Babywoods' baptism
Babywoods’ baptism

May 2016 will be forever enshrined in Frugalwoods lore as the month of THE move. In what was hopefully our last move for many a year to come, we divested ourselves of our city trappings and jetted off to our country homestead. Scratch that–it wasn’t “jetted.”

More like slowly drove down the highway in a caravan of me, my mother-in-law, Frugal Hound and Babywoods in the RooBaRoo (oh yeah, we were the exciting car), my father-in-law and sister-in-law in their car, and Mr. FW bringing up the rear several hours later in Snowdrop (he stuck around in Cambridge with the movers until their loading work was done).

Our tenants also moved in at the tail end of May, so this’ll be the final month of paying mortgages. From here on out, both the VT and MA mortgages will be covered by the rental income–net, not gross–from our Cambridge property (hence no more mortgages on our expense reports).

In addition, we had Babywoods baptized here at our Vermont church while my in-laws were still in town. We wanted to celebrate the occasion with family, so it was a wonderful alignment of the stars that they were here. I’m deeply grateful we’ve found such a wonderfully progressive and caring church home here in the woods.

Frugal Hound (with freshly cleaned fangs) enjoying our woods
Frugal Hound (with freshly cleaned fangs) enjoying our woods

May is also the month when Frugal Hound had her houndy teefs professionally cleaned by the vet. Greyhounds have notoriously bad teeth and so, despite the fact that we regularly brush her teeth at home, she needed to have a professional cleaning in order to save her fangs from certain demise.

When we decided to adopt a dog four years ago, we knew we were assuming all sundry pet-related costs and so this expense is not a shock to us. In a typical year, Frugal Hound costs less than $900 to care for, so this’ll just be one of those atypically expensive years. For more on our frugal pet-rearing philosophy, check out Our Approach To Affordable, Responsible Dog Care.

Months like May are a reminder for me of how valuable it is to live on frugal autopilot. There’s no way I could’ve handled preparing or adhering to a budget this month–every day was a marathon of herculean proportions and I’m relieved everyone (and everything) is still intact. Since we never budget, we have the freedom to simply live our lives as we feel naturally compelled to–which is to say extremely frugally. This approach allows us to not worry about money and to instead focus on spending where we see value.

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 the 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

Our apple trees in blossom!
Our apple trees in blossom!

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 (which happened this month!!!!!).

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.

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 May:

Item/Vendor Amount Frugalwoods Musings
Movers $2,415.00 Moving from MA to VT. Best money we’ve spent all year. Check out all the gory details on our move.
Vetrinarian $687.66 Frugal Hound’s dental cleaning.
Groceries $223.92 Babywoods joined the cadre of eating humans in our household this month, but we’re making her baby food from scratch, so the cost is negligible.
Toilet $210.32 Yep, you read that right: a toilet. The master bath toilet in our VT home is ancient and wastes a ton of water; therefore, we’re replacing it. This is the cost of a new, water-saving toilet from Home Depot. Yay toilet!
Cambridge water bill (3 months worth) $161.24 The water bill for our MA home. This covers the last three months worth of water usage.
Gasoline for RooBaRoo and Snowdrop $92.60 Gas for the Frugalwoods fleet of vehicles (which now also includes a tractor… )
Household items $92.50 Household supplies (including such things as dog food, toothpaste, toilet paper, vitamins, and more). This total does not include any human food.
Utilities: Electricity (MA) $81.77 Last month of paying electric for our Cambridge property.
Utilities: Gas (MA) $76.43 Last month of paying gas for our Cambridge property.
Internet (VT) $74.00 Happy to pay for our awesome Fiber internet here on the homestead!
Game camera $49.99 We know we have creatures on our land (well it’s really their land) as we’ve seen tracks, so we bought and installed this game camera in the hopes of catching them on film! So far, the only creatures we’ve photographed are ourselves as we go to retrieve the disk…
Restaurant meal $47.54 Before leaving Cambridge, we went out for one last dinner at our very favorite local restaurant.
Car insurance $43.90 This is the cost to add our new-to-us Prius (aka Snowdrop) to our car insurance.
Pair of pants for Mr. FW! $36.01 Mr. FW loves these work pants so much, we got him a second pair. It’s tough to subsist on a single pair of pants (though he tried for months).
Internet (MA) $29.95 Last month of paying internet for our Cambridge property
Utilities: Electricity (VT) $26.64 Electricity for our VT home.
Parking $16.00 Took Babywoods to a few doctor’s appointments in downtown Boston and thus had to pay to park.
Coffee shop $9.76 Before moving to Vermont, we went to the coffee shop near our Cambridge home where the idea for Frugalwoods was born. Had to have a final send off!
TOTAL: $4,375.23

How was your May?

