mr. Frugalwoods and I only eat out (or get take-out) for our birthdays and our wedding anniversary, so this was a special treat indeed. We debated going out (for Babywoods’ restaurant debut), but I decided it’d be more relaxing to get Indian food delivered and lounge on the couch after Babywoods was tucked in bed.

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.

Frugal Hound wanted to wear the bonnet too
Frugal Hound wanted to wear the bonnet too

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 manage 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 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 in March:

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.
Our new oven $539.96 Ahh yes, the end result of our epic oven travails. Read about the whole saga here.
Groceries $291.62 Nice and low! Our aim is to skate in under $350 for groceries every month, so this is a resounding success!
Utilities: Gas $131.42
Oven repair people $125.00 The bill we paid for the oven repair folks to replace the ignitor on our old oven, which didn’t end up resolving the issue…
Home improvement supplies $118.53 Sundry tools and materials for our seemingly endless parade of home improvement projects.
Internet $99.95 Comcast appears to have overcharged us for internet this month. Our bill is supposed to be $59.95, so I’ll have to give them a call to wrangle a refund.
Gasoline for Frugalwoods-mobile $87.50 Gas for the car.
Utilities: Electric $75.41 It’s electric! Boogie woogie woogie!
Mrs. FW’s 32nd birthday! $73.39 My birthday was in March, so we splurged on take-out (Indian food!) to celebrate and, I used a gift card to get a massage at a spa–I paid for the tip myself, which is reflected in this total.
Household goods $72.93 Household supplies (including such things as dog food, toothpaste, toilet paper, vitamins, and more). This total does not include any human food.
Doctor co-pays $55.00 Co-payments for two doctor’s appointments.
Beer and wine $51.97 A necessity for Mommywoods and Daddywoods 🙂
C02 cannister for seltzer $35.00 It was time to replace the C02 cannister on our hacked homemade seltzer machine. Can’t beat this price for fizzy water!
Frugal Hound heartworm prevention prescription $32.44 I’ve discovered that Costco’s pharmacy carries Frugal Hound’s heartworm prevention prescription for cheaper than her vet! A frugal win for a healthy hound.
UPS shipping $10.69 We had to pay the shipping to return one of the oven parts we purchased in our DIY oven repair attempts. Worth it since we got a full refund on the part.
Masspike tolls (EZ Pass) $10.00 An upload of money onto our EZ Pass for interstate tolls.
TOTAL SPENT: $4,049.31  
LESS MORTGAGE: $1,810.81

How was your March?

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    1. Yes. Totally <3 her outfit & the simple crocheted variegated pastel baby blanket is precious. Do you do needlework Mrs. Fw? I might suggest you try something. It's relaxing & productive.

  1. Happy birthday Mrs Frugalwoods! You have managed to keep your grocery bill low even after the birth of babywoods, have you noticed a difference in your appetite now that you are breastfeeding? Babywoods is very cute!

  2. I so appreciate your transparency in detailing your monthly expenses. Indeed some months are better than others. We are a family of 5 with 3 young sons walking the frugal path in a high cost of living location (Northern California’s wine country) as well. I appreciate all the frugal tips and info, and I’m curious as to how you’re handling baby woods care? I have been the main bread winner (though that’s changing) in our household for many years and we had a nanny help out while our boys were babies and into toddlerhood. Just curious if you’re staying at home with baby woods or able to get free care from family at this point (if so, hooray for you!!)? Childcare has always been our second largest expense until recently (food took over the #2 spot when our twins entered public pre-K this year), so just wondering how you’re applying your frugal principals to childcare?

    1. I was wondering the same thing! At one point, our childcare expenses were almost the same as our mortgage. Yikes!

    2. I was wondering too! Is Mrs. FW returning to work or becoming a stay at home parent? (My husband is a stay at home parent.) Do you get a maternity leave of some kind while at home?

  3. i downloaded Capital One and am itching to go there, but in the end I’m just too sqeamish about online security to link all my financial accounts. what do you do to protect your data?

    1. Good question! So here’s my take: for us, it’s a cost/benefit trade-off to use online banking and Personal Capital–it makes our lives so much easier that the nominal risk is worth it to us. Personal Capital only has “read access” to your accounts, so a hacker wouldn’t be able to do anything nefarious to your bank accounts via their site. At the end of the day, we’re all in much greater danger of having a credit card stolen when we make a purchase at a store than with the modern online banking system. In our experience, the increased visibility of having our accounts all in one place is more of a deterrent to having our money stolen because we notice wrong charges more quickly and can report them to our cc company immediately. And, for what it’s worth, Mr. FW is actually a software engineer who focuses on internet security in his job and he’s happy with how Personal Capital protects user information. But, you’ve gotta do what you’re comfortable with! Let me know if I can answer any other questions.

