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.
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:
|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!|
|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.|