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  1. Congratulations! And from where/whom do you get $30 internet in Mass? We pay $60/month for RCN, just for Internet here in Arlington.

    1. That is actually the prorated cost for half of May since we moved out of Cambridge in mid-May and hence cancelled our service. I wish I had a cheap internet provider secret to share, but alas, I do not–we had Comcast in MA and paid about $59.95/month for just internet.

  2. Congrats to Babywoods on her baptism! So great that you guys found a church that you love so quickly. We changed churches last year after being in the church that my hubby grew up in. We attended for a long time (about 20 years), but I never felt comfortable. Now we are in a more local one and it is so different and wonderful. Our middle son was just confirmed this past April.

    Wow, I didn’t know how expensive professional teeth cleanings are. We have to hounds and luckily my friend and neighbor has her own vet practice and we barter for services. She is our vet and my hubby is her handyman. 🙂

  3. That’s impressive that the rent pays both mortgages. Hats off to you.

    Also congrats on the baptism of Babywoods, that is a huge moment for her (& you & yours) life.

    1. Ditto on this question. I read that line item at least three times before concluding I wasn’t hallucinating and did, in fact, read it correctly. We have a Prius (2007) and our premiums are way more than $43 for 6 months.

  4. That’s fantastic that the rent covers mortgages on TWO homes. And kudos for the water-saving toilet! I used to live in a dry cabin for two years and I had to carry in my own water by hand. That’ll teach anyone real quick to save water! Even after we bought a house that had running water, we used one of those water-saving shower heads. Anytime I went to visit relatives and used their regular showers, it felt like I was getting blown away by a tsunami. 🙂

  5. That is awesome you guys bought a game camera, what a great idea. I’m sure you will catch some great photos of wildlife and enjoy that a bunch. When you eventually get some photos of wildlife you’ll have to share!

  6. How do you manage $43.90 for 6 months of car insurance on the Prius? Maybe insurance is much cheaper in VT? We live in FL and pay 10 times that for our older vehicles every 6 months, again mostly from liability and uninsured motorist (really necessary coverages for us at least).

    1. I would love to know this too! I’m just outside Milwaukee and it’s much pricier here as well. Could it have something to do with being in an urban vs. rural area?

      1. Good question everybody! Sorry I didn’t explain this in the post :). The $43.90 is the cost to add our Prius to the existing car insurance that we have on our Subaru. Our car insurance is very cheap for several reasons: we only have liability (not collision), we both have perfect driving records, and we don’t drive very many miles each year (as we don’t commute to work). The company we use is Geico. Hope this helps!

        1. We have Geico too, and getting rid of collision wouldn’t reduce our insurance much. The big part of the cost is liability and stacked uninsured motorist. It’s a big deal here in FL where there are a lot of uninsured motorists. In MA it was a big problem too. Not really sure about VT. I have friends locally who don’t carry it and their insurance is like 1/3 of ours. Seems risky though.

        2. Have you considered an umbrella policy? Its provides general liability coverage but also lets you lower the limits on you car and home policies. It’s considered a cheap way to either buy extra coverage or get the same total liability coverage for less.

          1. We have one, but we have to have certain liability limits on the car insurance to have the umbrella policy. The real killer is uninsured motorist. Now that is optional, but it’s not liability per se. It’s to cover us if we get injured by someone without insurance. That’s a real risk here in FL and it was a real risk when we lived in MA. I’d guess it’s much less of a risk where the Frugalwoods have moved in VT though.

        1. Wow, we pay about $180 every 6 months for full coverage in Ohio per car. We are accident-free and have no teen drivers in the home. For my husband and I, it’s $360 total to fully ensure both cars every 6 months.