  4. Certainly enjoy the blog. It’s great to see young people get a handle on their finances with lifetime goals in mind. Your baby is very pretty, said by a grandmother with likewise beautiful grandbabies. She looks like a little baby doll. I’m sure you two are lovely parents. I recently had a heart attack, so l’m delighted to see the Frugalwoods family concerned with fat intake and eating so healthily. Keep up the good work, it’s a pleasure to read about your path. And that dog cracks me up. What facial expressions!

  5. March was great, just like every month! Hey, I’m actually from MA too…but I fled last year and moved to TX. Way better living standard for less. Plus real estate is better down here! Hoping to grow our passive income even more down here in TX than whatever we could have done in central MA.

  6. Belated Happy Easter! I am happy to report that we spent $0 on Easter. I was going to do Easter baskets for the kids, but they told me the Easter Bunny isn’t real. So instead, I took them to Trader Joe’s for the free egg hunt and face painting! We dyed eggs using vinegar and some food coloring that I already owned.

    Otherwise, the month was a little grim. Haven’t had time to total it up yet, but there were some unusual expenses: $311 for the electrician. $340 to fix five fillings in my mouth. $750 to set aside for the $1500 tax bill due next month. I think I’ll have to shortchange some other savings goals this month when the dust settles, but I won’t have to pull from savings, so let’s file that under WIN.

    Off to emergency eye dr. appointment. April may be problematic, too…

  7. I sincerely wish you good luck getting a refund on that Comcast bill. If they are anything like Time Warner, just finding a person who has a clue is going to take hours out of your life. And it’s their fault you have to call them. Unbelievable. I can’t stand cable companies. Maybe you can get a discounted rate for your trouble!

    1. When your internet bill is greater than your electrical bill… well you would think “Something is wrong here!” but I’ll bet a combination of things happened. First your introductory period is over, second, an extended negotiated deal you already made “expired”, and third, they updated lines giving you more data speed than you previously had.

      That’s what happened to us anyway, and I just feel like I am “over a barrel” with my ISP. Good luck with hostage negotiations, because we are all being held like hostages. While there are three big ISP providers, their areas really don’t overlap much in many areas causing them to essentially have a monopoly.

      I can only imagine what kind of service you will be saddled with when you eventually move to rural Vermont.

    2. I was going to say, it’s probably not that they “overcharged” you, so much that your 6-month promo period is up and this is the new price. You’ll have to call them to get a new promo period price, rather than a refund. Comcast sucks.

  8. Our net worth shot way up (almost +$100,000) for the month in spite of spending more in March than we have in probably any of the past 100 months. New (used) car purchases will do that to your finances. 🙂 Our baseline spending was much like yours. A couple thousand plus $1000 or so for reserving this summer’s Grand Road Trip Airbnb stays.

  9. How was our March? Teriffic* we have been good stewards all our live & are seriously committed to a frugal life. Our 46th anniversary was March 20. We had planned & saved. Went to our favorite steak house on Sunday @ lunch. Had a delicious lunch. Drank water, ate what we wanted, they gave us a complimentary dessert & coffee. It was really special. Something about saving for it & being prepared really rocked. Also: generous tip. Modest gifts & cards @ home. Mine was 50¢ @ The $ Tree. When we intentionally don’t eat out often, we prep ourselves for delayed gratification. Makes the event more special. I wore a “new” outfit from my favorite consignment shop & we had a grand time. I will post a pic if I can.

  10. March was expensive for us. Spring break week was the last week, and we went on vacation to Zion and Bryce national parks. Note: “Every kid in a park” this year ensures all 4th graders and their families free access into National Parks for the school year (until Aug 31). So entry fees were free!

    The housing cost for the week was a little over $1000. I don’t know exactly – we’d booked an Air-BNB for Thanksgiving (then we couldn’t go because we all got the stomach flu). The host kindly let us transfer our week to Spring Break. But we owed him $89. I think that makes the 5 nights a total of about $950.

    But as it’s an 8.5 hour drive each way, we took 2 days to get there, and 2 days to get back, necessitating two hotel stays. Funny, in our younger days (20’s, 30’s, pre-kid), we wouldn’t even blink about driving 8.5 hours straight (let’s call it 9.5 with a food and bathroom stops).

    However, we are mid- to-late 40’s, and our backs simply cannot take that anymore. (Our long days were 6 hours, necessitated by the long stretches of nothingness on Interstate 15. Your choices are Victorville, Barstow, and Las Vegas. That’s it.) And our 3.5 year old has the bladder of a pea. Literally had to stop every hour, sometimes within 20 minutes of the last stop. He watered many a bush or fence in the desert. That “8.5 hours” becomes 11-12. The hotel bills were about $250 additional (total). We sadly chose poorly on the way out, and ended in a hotel without free breakfast, and on Easter morning! Never fear, I did bring bagels and cream cheese and my blender for smoothies.