  7. Have you considered feeding frugal hound a raw diet? You wouldn’t have to worry about teeth cleaning (tearing apart their dinner naturally keeps their teeth build-up free), on the whole raw fed dogs are healthier and less likely to end up with other expensive money-sucking illnesses. And now you’re out in the country you’ll have great ways to make friends with farmers and hunters to get the deals I see folks on the raw feeding forums talking about – not really accessible to me in a big city without a car – which means you could likely keep the cost down to what you pay for kibble, if not even less. Bonus – picking up after a raw fed dog is a much pleasanter experience!

  8. Can you delve into how your car insurance is so low? I’m not sure if that is detailed in a post elsewhere, but I’m looking for ways to cut down on car insurance costs.

  9. What an epic month! Congratulations on Babywood’s baptism and your move.

    Also – I like the names for your cars, excellent choices. My own Prius was nicknamed The Ninja Car because it is so quiet. (When going slowly it was silent as the engine was off, which means it could sneak around. Although that is not necessarily the most useful trait for a car to have.)

  10. Oh my gosh! I wouldnt imagine dental cleaning was so pricey!!! Around here it costs 50 euros to have your dogs teeth professionally cleaned by the vet… Also, the prius insurance is extremely low, our 5 yr old hybrid Honda Insight is almost 300 for 6 months full cover insurance…
    And what a great idea, the game camera!!!! I believe you made the best choice, living and rearing your child close to nature

  11. Looking forward to the post on start-up expenses on the homestead. You had mentioned in a previous post that Mr. FW had done a logging course, but I don’t see that cost here? Do you still have a cell phone now that you’re not working at your FT job or what are you doing for that?

    1. Good memory–I am indeed writing a “homestead start-up costs” post, which includes stuff like the logging course and cell phone details :)!

  12. Wow is all I can say. I am happy for ya’ll. It must be amazing to wake up and find you are living your dream.

    BTW great price on the work pants. Something tells me he may need more with all the work ya’ll do outside.

  13. We had Solly dedicated in May,too! Sadly. He did not get to wear an adorable cloud of tulle. Estelle is so cute! .

    How wonderful that you found a great church and that you found it early on enough that she could be baptized there.

    1. Oh how wonderful for your family :)! Yes, we feel really lucky we found this church! Went church-hunting when we first started spending weekends here in January and this was the second church we visited and we realized it was perfect.

  14. That is one darling baby you have. I so love seeing her bright, little face. Hats off for your very frugal grocery and household expenditures. It will be interesting to see if you can maintain this in rural Vermont. But perhaps you have more frugal options near you than we do in rural central Maine.

  15. How wonderful that you were able to celebrate the baptism with family there. What a great way to start life in your new home. We have a game camera and love it — long stretches go by when the only things we see on it are deer, but we have caught pictures of coyotes, turkey, a bobcat, bears and a mountain lion!

  16. Hi, Mrs. Frugalwoods! I have been reading your blog since November but this is my first comment. Thank you for all the inspiration and entertainment you have provided. You have had a real influence on us and have motivated us to be even more frugal.

    $43 for 6 months of car insurance? Oh my god, how is this possible? Deeply jealous here. I am in Canada and we have a fairly favourable rate and an old car, but it is still about $800 per year, so $400 per 6 months. What makes your rate so low?

  17. I echo Christine K, $43.90 for 6 months worth of insurance sounds insanely cheap. Who do you get your insurance through?

  18. It’s been wonderful following your adventure online and I’m so excited that you are living your goals! Now, I have a question, something I feel I’ve struggled with in that past that has caused me to stop being careful with my money: how will you motivate yourselves to continue extreme saving now that you are no longer working towards a goal, but living it? I can see how motivation and support of a partner with the same goals can get you there, but now that you have achieved your goals what will you do to stay motivated?

    1. The dog has to go under anesthesia for the cleaning and it’s a pretty in-depth procedure; hence, it’s expensive!

  19. Just curious where you classify things like car and tractor purchases, down payment on homestead etc. We use both Personal Capital and Mint, and sometimes aren’t sure the best way to track big ticket items that we’ve saved up for like that. Congrats on the homestead btw!

  20. Hi – Maybe this was covered in previous posts, but do you have cell phones? Also, how can you keep grocery spending so low?! I’d love to see some meal plans!

  21. Adorable baptism picture! And oooooh the teeth cleaning! I feel ya. Mosby broke a tooth a few weeks ago and had to get it extracted and his teeth were cleaned while he was under. At least it helped is breath (for a while). I’m big on the Greenies, but I should probably be more proactive about teeth cleaning. Do you have preferences on the toothpaste to use for dogs? I’m not sure the one I picked is the best/healthiest/safest.

  22. Congratulations on the move, Babywoods’ baptism and the beginning of your homesteading journey! Your family has been a huge inspiration to ours as we are of similar ages and our first baby being born not long ago. I learned about the Buy Nothing Project from you and even accidentally found our daycare through it. Living in a rural town, our chapter of BNP isn’t great as I’m sure Cambridge was. I’m curious to hear if you’re going to stay involved with BNP in your new community and how you are going to acquire clothes, baby items etc for free now that you’re more rural.

  23. I think this is the first month in memory that my expenses came in less than yours! Woohoo for small victories!

    Your grocery spending *is* very low. How do you ever manage it? I thought we were very cheap eaters, but you take the prize here!

  24. I am an avid follower of Frugal Hound! I have a mini greyhound, and the teeth issue is a big thing. My last girl had such horrendous teeth issues! I am trying my best to brush as often as possible, but I think there is no way to get out of some professional teeth cleaning when you have a greyhound. I am amazed at how chilled out the big ones are when we see them in the park, while my little one is flying in the air and trying to jump on their heads!

  25. Could it be that the $43.90 cost to add the Prius is that it doesn’t cover the whole six month period? You are adding it to an existing policy that probably has an expiration sooner than 6 months. We insure through Geico too and just added an old pickup truck with only liability and the cost was $60 but that only runs until the existing policy on our other cars expire at the end of August.

  26. GAME CAMS ALL THE WAY! It’s funny, my fiance and I just got one a few months ago because we were having predator issues with our chickens. It’s become our favorite hobby! You really got a steal- I wish I would have seen the one you got; mine was twice as expensive and probably isn’t that much better. Best of luck capturing all of the cool videos/pics you can!

  27. Have you ever considered Republic Wireless? For about $10-$25 a month, you can get unlimited talk, text, and all the data you need. I typically pay about $13 a month and it works great!

  28. Did you get a Toto toilet? They are the best! I highly recommend getting one for the rental, too, as it will cut down on water use, repairs, and annoying plumbing issues. We are slowly replacing all the toilets in our rental with Totos!! Best landlord investment ever!

  29. oh the cuteness! girls in frills….nothing cuter. your expenditures are enviable to say the least. because of you, i have begun keeping a bullet journal and include all – every single – purchase there. it’s fascinating. and a byproduct of that fastidiousness is that when i get ready to make a purchase now, i think…i think so much more about every purchase because i know i am going to have to go home and record it in my bj, which means i have to look at it and recall it. i can no longer just buy it and forget it! love your new digs!

  30. Wow! I am always “filled with the spirit” everytime I read a Frugalwoods posting! To get the rent from one house to cover 2 mortgages is impressive indeed!
    Vets are expensive in VT: I pay $350 per cocker in California for teeth cleaning.
    How come you didn’t get a composting toilet? I like the Natures Head that uses coco coir. I am saving for one.
    I consider myself a student at Frugalwood U. I am nowhere near my master’s degree, but I will graduate one day!! ????

  31. Glad you made the move successfully! I am going to move into my inherited property sometime early next year.
    What sort of frugal yet healthy food do you serve Frugal Hound? Along with the 2.5 acre property and house near Peaks of Otter in the VA Blue Ridge (house is about 2 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway) and umpteen collectibles etc. (some valuable, some okay, some trash! I’m selling many of them and donating even more and only trashing/recycling things that are damaged or useless.) I inherited a Chow dog. She’s a nice dog but the caretaker is broke and had been feeding her crap food and I want to feed better chow to the Chow. Not as fancy as my spoiled cat gets, mind you, but better.