    All in all, we did well in that we almost completely avoided eating out on the trip. (Eating out with a toddler sucks). We ate ham sandwiches, bagels, grocery store pizza, curry, stir-fried veggies, scrambled eggs, fruit, smoothies, and lots of special, unhealthy snacks (lollipops, pringles, tortilla chips, granola bars, chocolate bunnies). We had a couple of stops for McD’s fries (all those pee stops). And the final night on the way back, in Barstow, the boys got In-N-Out burgers and mommy got Panda Express (I needed my veggies!)

    The one really good thing I learned on this trip is that my boys are going to eat me out of house and home. I’d underestimated the food to buy each day at the store – by a LOT. First, we were hiking a bunch (Bryce, Zion, and the local trails near the rental home). Second, during a normal work week, my 10 year old eats 2 snacks and lunch at school, and the 3 yo eats the same at daycare. I had to feed them this week, and they can eat!

    The other thing I learned is that it doesn’t matter if it’s 82 degrees during the daytime. An unheated pool in Barstow in April is going to be as cold as the pacific ocean.

    Sorry, that was long. But you asked.

    1. Eating out with kids sucks! LOL Mine are 13, 11 and 9. I miss those breastfeeding days. Not that I would still want to, but you know what I mean.

      Every outing costs money, even holding back on spending everything costs.

  11. Babywoods bunny shoes are so adorable! And Happy Birthday Mrs. Frugalwoods!
    Your expenses are still amazingly low considering everything that went wrong and broke on you! That just shows what a little DIY can do for the pocketbook.

  12. My parents are doing a big renovation to their house & was one issue after another as well including two separate plumbing leaks. Everytime we talk with them to get updates we think “What Now?”

  13. Will your toilet issue be elaborated on a future post? We are having leaking issues with ours and have basically taken it apart and put it back together with seemingly no improvements.

  14. I just started using Personal Capital and I am liking it so far. I was considering posting my budget and net worth on my blog, but backed down because I don’t want the whole public to see my financials. Instead, I offer those details to my email subscribers.

    What made you want to share your expenses on your blog?

  15. I paid off the mortgage on March 31.

    Now I’m feeling a little cash poor, but it’ll be better next month

  16. In March, I helped my mother buy me a brand new iMac which I love very much! <3 Of course, the money toward it came out of my savings just for the computer! I also received my inheritance of under $1000. I'm going to use that money to go on a splendid trip to visit my half sister back east once the weather there becomes better! Have you seen the news? It's cold and snowy over there! D: I added up my budget and my clothing and shoes category went through the roof. D: Of course, the higher priced items were budgeted, but that is what brought me through the roof because those items were needed. Around $53.00 for four bras all together! Macy's was having a doorbuster I couldn't resist! I budgeted for one bra last month (and you know how much the good ones cost D: ), but since Macy's was having such an amazing deal on one brand, I took advantage of it! <3

    Misc. Items were high again, but not as high as last month, lol. ^^; Thank goodness. I just know after adding things up and looking at my spending log, I do buy a lot of misc. items. That's a good thing to know. My groceries were pretty low this month, but I would like to spend more money in that category so I will have proper nutrition for the month. Just got to get to the store more often, I guess. D:

    And that's the highlights of my budget for the month of March! 8D Here's to an even more frugal April! ^ o^

    Have a wonderful week! C:

  17. How adorable is your little Easter baby, a cute picture like that will always make those unexpected expenses easier to swallow. I really hope those breakdown and repairs are behind you (fingers crossed for no new ones).

    Going through your monthly expenses at the end of each month is something I think everyone should be doing (not just us bloggers) so that looks like a great tool you linked. It really keeps you accountable looking back through your monthly expenses and acknowledging what expenses might be “embarrassing” or regretful, and that makes you more conscious to hone it in for the next month.


  18. This might sound counterintuitive, but you might have just received a terrific “lesson” for your homesteading life-to-come.
    That upcoming and quantum leap to a life of self sufficiency will require a dependence on folks with skills that you do not yet have (or might never want to develop). They might include appliance folks, farmers, folks in town hall, hardware store staff, dowsers, and on and on. They might charge you for their services or time, or maybe not. They will be your connection to learning the rural life and you will treasure them. Getting settled into a self sufficient life is “expensive” in terms of time and the learning curve. But like anything you commit to learning how to do, it is “worth” it.
    So, as expensive as your tough several weeks have been and as exasperating as it was to have so much happen in rapid succession…it might have been the beginning of understanding how important it will be to have those experienced, knowledgeable folks around in your new life. I know you will meet them easily and quickly. DIY will be important, but those folks will be your “guides.”
    Hang in there!

  19. Are one of you guys staying at home with baby woods? Just curious how you’re handling childcare. I have friends who say daycare is more than their mortgage!

  20. Many congratulations on the purchase of your homestead!!! This is the dream I am pursuing as well although I am quite a few years behind you, still in the financial accumulation stage while caring for my 16 month old 🙂 I would be very interested in knowing what books you found helpful in both preparing for and living the homestead life! I love your blog and am looking forward to your future posts.

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