  32. That’s my church!!!!!! Oh man, I can’t believe I moved 500 miles away from home and missed you by 2 years. My mom hasn’t been to church in a few weeks but she reads your blog too and I just called her to make her look at this post. So if you meet a woman named Patricia at church who talks about how her daughter introduced her to your blog… that’s my mom 😀

    I can’t believe this. What a small world.

    1. Oh how fun! Tell you mom to say hi on Sunday (we’re hard to miss because Babywoods likes to add her own noises to the sermons… ) 🙂

  33. Everyone seems to be concerned about how low your car insurance is. Is it possible that this was the premium to add the Prius until the policy renews. You bought the subaru earlier right? I worked in insurance and when somone addedd a vehicle to an existing policy, the new car added was prorated to get it to the policy expiration date of the policy dates when the Subaru was purchased. This gets both cars to renew at the same time. Does this make sense?

    1. Yes! I answered this question above in the comments–it’s the cost to add the Prius to our policy. 🙂

      1. I think it was your original statement on the car insurance amount that it was for 6 months that threw everyone off. Glad to see you changed it.

        Thanks to Frugal Hound for the message.

        Also, Estelle is so cute and extremely photogenic!

  34. Hi Frugalwoods! I am new to your blog, but I have found it incredibly inspiring. So much so that I have binge read all of your posts and a couple of podcasts. I love your blog more than any other frugal blog as it provieds a philisophical background to our spending and the consumerist culture in which we live. Everything makes sense and in a way it is what we all know, but do not conscientiously recognize. You do more than just tell us how to save money, you explain why we spend money and make us more cognizant of our money habits. You truly have a talent for writing. On another note, living in vermont as a child, baby frugalwoods will gain a wonderful appreciation for nature and for the simple life. I look forward to each new post. Sorry for the gushy post, but I just wanted you to know that you inspire others all across the U.S.

  35. May saw enormous gains in my life, but June started out a bit of a bust. My contingent work had no work for me for 2.5 weeks. Quite a wrench in my plans.

  36. Thanks for the update! I love to catch up on your adventures while having my morning coffee 🙂 Yay Frugalwoods!
    Love the photos too.

    Just curious, since I am too chicken to landlord, what is Plan B if tenants move out, or cannot get good tenants?

    1. As a person familiar with Cambridge, I can address the second question for them: finding good tenants should not be a problem. It is a wealthy town near several great universities (and Boston).

  37. Kudos for all of your wonderful accomplishments. Estelle is adorable as usual, all decked out, as are you and Mr. F. I’m so happy family was around to celebrate her baptism. Love RooBaRoo’s name! Congratulations on your man’s pant purchase – can’t go around wearing dirty close : ) !

  38. Would LOVE a post on the differences between your old city life and new country life once you’ve settled in. I used to dream of moving to the country but have since changed my mind. One of the things I am sure I would miss in the country is going on walks and bike rides when it’s dark (in Southern Ontario so lots of dark evenings in the winter). In the city we have street lights so it’s no big deal.

  39. I don’t think it’s really fair to withhold your Vermont mortgage in your expense report. I understand excluding the Cambridge property because that’s part of a business now, and this is a personal expense report. But the Vermont house is not part of that business. It’s still a personal expense that exists. We make a profit on our rental property too, and the rent technically covers both mortgages, but that profit doesn’t negate the fact that we have a mortgage on our personal home. The two mortgages are unrelated. I mean, you’re still paying it every month, right? By the same rationale, I could claim that I don’t have a water bill or don’t pay for groceries because I’m using rental income to “cover” it.

    Glad to see we are not the only greyhound owners biting the bullet on teeth cleaning. Maeby will probably have to go in July. She just had a nice trip to the Adirondacks and climbed, I think, her first mountain ever, Mount Jo.

  40. First, you make such an adorable family! Vermont is lucky to have you.

    Second, I can’t wait to hear about your game camera discoveries. Security cameras on our block routinely find javelina, coyotes, and bobcats, along with countless rabbits and gophers. It’s so much fun to watch them play… Even more so since we don’t have small pets to worry about.

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